Azizam

In a small alcove along Sunset Boulevard, plates are newly piled with turmeric pilaf, braised chicken legs and pickles. Celery stews and barley-and-bean soups simmer, and saffron milk bread, or shirmal, comes served with feta, butter and house-made jam.

At Azizam, which translates to “my dear” in Farsi, there are yogurt dips and sunny eggs in rich tomato broths. It’s more stew-based and perhaps less familiar to those who identify only kebabs with Persian cuisine, said chef and co-owner Cody Ma, who runs the operation with his partner, Misha Sesar.

“At the end of the day it’s not just a Persian restaurant, it’s an Iranian restaurant,” Ma said. “There’s so many different cultures in Iran, so many ethnicities, and we’re kind of a testament to that.”

Some items, such as the Tabriz-style kofteh, are a rarity on restaurant menus due to their time- and labor-intensive process. At Azizam this dish — a large, stuffed, tender meatball of ground beef and rice — is particularly meaningful, blending the owners’ heritages. Sesar grew up eating a similar version made by her paternal grandmother, though hers would hide full eggs or a whole chicken under the meatball’s casing. Ma’s family is from Tehran, where they made smaller meatballs without a central filling; they combined their families’ leanings to make the kofteh now found in Silver Lake, which comes filled with walnut, apricot, prunes and zereshk, or dried barberries.

Azizam’s kofteh Tabrizi blends the heritage of both its owners.

(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Sesar, whose family is Tabrizi and Azeri, also informed the seasonal borani, which incorporates fresh vegetables such as roasted beets, eggplant or spinach into creamy, tart yogurt splashed with mint oil.

Ma’s mother owns a Persian restaurant in Nebraska, where he was raised, and every summer his grandmother would visit from Iran, helping to watch her grandchildren. Often this supervision arrived in the form of informal cooking lessons, teaching the basics. “My grandma speaks English pretty well, but not that well, and I think for her, this was the way to connect with us,” he said. “Because I don’t speak Farsi, it’s hard for us to talk to each other as much.”

But it wasn’t until Ma left home and missed his family’s recipes that he began to replicate them, often calling his mother from across the country for pointers. When he met his partner, all of that practice came to fruition. Ma and Sesar were introduced by a mutual friend and instantly bonded over their shared half Iranian, half Chinese background. Sesar, a lifelong home baker who heads Azizam’s pastry and bread programs, worked not in restaurants but the art world and asked if Ma could teach her some of his Persian recipes. They began simply at home, then took their operation public.

They’d always hoped to turn their pop-up into a restaurant, since its beginnings in summer of 2021. Sesar and Ma wondered whether customers would embrace their homestyle Persian food, including a number of dishes they knew guests might not be as familiar with, but the response was overwhelming — and encouraging. They began popping up at Melody, Brain Dead Studios and Pearl River Deli as news spread, and they began looking for Azizam’s permanent home.

They took over the space at the top of the year, and opened in late February with roughly 35 seats spread across a shaded patio. Inside, the front counter takes orders while a small cabinet displays each day’s breads and sweets. The torshi, or daily selection of pickles, can be found written onto a mirror along with beer and wine; above it are vintage family records of Iranian music. (“Everybody in the ’70s in Iran would have had these records,” Sesar’s father told them.)

“I think the main goal of this restaurant is to show people a different side of Persian cuisine,” Ma said. “It’s very heartwarming when you have older generations coming out and trying everything, and also it’s really cool that the younger people, like our age, are like, ‘We’re gonna bring our parents and grandparents.’” Azizam is open Thursday to Monday from noon to 4 p.m., with plans to extend to dinner service in the future.

2943 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, azizamla.com

A hand holding a set of tongs cooks brisket at K-Team BBQ in Koreatown.

K-Team BBQ serves traditional Korean barbecue cuts such as brisket or thick-cut pork belly on flat-top grills with a rainbow of banchan.

(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

K-Team

A new Korean barbecue restaurant from the team behind the L.A. Times Gold Award-winning Park’s BBQ is now open across the street on Vermont Avenue, with a throwback setting and a focus on pork. K-Team BBQ, the latest from owner Jenee Kim and managing partner Ryan Park, quietly launched last month in the former Ong Ga Nae space and was inspired by Korea’s barbecue joints of the 1970s and 1980s.

