Kebabs, hummus and hookah in the Valley
Ocean Café and Restaurant lies tucked behind a giant red fluorescent Lakeshore sign. If you drive down Devonshire Street even a little over the speed limit, you might pass up the opportunity to taste the most incredible hummus Northridge has to offer.
With Mediterranean cuisine and Middle Eastern decor, Ocean offers a multicultural experience unique to the Los Angeles area. It has both indoor and what appears to be patio seating. Don’t let the open air view of the busy street fool you. If you sit in the patio, you’re still technically inside. Immediately upon entering, we were given the choice of table or couch seating. My friends and I chose the couch for its home-style vibe.
We glanced through the menu, noting the array of hookah flavors. There were the standard flavors like strawberry, peach and apple. There were also more exotic fares such as kiwi, margarita and sex on the beach. Then there was an even more complicated mixing of flavors. Afraid of limiting ourselves to one standard flavor, our waiter offered to concoct a mix of white peach, pineapple and mint. It reminded me of a tropical cocktail in smoke form.
To accompany the hookah we ordered a couple of beers, ranging in size from 16 to an impressive 36 ounces. There weren’t many beers on tap, but they did have two of my favorites: Pyramid Hefeweizen and Fat Tire. Along with the beers, we ordered hummus with beef and pine nuts, a Kafta sandwich, and beef kebob skewers.
While we waited for our food, we tuned in to the conversations at the tables around us. We fixated on a waiter by the hookah bar, blowing perfectly shaped smoke O’s. I must have lost track of time, because when I looked down, a feast fit for a Mediterranean king was spread out on the table.
As soon as I came to my senses, I dove first into the hummus with beef. I don’t think I have ever been happier. Not even at the Christmas when I got my first bike. The pita bread wasn’t too special. The hummus more than made up for it.
Next came the sandwich. Wrapped in foil, it looked as if I had a present that came with my fries. I unwrapped the sandwich to find plenty of meat nestled between onions and tomatoes. I couldn’t possibly lift it to my mouth without the precious contents spilling on my lap, so I opted for a fork and knife. The fries were cooked crispy on the outside, warm and squishy on the inside, with just the right combination of salt and spices.
Then came the beef kebobs. The portions were more than generous, designed to feed at least two people. At first I didn’t even bother to notice that there was a huge salad and a generous portion of rice served alongside the beef. The rice was flavorful and had a hint of lemon. The salad was crispy and cool, despite being placed next to hot beef skewers.
We asked for to-go boxes, since we ordered more food than our bellies could hold. The beef skewers save amazingly well. They were still as tender and juicy the next day as they were when we ordered them.
The vibe at Ocean was relaxed and the patrons seemed to feel at home. All around us patrons were engaged in serious games of five card draw, blackjack, and Go Fish! There were, of course, no chips.
Ocean Café and Restaurant is an inviting, cozy environment that makes you forget you are in the Valley, but the occasional sounds from the street reminding you that you are not far from home.