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Larsa, Lebanese, Skokie

Larsa, Lebanese, Skokie
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  • Post #31 - October 30th, 2005, 9:52 am
    Post #31 - October 30th, 2005, 9:52 am Post #31 - October 30th, 2005, 9:52 am
    Aaron, though I'm not sure I'd call the other entree's weak (compare for example to nearby pita inn) , I will say that by far my favorite entree at Larsa's is the catfish - any others tried the fish there? It's fairly simply but expertly done, nice grill flavor on the outside, moist and tender on the inside.
  • Post #32 - October 30th, 2005, 10:02 pm
    Post #32 - October 30th, 2005, 10:02 pm Post #32 - October 30th, 2005, 10:02 pm
    I finally emerged from my Basha's rut and tried Larsa's tonight. Anticipating an empty room based on previous posts, I was delighted to find that the joint was jumpin'. All but two tables full, that is. Remembering also from previous posts that the wait after ordering could be long, I brought my Sunday NYTimes. No need. Service was cheerful and prompt, appetizers appeared instantaneously, and the rest of the meal continued apace.

    I really enjoyed the smokiness of the babaghanouj -- the last time I had it that smoky was in Bucharest in 1973, and I have yearned for smoky eggplant since then, though never come close. (Come to think of it, the sensory rationale for the BBQ obsession of the modal LTH-er now becomes clear to me.) But I digress. . .

    I'll second zim's endorsement of the soup. A more interesting version of the usual lentil, with rice, dill, and a spicy heat that builds slowly.
    My lamb kebab had nicely charred edges yet was juicy, flavorful, and slightly pink inside. I also enjoyed the thin pita, which had a nice, slightly chewy texture, rather than the crumbly one I've come to anticipate in most places. The fun quotient increased notably when I spotted a woman baking the pitas in the front window.

    All in all, though I like the owners at Basha's and will continue to go there for their veggie combo-- a heckuva deal, I concur with zim that Larsa's has the edge. To me Larsa's offers several things that Basha's does not: a pleasantly lighted space, table service and superior pitas. Overall, a more restful experience, and a comfortable place for a solo diner. As to whether I prefer it over Kabul House, I'd say we're talking apples and oranges, in spite of the similarities in the menu. When I go to Kabul House, I'm craving mantoo or pumpkin. . .
    Man : I can't understand how a poet like you can eat that stuff.
    T. S. Eliot: Ah, but you're not a poet.
  • Post #33 - November 8th, 2005, 7:11 pm
    Post #33 - November 8th, 2005, 7:11 pm Post #33 - November 8th, 2005, 7:11 pm
    Finally had a chance to try Larsa's a couple of weeks ago. We stopped in at 4:30pm on a Friday and were the only folks there and service was fine.

    Unfortunately we weren't starving, so we couldn't order a lot--we tried the veggie pita sandwich, the eggplant pita and an order of stufffed grape leaves. Now, I don't usually get too excited about pita sandwiches, but these were great--very fresh bread filled with interesting, flavorful veggies. And cheap (less than $4 each), though they come with no sides of anything, not even a scrap of parsley. (We asked for some hot sauce--it was great and VERY zippy.) The grape leaves were nice and tangy and held together well. I definitely look forward to returning to try the soup, baba g, etc.

    This is one of those places I would never have found without mention on this board--thanks for the tip!
  • Post #34 - November 10th, 2005, 11:51 pm
    Post #34 - November 10th, 2005, 11:51 pm Post #34 - November 10th, 2005, 11:51 pm
    next time make sure you get an order of their soups, the vegetarain in our household crave these on a fairly regular basis, and its one item I think larsa's makes better than most of the of the places from the generalarea that I've tried
  • Post #35 - May 1st, 2006, 12:12 pm
    Post #35 - May 1st, 2006, 12:12 pm Post #35 - May 1st, 2006, 12:12 pm
    I finally made it to Larsa's last week. First off, as I said in another thread, I have a fondness for Assyrians and their cuisine. Despite centuries of persecution and oppression, Assyrians are some of the most genuine and hospitable people you will ever meet. Larsa's carries on the national tradition of welcoming strangers and making them feel comfortable. However, in spite of wanting to really love the place, I have to give it a mixed review. Although, I will definitely return.

    The meat dishes ranged from pretty good to pretty bad. The Kifta was very tasty, but the gus (shawerma) was terrible. From experience, I know shwarema can be hit or miss, depending on how long the meat has been on the rotisserie. Too little time and it is too tough. Too long and it gets dry. The shawerma at Larsa's had obviously dried out, then was soaked in marinade to moisten it up. The result was not good at all. Based on this one experience, I would award the Dempster Street Beef shawerma crown to Basha (although I have had a few so-so meals there also).

