In richly diverse Southern California, there are restaurants cooking up just about every cuisine. Whether it's Mexican, Japanese, Korean, Italian, Vietnamese, Iranian, Chinese, Central American, Brazilian, Argentinean or Armenian food, you crave, you can satisfy your hunger easily.
However, there aren't many restaurants that offer Armenian fare in the immediate area. The greatest concentration of Armenian restaurants, grocery stores and bakeries is in Glendale.
Adana Restaurant is one of those Glendale eateries that a friend and I frequent. Even though there are 15 kababs on the menu, I pretty much stick with the dark meat chicken kabab, priced at $6.50. My friend likes the lamb chops, priced at $10.95. I should note, the pork chops and the baby back ribs ($8.50) are also amazing.
The interior suggests a quiet banquet room in a small, elegant European hotel. There are white tablecothes and the windows and doors facing San Fernando Road are framed by delicate wrought iron. The room feels light and airy.
While waiting for our entrees, we have an Armenian coffee ($1.99), share a large plate of tabouli ($5.75) and yak about family, work and movies.
We eat the tabouli and lavash with relish. The freshly chopped Italian parsley, tossed with bits of tomato, scallions, olive oil and lemon juice, has a touch of heat. We happily talk as we eat and sip the strong coffee.
Armenia is sandwhiched between Turkey and countries previously aligned with the Soviet Union. So, the country developed dishes adapted from neighboring countries, with the strongest influence coming from Turkey and the Middle East.
Once our entrees arrive, I notice the pieces of dark meat chicken on my plate are lined up like pillows, resting on a bed of rice. My buddy's lamb chops come with that same generous helping of rice. We had both selected the same two side dishes: homemade hummus and a brightly colored Persian salad of roughly chopped ripe tomatoes, red onions, Italian parsley and unpeeled Iranian cucumbers.
Needless to say, our conversation comes to an abrupt halt when our entrees arrive. My friend attacks the lamb chops with his hands, then scoops up fork fulls of the rice, with the flavor addition of the sides.
I eat with more deliberation, spreading butter and hummus on a piece of lavash, adding a spoonfull of rice, Persian salad and slices of the juicy dark chicken meat, almost like a complete packet of flavor. I construct the next packet—and then next—until I have eaten every last grain of rice and piece of chicken.
Even though the prices are little more than you would pay at a fast food restaurant, the food is prepared-to-order using the freshest ingredients. Chef Khechemyan insists on working with quality food and the proof is in each bite. Khechemyan and his fellow chef, Sonik Nazaryan, are masters of layering flavors.
For a small restaurant, the menu has a good variety of dishes, including familiar American classics, including Philly cheese steak sandwiches, hamburgers and chicken breast sandwiches to name a few. Adana also offers many salads, thick, spicy lentil and barley soups and traditional Armenian stews. Finally, there are many popular Middle Eastern appetizers such as domeh, hummus, yogurt and cucumber dip.
The combination of textues and flavors is such a pleasure. Any foodie in search of umami has to make the trek to Adana. That's what's at work here. All your taste buds are in play—salty, sour, sweet and bitter. I go back as often as I can.