Middle Eastern Delight at in Beverly Hills

Petra Restaurant, 236 South Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills, California

Petra in Beverly Hills is a middle-eastern restaurant that has been open a year, and will go on to a long life if owner chef Malek Abufailet has his way. The restaurant is comfortable and a nice room with a great view of trendy Beverly Drive, but even more important, the food is fresh and meticulously prepared. It used to be the old site of Celestino. I also discovered a very good Lebanese wine at Petra, the 94 Ksara that augmented the food perfectly. According to the press release, Malek used to cook for Saudi Arabian Princes, and judging by the freshness and quality of most of the dishes I tried, that could be no idle boast.

More recently, Malek held court at Al Amir in Los Angeles, but now he has his own thing going and is determined to make a success of Petra. Malek himself comes from Kerak, an ancient crusader city close to Petra in Jordan. Lebanese patriots flock to Petra on weekends especially to savor the food and the belly dancers, long after the predominately Jewish clientele have left for an early night.

The tried and trusted Hummus never tasted better, and the Grape Leaves, or dolmades as I used to remember, are delectable, stuffed with rice, mixed vegetables, and cooked in olive oil and fresh lemon juice. All the appetizers here are very reasonably priced considering the prime location, including the standout dish known as Makanek, seasoned Mediterranean lamb sausages with onions, tomatoes and spices. Regulars have claimed that the Lentil Soup is the best in town, and another favorite is the Shanklish, a feta cheese salad that packs a bit of a punch. Malek is the kind of restaurateur who is constantly checking on every table to see if everything is all right with the food, but he has little cause to fear any negative reaction. All the appetizers were consistently good, and kept their freshness for a couple of days afterwards, always a strong gauge and all at a price range between $4.25 and $8.95.

Other appetizers of note were the Sambousek, dough stuffed with meat, onions and pine nuts or the Fatayer, dough stuffed with spinach, onions, fresh lemon juice and spices. After these goodies the main course selection is fairly limited to three types of Kabob, Mixed Grill, Chicken Steak, Lamb Chops, Quail, Chicken or Grilled Salmon. I went for the grill, which included Shish Kabob, Kafta Kabob, and Chicken Kabob all served with onions, tomatoes, succulent jasmine rice and sautéed vegetables for $15.95. It turned out to be an excellent choice, served up sizzling at the table, and equally as fresh and tender as the appetizers that preceded. The lamb chops are served with special spices and the Quail are accompanied by a special spicy sauce.

The dessert choice had to be the Baklawa, nut pastries with fillodough, pistachios and syrup. I preferred it to the cheesy Ushta. Petra is outstanding value and is prepared by a chef who knows this kind of food back to front, and a chef who also refuses to use microwaves or freezers. This approach shows in the delectable taste of the food, which has been added to this reviewer’s list of regular hang-outs when in Beverly Hills.

Mike Hepworth, December 2000

Tel: 310-278-0444
Fax:: 310-278-2070
Dress: Casual
Parking: On Street
Price Dinner for two with wine, $60

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