Mona Would Approve: Sabra Beirut Mix – Real Lebanese

You know what’s the best way to learn a foreign language?  Get a lover that speaks that language and within days you’ll be as fluent as a professor!  Love has amazing motivational qualities.  It’s the same with cuisine — the best way to get familiar with a foreign cuisine is to get a foreign lover that likes to cook or hang out with his mother. It’s a great way to learn many other cultural nuances too.  A french chef taught me the art of making preserves, a Zacatecan the laborious grind of mole and a Lebanese national’s mother, the beautiful Mona Giracco, taught me about baba ghannouj, tabbouleh and the art of enjoying hot Turkish coffee and smoking hand-rolled cigarettes in 102 degree heat in her fragrant mint garden in the San Fernando Valley. To this day, she remains one of the biggest influences on my personal culinary style.  From orange-blossom infused marmalade to my lemon-olive tapenade, Mona’s impression on me is apparent.

Because of Mona, I have very high standards for Lebanese food and usually prepare it myself until I found Sabra Beirut Mix – Lebanese Eatery & Deli in Hermosa Beach.  My regular Saturday night dinner friends Bernadette and Greg Hindman and I were starving after a long day of work and Greg was exhausted and famished after his 90 minute massage — I don’t know where this guy gets his energy to possess all that hedonism. Greg and I whip our dueling cameras to see who gets the best shot — we’re so obnoxious, Bernadette will probably insist on her own table one day but we’d just follow her over there — with our cameras of course.

We started with a glass of wine — they don’t carry any California wines which I will work on them in the very new future to do — so I started with a Lebanese Shiraz (Syrah).  If no California wines were to be procured, I thought Lebanese wine with Lebanese food right? Well, it was very different — sooty with hints of burned raisins and blackened carmel — very sweet with “mo’ legs than a centipede” as my friend Mike Williams likes to say.  My non-wine expert but wine appreciating opinion: I would suggest bringing your own bottle of good California Red such as “A Collaboration”** if you’re ordering the lamb or beef; a wine made by Margerum Wine Company* for Whole Foods Market that is an aromatic, five-grape Syrah blend rich with blackberry, blueberry, hints of violet and anise.  A fresh, crisp Sauvignon Blanc, such as 3CV 2009 Sauvignon Blanc*** (Grassini Family Vineyards, Happy Canyon, Santa Barbara) goes perfectly with the white meats and vegetarian dishes.

Our first experience was the baba ghannouj with grilled pita.  It was rich and smokey — a perfect primer that enticed us to order more dishes.  The lamb chops were moist, charred outside and rare and juicy inside.  The tabbouleh was fresh, tangy, crispy and bright.  The hummus was smooth and satisfying with a good balance of tangy lemon, infused with olive oil and not over powered by the sesame essence of the tahini that so many places can’t seem to reach. For all I knew Mona was back in the kitchen — it was the real deal for Lebanese cuisine.

So for a delicious, filling and flavorful dinner, in a very casual but attractive atmosphere, I highly recommend Sabra.  The quality of the food is not at all compromised by the very affordable prices so I’d splurge on the wine and order for dessert the most unique, light Italian-style cheesecake made by an Italian guy that works there (more on that later — but just a heads-up — I don’t eat cheesecake usually). Sabra Beirut Mix, 500 N. Pacific Coast Highway, Hermosa Beach, 90254;310-376-8226 (

*LaVitaFresca receives no compensation or freebies from Margerum Wine Company or any of the other businesses that we report on.  We are just passionate about what’s fresh, pleasurable and unique to California.



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