Open Sesame: Mediterranean cuisine with local flavor
2009-11-14 · By Chandra Clewley
I have never been to Lebanon, and as a child of the 1970’s and 1980’s, my image of Beirut as a hostile part of the world that is little understood by Westerners is terribly skewed. As geographically stunted as I am to anything east of Greece, I actually am embarrassed to admit that I had no idea Beirut is a shining metropolitan jewel sitting on the Mediterranean Sea. In fact, it was rated one of the 10 Liveliest Cities by The Lonely Planet, and The New York Times rated it the Top Place to Visit for 2009!
What does Beirut, Lebanon have in common with Long Beach, California you ask? Well, for one thing, Restaurateur Ali Kobeissi and his lively metropolitan jewel sitting on the Pacific Ocean, Open Sesame.
Open Sesame is a small, richly decorated restaurant that “opened sesame” in 1999. The décor is Ottoman chic with textured carpets on the walls and tactile fabrics on pillows or draped from the ceiling. The original restaurant is a few doors down from the second location. The fact that there are two locations so close to each other, makes this ever-crowded eatery even more attractive. The most desired tables are at the original, on the open patio, in order to watch the people walk by.
I have recently moved with my boyfriend, Mr. Right, to the Long Beach area. Mr. Right already lived in his place, and I was in the South Bay. I am just beginning to discover the area.
To start, we ordered a bottle of the Cave Kourom Petit Noir, which proved to be a juicy red wine made from Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault and Carignan grapes. It turns out the Cinsault grape is a major red variety in Lebanon, which I didn’t even know produced wine. The wine was fruit forward and rich with dark berry, most likely from the Grenache and Cinsault grapes mellowing the Syrah and Carignan’s edge.
For food, we split a cup of the Lentil soup ($3.99), which was lemon fresh and hearty with onions and parsley.
The main course was the Beef Shawarma ($12.99), and Mr. Right ordered the Open Sesame Combo ($14.99). Mine was well cooked, lean and had the pungent taste of the herbs it was cooked with, while the Combo included Kafta which is a blend of lamb and beef; Chicken Tawook which is all-white meat and juicy and a Beef Kabob. The hummus was incredibly smooth and creamy, with just the right amount of garlic. All in all, you could taste the parsley, the lemon, the freshness of the food and the effort that goes into the food and fare at this Mediterranean hot spot.
We finished off with Turkish coffee served in demitasse.
The service was lovely and effortless, and I felt like a local walking in to this Belmont standard. We will definitely be back!
Open Sesame is located at 5215 and 5201 E. 2nd Street, Long Beach, CA 90803; AND 2640 Sepulveda Blvd. Manhattan Beach, CA 90266. For more information: www.opensesamegrill.com