If you’re lucky enough to snag a reservation at Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis’s new Middle-Eastern restaurant, the host will likely call you on the phone to confirm. This is a foreshadowing of what’s to come: the kind of warm, welcoming service one can only hope for from a night out.
Saffy’s is set back from the street on a quiet corner in East Hollywood. Arrive early and have a cocktail like the Sour—a bright orange tangy mix of mezcal, pineapple, carrot, passionfruit, lime, and habanero—at a sidewalk table, and listen to the hosts kindly greeting every guest.
Inside, the space is as vibrant as the cocktail. Chef Menashe stands in front of the wood-burning oven overseeing the shawarma and lamb, pork, and chicken kebabs. For those familiar with Bestia or Bavel, this particular image of him with his back to diners and face to fire is iconic, and one wonders how he has managed to successfully clone himself yet again. But Menashe seems most comfortable at Saffy’s. “We just wanted to bring the guests into our home,” he says. Menashe admits that six months into opening Bavel in 2018, he began dreaming of a falafel stand. “I had the craving to cook meats on skewers.”
Two years later, the couple found the perfect location. “Three or four weeks into the pandemic, we signed a lease, thinking that the pandemic was going to end, and it never did.”
Ultimately, Saffy’s is a full-service restaurant where diners pile into yellow banquettes to share beautiful plates of hummus dusted with smoked paprika, Lebanese pine nuts, green zhoug, and challah that the chef has recently perfected. “The challah was something that I baked probably 100 times before I said, ‘OK, this is the recipe.’ ” The meat-centric menu is rounded out with masterly sides like green falafel with tahini served atop puddles of beet zhoug and sprinkled with dill.
Keeping with the theme of simplicity, Gergis’s pastry menu is short and, well, sweet. “A fancy dessert is beautiful,” she says, “but what you really want at the end of the day is a strawberry shortcake.”
“I think food is what brings everyone together,” adds Menashe. “And this food is cooked to make people happy.”
4845 Fountain Ave., East Hollywood
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