    We also had the Baba Ghanouj which was good, but a little creamy for my taste and lacked that really smoky flavor. Again, the Baba crown goes to Basha (although it has been awhile since I have eaten at Pita Inn).

    The best thing about the Baba Ghanouj at Larsa's was the pita bread that was served with it. The pita(s?) must have just come out of the oven. They were thin and moist and delicate. I know that other LTHers were not as wowed by Larsa's pita. Maybe it was because they were fresh from the oven or maybe Larsa's has recently gotten the hang of baking pita in a pizza oven, but I have to say those were the best pita I have ever eaten. I award the Pita crown of Dempster to Larsa's (I really like the thin type of pita).

    Which brings us to the other wonderful things that come from Larsa's pizza oven. After all, sampling the Laham Ajeen was our primary purpose for going there. We ordered both the Laham Ajeen and the Manna Eash. We were not disappointed.

    The Laham Ajeen was more tomatoey than other versions I have had, and judging by Erik's pictures, the recipe must have changed to a less meaty interpretation. Nevertheless, the topping was spicy and tasty, and the crust was just phenomenal. It was thin and crunchy with just the right amount of brown, a thing of beauty. These guys have it down.

    The Manna Eash has an olive-oil crust which makes it bubbly, and a little chewy. It was very different from the Laham Ajeen crust, but just as wonderful, and also perfectly cooked. The dried spice mixture was applied liberally (despite the menu description of a 'touch' of herbs), and was fantastic.

    Obviously, what sets Larsa's apart from the other Dempster Avenue middle-eastern establishments, is the outstanding skill they have developed at baking in an old pizza oven. The next time I go there, I will order all of the four 'pizza' type appetizers (laham ajeen, manna eash, gourmet cheese, m'hammarah pita) and maybe some hummus as an excuse to eat the pita.

    Also, has anyone ever been to Jerry's meats in the same strip mall as Larsa's? It looked promising.
  • Post #36 - November 16th, 2006, 6:04 pm
    Post #36 - November 16th, 2006, 6:04 pm Post #36 - November 16th, 2006, 6:04 pm
    At a wonderful dinner at Larsa's, I ordered what they call "Kibee," which is described as "Boiled or pan fried burgul cream of wheat, stuffed with ground beef, diced onion and special spices, served pizza style." Boiled or fried is not a choice in my world; I got it fried.

    This turns out to be what is called Kibbeh Mosul, an Iraqi form of Kibbeh. It is the same bulger wheat and meat stuffing as other Kibbehs, but it is presented as a flat pancake with meat stuffing. Whether it was the shape or particular version they make, I thought it chewy, grainy and scrumptious.

    On looking on LTH, I find at least three other places in town serving this:
    Big Buns and Pita: http://lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?p=97809#97809
    Iraqi Kebab House: http://lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?p=96599#96599
    City Noor: http://lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?p=7017#7017

    Both Big Buns, Iraqi Kebab and Larsa's have Iraqi influence; I'm not sure why City Noor has this dish.

    Anyway, I highly recommend trying this, and while doing so, revelling in the fact that Chicago has no fewer that four places serving this somewhat obscure variant of Kibbeh.

    Jonah
  • Post #37 - November 16th, 2006, 9:19 pm
    Post #37 - November 16th, 2006, 9:19 pm Post #37 - November 16th, 2006, 9:19 pm
    Another restaurant that offers this dish, also called "kubbat mosul' is Venus on California and Touhy. Up until recently, I always had the "boiled" version which is often served with HP sauce. Last week, I tried the fried version, and I have to say it is much better that way. I have never had Larsa's version, but will be certain to try it the next time I am there.

    http://lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?t=7649
  • Post #38 - November 16th, 2006, 9:22 pm
    Post #38 - November 16th, 2006, 9:22 pm Post #38 - November 16th, 2006, 9:22 pm
    The other thing Venus and Big Buns and Pita both had, can't speak for anywhere else, is the green mango sauce:

    Image

    That seems to be an Iraqi thing, too.
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  • Post #39 - November 16th, 2006, 10:35 pm
    Post #39 - November 16th, 2006, 10:35 pm Post #39 - November 16th, 2006, 10:35 pm
    I've tried the flat "Kibee" at Larsa's, and while I found it very good, the flavor of the bulghur was so intense to me that I find that I can only enjoy a couple bites of it. For my taste, it works much better as a shared item than as a single-person entree.

