By Michelle Sathe
Maral Sabounjian has always had a passion for cooking. Over the years she was often told, “You should open a restaurant.” Most people given this compliment don’t actually go on to do this, without any previous restaurant experience, leaving a completely different career (real estate) in the middle of a recession.
But Maral is not most people. She followed her passion and opened Man’oushee Mediterranean Bakery & Café in 2008. Now celebrating its 10-year anniversary, the Canyon Country restaurant continues to offer delicious Mediterranean food that combines the authentic flavors of Sabounjian’s native Lebanon with a California twist.
Since its inception, the focus at Man’oushee has been home cooking with everything made from scratch. The recipes are inspired by Maral’s childhood. “We are a food family. My grandmother and father were fabulous cooks. Food was everything to us,” she said.
Over 60 percent of the menu here falls under the vegan or vegetarian category and most items can be veganized as well. “We love fresh vegetables in Lebanon and so many of our dishes are vegan naturally. Every season, we focus on different produce. It’s our culture,” Maral said.
One of the most popular vegan items is the falafel, chickpea fritters made with fresh chickpeas, herbs, garlic and spices. The golden-brown spheres are crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside; perfectly paired with house-made tahini sauce and creamy hummus. Try it in a pita wrap with tomatoes, parsley, onions, romaine, pickled turnips, and tahini sauce or on a plate with rice, salad, hummus, pickled turnips, tahini sauce and pita bread.
You can also order it a la carte, add it to any salad or have it as the protein in their rice bowls or Lebanese Hash. (The latter, also known as patata harra, is an exclusive of Manoushee, created by Maral’s daughter).
The Lebanese Hash with beef shawarma (savory beef roast that is marinated in spices, then slow-cooked for hours and sautéed just before serving) starts off with a bed of fresh romaine lettuce, a crispy disc of potatoes, a fried egg, tahini or garlic sauce, and pickled turnips. Cut and toss the components for a revelatory contrast of flavors and textures.
Another popular dish is The Whole Shebang, created by Maral’s younger daughter. It’s a combination of three salads (garbanzo bean, green, and quinoa), topped with a protein (beef or chicken shawarma, falafel or Lebanese) , pickled turnips , parsley and finished with tahini or garlic sauce.
Whatever you order, make sure to ask for a side of their garlic sauce or get a large container to split at the table. The fluffy, luscious, garlicky spread is a specialty of the house and with good reason. It’s the best garlic sauce not just in town, but possibly all of Los Angeles.
And let’s not forget about the baked goods. Maral makes her own pita bread daily and it’s stellar: soft, chewy, filled with little air bubbles and crunchy bits, all the better to scoop up Man’oushee’s magnificent dips and sauces.
Then there are the many varieties of baklava, including walnut, cashew, and a custard-filled version that combines the flaky decadence of pastry with a smooth, velvety center. “You won’t find too many places that make custard baklava,” Maral said proudly of the latter. “It’s really time consuming and you have to have the right technique.”
Maral’s time, technique, and love are also apparent in two refreshing homemade beverages: the tangy, floral rosewater mint lemonade, which also makes a fantastic Arnold Palmer, and the Lebanese iced coffee, a bold blend of cold brew coffee, Lebanese coffee and condensed milk over crushed ice.
If you’re hosting a party, or just want some awesome Mediterranean food to nosh on at home, Man’oushee offers hummus, baba ghanouj, pickled turnips, garlic sauce, tzatziki, olives, and grape leaves ready to go in their deli section. Small to large catering orders of any menu, bakery, or deli item can be placed over the phone with a minimum of 24-hours notice.
Portions here are generous, so be prepared to bring some home. Of course, you could just linger inside of the restaurant to soak up the warm, yellow and warm- toned dining room or weather permitting, hang out at the shaded patio, take your time and eat the whole thing.
Man’oushee Mediterranean, 27131 Sierra Highway, Suite 100, Canyon Country. Open Tuesday-Friday 10 am to 7 pm, Saturday 10 am to 5 pm, and Sunday 11 am to 3 pm. Delivery available via Uber Eats or Grub Hub. For more information, call (661) 251-6666 or visit www.manoushee.com.