“We targeted more for young kids, but our older generation comes there too because they love the vibe of remembering their 20s and their 30s,” Kim said. “All these kids come in, and they just love it because they say they feel like they are in Seoul.”

Kim and Park brought nearly everything from Korea, including its chairs and 20 gas grills. K-Team features colored tiles on tabletops and a playlist of exclusively era-appropriate music. When the duo visited Korea last year, eating their way through restaurants to research, they found pork has become even more popular than in years past, and they decided to open a new barbecue restaurant that specializes in pork, with a more limited offering of Park’s BBQ’s beef.

Two customers enjoy a meal, backlit and in shadow, at K-Team BBQ in Koreatown.

Owner Jenee Kim says though designed with younger customers in mind, the new Korean barbecue spot has drawn guests of every age.

(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

K-Team offers the same ribeye as Park’s, as well as the brisket and beef tongue, but the slate skillets employed at K-Team are even better for cooking thinly sliced meats than the charcoal-fired, hubcap-shaped grills used at Park’s, Kim said. Pork cuts include jowl, thin and thick pork belly, and thin and thick collar, with add-ons such as minari and other vegetables, and a special myeonglan paste, made of pollack roe, which they also found to be popular in Korea. Sides and small plates also diverge from Kim’s famous restaurant; the bean paste soup at K-Team, for instance, uses stronger natto for bolder flavor. K-Team BBQ is open Monday to Thursday from 5 p.m. to midnight and Friday to Sunday from 4 p.m. to midnight.

936 S. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 908-5463, kteambbq.com

Roast Duck by Pa Ord

A plate of sliced roast duck with sauce and rice.

At Roast Duck by Pa Ord, sibling restaurant to Pa Ord Noodle, the focus is on air-dried duck served in multiple styles.

(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

One of Thai Town’s most beloved restaurateurs just opened a new casual Thai restaurant, this time dedicated to fragrant, crispy-skinned roast duck. Lawan Bhanduram of Pa Ord Noodle recently debuted her 11th restaurant, this time in an East Hollywood strip mall — in the exact space she opened her first Pa Ord 26 years ago. At Roast Duck by Pa Ord, she tapped a former employee to roast the ducks in a two-day process, then chop them on a thick wood butcher block and serve them in noodle soups, salads, curries, set meals with rice or noodles, and spicy stir-fries.

Chef Bob Vongfanikul marinates the duck in a secret sauce blend, then air dries it overnight and roasts it for an hour. Unlike with Peking duck, Pa Ord’s version doesn’t pump the body with air to separate the skin from the meat. While the practice of the roast duck originated in China, at his former place of employment, in Chatuchak’s Or Tor Kor market, Vongfanikul altered the style to more closely reflect Thai flavor and presentation with vinegar sauces, seasoning and other tweaks. The way he hangs the neck, too, is his own style. He said it took him 10 years to perfect his recipe.

“I invite people to taste [it],” Vongfanikul said. “To me, roast duck they can find in Chinatown, but not this roast duck.”

The chef grew up between Los Angeles and Thailand, and even worked for Bhanduram years ago before returning to Bangkok. Bhanduram, on a semi-retirement visit to Thailand, reconnected with her former employee and tried his duck, then urged him to move back to L.A. and open this restaurant with her — retirement didn’t last long.

Due to the time required for the cooking process, ducks are available first come, first served, and can sell out quickly. “Someone comes in and says, ‘I want 20 ducks’? Good luck,” Vongfanikul said. Pro tip: Call the restaurant to order whole ducks in advance. Roast Duck by Pa Ord is open Thursday to Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

5136 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 599-6511, instagram.com/roastduck_bypaord

Owner Lawan Bhanduram stands in front of Roast Duck by Pa Ord in Thai Town.

Roast Duck by Pa Ord marks the 11th restaurant that owner Lawan Bhanduram has opened.

