Brains and Tongue (and *sigh* Chicken) Are All Good at Alcazar Express
Westwood Blvd is teeming with delicious Middle Eastern options, and a few weeks ago Squid Ink pitted two of the relatively new spots against each other in a shawarma sandwich battle to the death. (Technically both sandwiches “died” at the hands of a third party, but one made its killer happier than the other.) And even though Sunin was declared the winner over Alcazar Express I was left pining for the other sandwiches mentioned on Alcazar Express’ menu. Beef brain? Lamb tongue? I’m there.
(Don’t worry squemish white meat chicken addicts… there’s that too, after the jump.)
As reported by Squid Ink, Alcazar Express is an offshoot of the Encino based Alcazar- but don’t let the name fool you. Nothing about it is “express”. The Lebanese restaurant is a sit down affair, with waiter service… and all the food is cooked to order in the small man kitchen. In other words, if you don’t order ahead be prepared to wait.
They have a few $9.95 lunch specials if grilled salmon, kebab, or shawarma platters interest you, but we were there for the tongue and brains! The sandwiches, which range in price from$7-9 are not huge, but come with your choice of hummus, baba ghannouj, rice or salad- making the whole lunch totally filling, and completely worth it.
You also get olives and turnips, pickled in beet juice. (Plus bread, if you select the spreads over the salad or rice with your sandwich.)
Both the hummus and baba were both delicious (you may say the secret ingredient is olive oil), especially if don’t like your baba ghanoouj to be too smokey.
The beef brain was slightly cold (think unsliced cold cut), but parts of it were warm because the sandwich is pressed in french bread (almost like a Lebanese Cuban sandwich of sorts.) It wasn’t bad, but could be weird if you’re not expecting it. Brains are not nearly as gross as they sound (in fact they’re delicious), although if you are a brain virgin they are far easier to eat when they’re fried (isn’t everything?) They have an almost creamy texture (also off putting if you’re not expecting it) but a really mild flavor- unlike, say, liver. Mixed with the garlic sauce, pickles, and tomatoes it was a rich and delicious mess.
The brain was fine, but the lamb’s tongue was even better. It took so long to come out, it almost seemed like they were cooking the tongue to order. Not sure if that’s the case but whatever they were doing back there for all that time, it worked. If you like stewed lamb, you’ll like this lamb’s tongue sandwich. It’s tender, and lamby, and when it’s cooked the way they do it at Alcazar Express it has none of the weird texture issues you get with something like cow’s tongue cold cuts. I usually would never say this, but it’s a good thing the sandwich is kind of small… because between the richness of the meat, and the richness of their garlic spread, it was tough to finish. (And yet somehow I managed to do it…)
Of course we couldn’t leave without trying the falafel. Unlike the brain and tongue, which were served panini style, the falafel comes wrapped in pita bread. I tend to prefer the fluffier pita that you get at Israeli falafel spots, to the thin lavash you get from Lebanese places, but Alcazar’s was good enough. And their super flavorful falafel completely made up for it. Great blend of spices, crunchy on the outside, but not dry at all on the inside.
And now it’s time for the OBLIGATORY CHICKEN ORDER. When others meats are available, chicken would be my last choice. But I’m fully aware that chicken is top dog in this town, so whenever possible I will attempt to order at least one chicken item from every place I visit in an effort to make this site more useful for everbody.
Alcazar has a number of chicken options, including the shawarma (which is one chicken I tend to love, due in no small part to the fact that it’s usually dark meat chicken and tends to be basted with its own fat) and lula kebab, which is a kofta-like ground chicken kebab with speices. But tawook will probably be the order of choice for most “healthy” eaters, seeing as it is white meat chicken breast kebab. Thankfully they Midtown Lunch’ify it in the Alcazar Signature sandwich, which is simply put, the skish tawook sandwich with french fries stuffed into it!
It doesn’t look like much in this photo (that’s whole lot of white) but if you like the idea of potatoes stuffed in your chicken kebab sandwich… you will be all over this.
The only real complaint I have about Alcazar Express is that it takes so freakin’ long. So if you’re in a rush for lunch, I would recommend calling ahead and placing your order to go. (And they still give you the olives and pickles and bread to go.) And the lamb’s tongue is worth the trip alone. I’m not sure if it’s the best one in Westwood, but I’m willing to sacrifice myself to find out. What’s that? “The Guru” recommends the one at Canary in his 99 Things to Eat in Los Angeles before you die? I’m there.
- Falafel and chicken are fine, but I want some brains and tongue
- I didn’t think I would like tongue, but their version is so tender… almost like lamb stew
- I love garlic sauce!
- The hummus or baba ghannouj (with bread, pickles and olives) that comes with every sandwich makes this lunch a complete steal
- Tongue? Brains? Screw that…
- There are far better Lebanese sandwiches on Westwood Blvd.
- The garlic sauce overwhelms everything else in its path
- I like my baba ghanoouj super smokey. There version is kind of bland
- This place takes WAAAAAAY too long for a quick lunch
Alcazar Express, 1303 Westwood Blvd., 310-914-9777