Desert Rose, an oasis of warmth and tranquility in the heart of Los Feliz village, specializes in California-Mediterranean cuisine. The restaurant’s namesake, a glistening statuesque glass sculpture of a rose, stands proudly in the entry, welcoming all hungry travelers to the flower garden and expansive tile patio. The area tantalizes the senses, as you are caressed by the lolling sound of fountains, cooled by the welcoming shade of umbrellas, and serenaded by the sensual strumming of a live Spanish guitar. With the delicate scents of roses and jasmine from the garden, the warmth of the sun, and the caress of the afternoon breeze… it is as if you have transported from the bustling streets of Los Angeles… to a relaxing Mediterranean terrace. With all these, your taste buds can’t help but enjoy a leisurely and delicious meal.
The owners of Desert Rose (D.R.) are Lebanese, so the menu is mostly comprised of traditional Lebanese dishes, while Chef Fullilove (from Da Vinci in Beverly Hills) joined the restaurant for a short time adding an Italian flare. With grilled kebabs, tabbouleh and hummus from a family recipe, fresh pastas, steak and seafood, the food has great Mediterranean seasoning and is flavorful. There is a separate Vegan menu, options range from salads and sandwiches, to pizza, wraps, and pasta. The pizza is from Cruzer Pizza (next door), which is an excellent vegan pizzeria in LA.
There is a lovely libation menu, ample wine list and hand-selected beers on tap. Choices of note include: Ginger Mojito, Desert Rose Margarita, Spicy Senorita, and D.R. Champagne Cocktail. But honestly, I have been enamored with the Elderflower White Sangria ($12) since my first visit to the Rose– Hess Sauvignon Blanc and St. Germain liqueur, made from handpicked elderflower blossoms, seasonal fruit and topped off with club soda. Each juicy bite of the meal is complimented with the fruited touch of this cocktail, meanwhile the fruits are infusing with the elderflower, and the drunken berries left at the bottom of the glass are a tasty finale.
Brunch on the patio is divine. Chef Fullilove rolled out his special versions of Eggs Benedict, however if you prefer the traditional Eggs Benedict it is offered as well. With Smoked Salmon, Vegetarian, Deluxe Steak, and Blue Crab Cake, there is certainly a Benedict for everyone. My favorite is the Blue Crab Cake Benedict ($18) with blue crab cake, asparagus, poached organic eggs and hollandaise on an English muffin, served with D.R. multi-color potatoes. The crab cakes have large morsels of crab, no fillers, that melt with the egg yolk, and the colorful potatoes are rich in a rainbow of nutrients.
A healthier breakfast option is Breakfast Pita ($11)– Scrambled organic eggs, spinach, feta, olives, tomatoes in fresh, fluffy pita bread served with D.R. potatoes. I like to add turkey bacon ($4) and replace the potatoes with fresh fruit.
The appetizers consist of mostly traditional Lebanese dishes– Hummus with pita bread, Tabbouleh and Warmed Mediterranean Olives. The Frito Misto is a bit off the beaten path with a variety of lightly fried calamari, shrimp, artichokes and fennel served with lemon aioli and cocktail sauce. The two most unique of the small dishes are Kebbe and Harissa-Rubbed Baked Brie.
Kebbe ($12) is beef meatballs stuffed with pine nuts and onions served on yogurt mint sauce. They are lightly fried, crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside with added texture from the large slices of pine nuts and the sauce renders each bite a little minty and sour.
The Harissa-Rubbed Baked Brie ($12) has fresh brie rubbed with Traditional Middle Eastern Spices and baked to perfection, served with sliced apples, strawberry and crostini. It is an amalgam of flavors with the spicy crust of the soft, melty brie, sweet strawberries and tart green apple slices.
More traditional are the sandwiches. Beef Shawarma ($13) is a Mediterranean Style Wrap with thinly sliced grilled beef, red onions, mixed herbs and tahini sauce.
The Mint-Garlic Lamb Burger ($14) with feta cheese, fries and salad. The fries can be substituted with sweet potatoes fries or truffle fries with gruyere ($7) . Each bite of the burger is juicy and enhanced by the lightly salted feta and hints of mint.
Entrees include such Lebanese treats as Beef Kebab and Chicken Kebab. These Mediterranean plates are served with grilled marinated meat, hummus & garlic sauce and choice of rice, fries or tabbouleh. Here I ordered the Chicken Kebab ($13) with tabbouleh. The tabbouleh is a bit heavy on the parsley but still more preferable than the rice or fries. The meats are simple, spiced and grilled to perfection. The hummus is very creamy with a lovely distribution of olive and tahini oil and served with pita wedges that are covered in spices, chopped parsley and tomatoes.
It’s difficult to resist finishing a meal here without a cup of coffee, tea, or affogato and a delectable dessert chosen from the display case inside. The menu includes creme brulee with berries ($8) and warm lava cake ($8). Some of the irresistible desserts displayed when venturing inside the restaurant are white cream cake with fruits decorated atop, chocolate mouse, various cheesecakes and tarts…
The coffee & tea is served in poetically rhyming Pasquini cup — For Music Puccini, For Art Bernini, For Espresso Pasquini. Affogato is served in a martini glass with a scoop of vanilla bean gelato topped with a shot of hot espresso. Shown here is an affogato ($6) with apple caramel cheesecake ($7), coffee ($3), and double chocolate cheesecake ($7).
Desert Rose is on a pedestal in my mind — the dining experience is a relaxing escape. The mellow ambiance sitting on the cozy, yet spacious, garden patio transforms the body into serenity. A rarity in LA, there is always a table available outside where you can relax for hours (even after finishing the meal) — I have to be torn away from my seat each time I leave the restaurant. It is a delicious neighborhood spot with quality food, wide selection of beverages, friendly & attractive staff, good service, dog-friendly and a great vibe.
Besides a brilliant brunch and Happy Hour, Desert Rose also serves up lunch and dinner every day. Weekend brunch is from 10AM-3PM. Happy Hour is from 3-6 PM daily with the lounge menu fit to share with friends. Thursday Happy Hour is available all night and 25% discount for Facebook fans. In the evenings a warm and romantic vibe is transmitted through the air, sitting under the twinkling lights, enhanced by the heat lamps and music. There is live music (jazz evenings) Thursday through Saturday nights, and during Sunday brunch. Parking is available in the residential neighborhood down the street and, alternately, valet is $5.
Desert Rose Restaurant & Lounge
1700 N. Hillhurst Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027