    Best,
    Michael
  • Post #40 - November 17th, 2006, 12:22 pm
    Post #40 - November 17th, 2006, 12:22 pm Post #40 - November 17th, 2006, 12:22 pm
    we had it both fried and boiled @ big buns. the fried was one of the hits of the day.
    "In pursuit of joys untasted"
    from Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata
  • Post #41 - June 5th, 2007, 12:42 am
    Post #41 - June 5th, 2007, 12:42 am Post #41 - June 5th, 2007, 12:42 am
    I hadn’t been to Larsa’s in over a year, but I’ve always thought it was great whenever I was there in the past.

    First of all, it was a little sad. I was there at 8:30 on Saturday night, when you might expect it to be busy. There were only two other occupied tables. And, telling of the slow business, they now have an insert in the menu – a page of traditional thin crust pizza (before it was Larsa’s, it was a pizzeria). There are also relatively new signs in the window touting the pizzas. It seems a shame to order a pizza at a place that does such good job with lahma ajeen, but they seem to be struggling and trying anything to get more customers in.

    Speaking (typing?) of which, lahma ajeen is the must-have appetizer – a disc of dough from the pizza oven covered with spiced ground beef – pretty simple, really, but delicious.
    We also had the Baba Ganoush, a somewhat-more-smoky-than-most, excellent version, along with the house-made pita (another use for that pizza oven).

    The catfish was lightly done, with a slight flour-based crust (my friend thought it slightly underdone, but it was perfectly moist and juicy for my tastes).

    And the kifta kebab was nicely spiced, generous logs of beef – probably comparable to many other Middle Eastern restaurants.

    Both came with mountains of rice – very distinct, al dente grains.

    And, both entrees were served with a thick lentil soup with dill, gratis.

    The bill was $34 before tip, having been served way too much food.

    It’s BYOB.

    Interestingly enough, while I couldn’t find a write-up of it on the Tribune site, I did find a Tribune review (slightly out-of-date) here (interesting perspective on the cuisine):
    http://www.christiansofiraq.com/restaurant.html
  • Post #42 - June 5th, 2007, 1:01 am
    Post #42 - June 5th, 2007, 1:01 am Post #42 - June 5th, 2007, 1:01 am
    FYI, I still see the for sale ad for it every month in the restaurant publication I get. So it is still available.

    Spoke to soon. Ad not in the June 07 publication. Hopefully they just changed their minds about selling.
  • Post #43 - February 23rd, 2008, 11:09 pm
    Post #43 - February 23rd, 2008, 11:09 pm Post #43 - February 23rd, 2008, 11:09 pm
    Tonight my friend took me out to dinner for my birthday. We went to Larsa's after reading such good things about it and, much to my disappointment, ended up being one of the worst meals we've both ever experienced. Seriously, I thought our meal was a joke. My friend got the catfish and I got the veggie plate. The presentation was so depressing, and the portion of the catfish was so tiny that my friend finished it in three bites. I don't see the point of using such gigantic plates when their minuscule portions end up looking ridiculous on them. The white rice that comes with entrees is bland and looks like it's the cheapo boiled-in-a-bag stovetop variety. My veggie plate was just as bad. The hummus and baba were nasty -- pasty and flavorless and a very strange, off color. It looked as bad as it tasted, and my appetite took a nosedive upon seeing the depressing plate of food set before me. The falafel....wth?? It was like three little soggy round flavorless nuggets. I have a suspicion that the hummus, baba, and falafel were loaded with some kind of fillers made to stretch the ingredients and make it cheap to make as possible. The lentil soup was initially good, but the overloading of dill became more and more noticable with every bite until it made my stomach turn . The thin crust pita seemed appealing at first but it was bland and its texture and consistency seemed more appropriate for Indian food than Middle Eastern. We both just shut up and ate out of an effort to be polite rather than get up and leave. After dinner my friend was still hungry, and I was not quite full. Geez, we could've gone to Pita Inn and gotten stuffed on half the price and been much more happier. My poor friend asked where I'd heard of this place. :cry: Have you ever had one of those meals where it was so unsatisfying that even though you're physically satiated, you're so psychologically unsatisfied that your body is still craving more to make up for the experience? After dinner we went to Whole Foods and picked up snacks to eat on the way home. Bah, should've went with my first (tried-and-true) choice which was Semiramis. Never again, Larsa's.
  • Post #44 - February 24th, 2008, 12:05 am
    Post #44 - February 24th, 2008, 12:05 am Post #44 - February 24th, 2008, 12:05 am
    Thanks for the post, Bin. Extra points for working portion size right in to the negative meal description organically, instead of leaving the question open.
  • Post #45 - February 24th, 2008, 12:31 am
    Post #45 - February 24th, 2008, 12:31 am Post #45 - February 24th, 2008, 12:31 am
    Sorry for sounding so disgruntled. It's just that this evening was beyond disappointing and it's disconcerting how radically different one experience is compared to others'.
  • Post #46 - February 24th, 2008, 12:40 am
    Post #46 - February 24th, 2008, 12:40 am Post #46 - February 24th, 2008, 12:40 am
    binofhay wrote:Sorry for sounding so disgruntled. It's just that this evening was beyond disappointing and it's disconcerting how radically different one experience is compared to others'.