(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Layla

Chef Chris Sayegh might be best known for his weed-infused supper club, but at Layla, the most notable green can be found in the stuffed grape leaves. This recipe, and many others, are directly from or inspired by Sayegh’s Jordanian jiddeh, or grandmother, the restaurant’s namesake. The Levantine menu is cooked primarily over open fire and utilizes the fine dining training that Sayegh — alias the Herbal Chef — gained in his time at Mélisse, Providence and beyond. Layla is located within the Beacon by Sonder hotel in Santa Monica, and is the latest project from Boulevard Hospitality Group (Yamashiro, Kodo, Durango Cantina).

Sayegh’s new menu runs through the Middle East, with options including smoked eggplant with Moroccan curry; aerated yogurt dip with Lebanese cheese; and the stuffed grape leaves, served in a pot that’s then flipped upside down, filled with lamb, tomato, rice and a Jordanian spice blend. There are lamb tagines, kebabs, grilled and chilled seafood towers, confit duck kibbeh, knafeh with cinnamon ice cream, and Middle Eastern-inspired cocktails designed by Sayegh and Dushan Zaric (Employees Only) such as an old-fashioned made with pistachio-butter-washed bourbon. Layla is open Wednesday to Sunday from 5 to 10 p.m.

1301 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, (424) 268-7200, laylarestaurantsm.com

A burger and fries from Burger She Wrote.

Burger She Wrote’s wagyu beef burgers can now be found at the beach.

(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Burger She Wrote Venice

One of L.A.’s best burgers just expanded to the Westside, with a walk-up window right at the beach. Burger She Wrote, from pro skater Don Nguyen, restaurateur Steven Arroyo (Escuela Taqueria) and chef Jules Crespy (formerly of L&E Oyster Bar), smashes its wagyu to a thin, crispy patty and serves its burgers alongside hand-cut fries, grilled cheese sandwiches and milkshakes. The restaurant first launched in Beverly Grove in 2021; this month it expanded to Venice Beach with an identical menu, serving its Oklahoma burgers and other signatures in the former Banh Mi Ba Nam and Big Daddy’s Pizza space. Burger She Wrote is open in Venice daily from noon to 9 p.m.

1425 Ocean Front Walk, Venice, burgershewrote.com

Pez Coastal Kitchen

A higher-end offshoot of downtown’s Pez Cantina is now open, bringing husband-and-wife team Bret Thompson and Lucy Thompson-Ramirez’s new seafood towers, crudos, uni spaghetti, steaks and fried-oyster Caesar salads to Old Pasadena. Whereas Pez Cantina focuses on coastal Mexican cuisine, Thompson, a Patina vet, is turning more toward European and Mediterranean influences at Pez Coastal Kitchen; he and chef Joe Gillard are using the restaurant to explore curing, dry-aging and smoking techniques, especially for seafood, for options like trout rillettes with caviar and, at brunch, a house-cured lox board. There are daily oysters, Hokkaido scallops tartare in dashi with braised daikon; entrées such as whole fried fish, seared scallops with ham-and-celery fritters, and cioppino; and desserts like chai-poached pears or butterscotch peanut butter cake. Pez Coastal Kitchen is open Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from 5 to 10 p.m.; Friday from 5 to 10:30 p.m.; Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

61 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena, (626) 210-0775, pezpasadena.com

A Korean fried chicken rice bowl with sauce.

Chick+Rice, from the team behind BBQ+Rice, is a quick-and-casual Korean fried chicken stand serving rice bowls and salads.

(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Chick+Rice

The former BBQ+Rice walk-up window bordering East Hollywood and Silver Lake recently flipped to Chick+Rice (briefly called Chick’n 82), a new Korean fried chicken stand from the same ownership. The quick-and-casual restaurant serves rice bowls and salads topped with Korean fried chicken, which can be tossed in sauces such as black pepper, sweet lemon, soy garlic and the Chick+Rice signature, a sweet-and-spicy option. Add-ons include chicken dumplings and fried eggs, with American sodas and Korean drinks like Sac Sac and Milkis. Chick+Rice is open Monday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

4481 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 394-0879, chickn82.square.site



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