Cafe du Liban Showcases Rarely Seen Samke Harra

Cafe du Liban, a restaurant from Rosie Nemr and husband Elie in Tarzana, serves samke harra, a rarely seen fish dish from northern Lebanon.

Café du Liban, which translates from French as “Lebanese café,” dates to 1998 in a Tarzana strip mall called Ross Plaza. Rosie Nemr is a chef who no longer works the line but trained husband Elie to prepare the Lebanese dishes of her youth. Her father’s Greek, her mother’s Armenian from Istanbul, and she grew up in Lebanon. The couple's tiny café with canary yellow walls and a hand-painted Lebanese village mural serves some of the best Lebanese food in LA, including kebabs, dips and pull-apart, house-made laffa bread.

The most beguiling dish in Rosie’s repertoire is undoubtedly samke harra, a spicy smothered fish dish that’s apparently popular with Mediterranean fishermen in northern Lebanon. At Café du Liban, chunks of flaky white fish filets are blanketed with a zesty, tangy sauce of nutty sesame-based tahini, cilantro and garlic. Each order comes with crispy pita chips and dots of hot sauce that make the plate look like a sunburst. For $19, you also receive a choice of two sides. Bulgur does an especially good job of sopping up the delicious sauce. I’d also suggest well-spiced, water-based lentil soup to help round out your meal.

19223 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana, 818-705-3194

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