    No need to apologize, though it certainly has been a long time since people have reported back their experiences at Larsa.

    Thanks for the feedback.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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  • Post #47 - February 24th, 2008, 11:26 am
    Post #47 - February 24th, 2008, 11:26 am Post #47 - February 24th, 2008, 11:26 am
    I'm guessing it's a case of new owners. The space was originally a pizzeria, and when it became Larsa's, the owners stopped offering pizza, but found some very creative uses for the pizza oven. Last fall, I started to see large signs in the window offering pizza again, which would be out of character for the Larsa's I knew. Pure speculation.
  • Post #48 - February 24th, 2008, 11:33 am
    Post #48 - February 24th, 2008, 11:33 am Post #48 - February 24th, 2008, 11:33 am
    There was some speculation a little over a year ago that they were for sale (in this thread) although G Wiv reports on a nice lunch there last may in the same thread.

    Best,
    Michael
  • Post #49 - February 24th, 2008, 5:08 pm
    Post #49 - February 24th, 2008, 5:08 pm Post #49 - February 24th, 2008, 5:08 pm
    Checked out Larsa's today.

    Although it's not my usual order, for some reason I decided to get the veggie plate. I'm happy to report that all was just as I remembered it. The falafel, while nowhere near my favorite in Chicagoland, was crisp and, as always, fried to order. Hummus -- well, I can only eat so much hummus before I get completely bored with it, so I'm no expert. The baba ghanouj, on the other hand, was creamy and had a nice smoked eggplant flavor. Both dishes looked as they should. The lentil soup remains one of my favorite soups in town, although dill does not make my stomach turn so perhaps I have an iron constitution. Along with the always excellent pita and complimentary torshi, all this was way too much food for me.

    Larsa's has not been sold; all the same people as before are still there, both in the serving and the cooking aspects. The "Pizza + Ribs +God Knows What Else" sign went up a long time ago. I was initially apprehensive, but decided that if that stuff will subsidize the dishes at which this place excels (for the record: soup, pita, laham ajeen, kibbeh), then it's fine by me. Since then, I've actually seen people come for the pizza. :shock:
  • Post #50 - February 24th, 2008, 5:18 pm
    Post #50 - February 24th, 2008, 5:18 pm Post #50 - February 24th, 2008, 5:18 pm
    I wonder if they would put shawarma and torshi on a pizza?
  • Post #51 - August 31st, 2008, 10:09 am
    Post #51 - August 31st, 2008, 10:09 am Post #51 - August 31st, 2008, 10:09 am
    Just a little bumb-a-rino.

    I had my Larsa maiden yesterday. This is a seriously great place.

    I thought. It does remind or at least show some of the difficultuy in assessing restaurants. In my mind, pre-visit, I knew of Larsa as a place with good reports. I had remembered a couple of old-timers, at least guys from my generation, Erik M and Zim, loving the place. Yesterday afternoon, I looked at the Larsa threads, this and the other one, and I was surprised that the love for Larsa was not quite as complete as I thought. Could some really not be overwhelmed by this place?!?

    Thing is, compare orders and the like. My meal consisted of a variety of the bready things, plus falafal, plus the two standard dips, plus (a lot) of pickles. No shwarma. No meats. No fish. Would I have thought differently if I tried the things that have been panned. Maybe. To me, it points out the inherent difficulty of this enterprise.

    Still, for me, for one visit, this was home run city. Even the pizza, from the pizza menu, potatoe with garlic and feta substituted for ricotta; excelled. This was as seriously delicious, superior pizza. I'm a carb kinda guy. A pickle guy. I left Larsa's nearly comatose from stuffing myself so much on the breads and the pickles. The different Middle Eastern style pizzas (tried them all). Yet I cannot complain in the least with anything else ordered. The falafal was distinct, fresh and well made. The two dips met high standads, especially the smoky baba.

