When it comes to Middle Eastern food, LA does pretty well between the Persian food of Westwood and the wide variety of Armenian from Hollywood to Glendale, but I'm a particular fan of our two Lebanese giants: LA's Marouchon Santa Monica Boulevard and the Valley's Carnival. I took them head to head, and we'll see who comes out on top.
Hummous: Tie. Both do excellent hummous. Carnival's is thicker and has more chick pea flavor. Marouch's is thinner with more spice flavor.
Fried Kebbeh: Marouch. Both have versions of the little, football shaped, fried sausage balls. Carnival's kebbeh is a bit bland. Marouch's is stand-out with good spice and nice texture.
Falafel: Carnival by a mile. Carnival has what may be the best falafel in LA. Crisp on the outside, moist on the inside, tasting of garlic, parsley and sesame...they are as perfect as falafel can be. Marouch's leaden balls pale in comparison.
Fool Mudamas: Tie. Both serve a good dish of pureed fava beans. As with most dishes, Marouch's version has more spice (heavy garlic, in this case) but both are tasty.
Mezze: Marouch. Carnival doesn't really have much in the way of mezze, just a little appetizer combination, whereas this is a huge strength of Marouch, which offers varying sizes. Two of my favorite mezze dishes at Marouch aren't even available at Carnival: the crispy cheese turnovers, crispy fried dough stuffed with a white cheese and Marouch's delectable mouhamara (a puree of peppers and walnuts), possibly my favorite dish at either establishment.
Baklava: None. Sorry, neither of these giants excel in the dessert range. Both offer a competent but unexciting baklava.
Overall, both restaurants have their strengths. The big mezzes at Marouch are superb, while Carnival rules the roost with its falafel. Just go somewhere else for dessert.
4905 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90029
4356 Woodman Ave
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423