    Don't forget Larsa's
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #52 - August 31st, 2008, 7:04 pm
    Post #52 - August 31st, 2008, 7:04 pm Post #52 - August 31st, 2008, 7:04 pm
    Count me in as another old timer who loves this place. This spot was formerly LaRosa Pizzereia (there were several LaRosa's in the area but this one was always by far the best). I grew up nearby and and always felt it had the very best thin crust pizza in Chicagoland. Current owners have changed things quite a bit but have tried to keep the pizza close to the original, going to great lengths to insure that they continue to use the same flour , cheese mixture and sauce recipe . Pies are all still hand tossed too. While the pizza is maybe not quite as good as before, it's still great and I agree with VI that this place remains a treasure.
    Lacking fins or tail
    The Gefilte fish
    swims with great difficulty.

    Jewish haiku.
  • Post #53 - January 24th, 2010, 11:37 am
    Post #53 - January 24th, 2010, 11:37 am Post #53 - January 24th, 2010, 11:37 am
    Had dinner at Larsa's last night with the Favorite Dining Companion and a friend. We arrived at 6:00. Two other tables were occupied. By the time we left, it was fairly full.

    FDC & I each had the Larsa's combo plate and our friend had the Veggie Plate. We split a fattoosh salad. Everything was quite tasty and we all made out plates squeaky clean. The entrees included a cup of very good lentil soup and top notch pita bread.

    The pizza menu looks tempting. I ate plenty of pizzas there back in the LaRosa era. Perhaps for my next visit.

    Overall, a good and reasonably priced meal.
    "At a formal dinner party, the person nearest death should always be seated closest to the bathroom." George Carlin
  • Post #54 - January 24th, 2010, 1:52 pm
    Post #54 - January 24th, 2010, 1:52 pm Post #54 - January 24th, 2010, 1:52 pm
    Dave148: We were one of the two other tables.

    I was less impressed than you: their predominant flavor appears to be turmeric: it saturated the plate of complimentary pickled veggies, and the Umba sauce for the falafel. On the other hand, the falafel were perfectly crisp outside and creamy inside, my current faves.

    MrsF's kibee was unlike other kibbe/kibbah we've had elsewhere, it was a thin pancake, a little on the bland side, and served with H-P sauce (!).

    Overall, we were hoping for something a little "finer" -- based on the sign which said "Fine Mediterranean Cuisine"

    I'd go back, but not in a rush.
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #55 - January 24th, 2010, 1:58 pm
    Post #55 - January 24th, 2010, 1:58 pm Post #55 - January 24th, 2010, 1:58 pm
    The heavy use of turmeric in all things pickled is characteristic of Iraqi and Assyrian food. Mike Sula wrote about amba here.

    Was the amba pickled mango or just assorted veggies?
    "By the fig, the olive..." Surat Al-Teen, Mecca 95:1"
  • Post #56 - January 24th, 2010, 2:01 pm
    Post #56 - January 24th, 2010, 2:01 pm Post #56 - January 24th, 2010, 2:01 pm
    Habibi wrote:Was the amba pickled mango or just assorted veggies?


    There was a plate of pickled veggies including cabbage, zucchini, cucumber, olives, bell pepper.

    The umba sauce was a yellow-green sauce about the consistency of their lentil soup (which I forgot to mention, and was quite good even if it was a little strong on the tumeric too), sour and bitter. Whether it had mango in it was very hard to say. The waitress did not know what it was made from.
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #57 - January 24th, 2010, 2:03 pm
    Post #57 - January 24th, 2010, 2:03 pm Post #57 - January 24th, 2010, 2:03 pm
    amba/umba we are talking about the same thing FYI. It's a label applied to a number of Iraqi sauces or pickled preparations, usually involving turmeric or mango or both. It's also popular in Israel (not Palestine).
    "By the fig, the olive..." Surat Al-Teen, Mecca 95:1"
  • Post #58 - January 24th, 2010, 2:43 pm
    Post #58 - January 24th, 2010, 2:43 pm Post #58 - January 24th, 2010, 2:43 pm
    Joel, We're you the guy in the (I think) gray sweatshirt? Your wife wore her glasses on her head.
    "At a formal dinner party, the person nearest death should always be seated closest to the bathroom." George Carlin
  • Post #59 - March 4th, 2011, 9:59 am
    Post #59 - March 4th, 2011, 9:59 am Post #59 - March 4th, 2011, 9:59 am
    So I know this is the kind of bold claim that practically begs to be knocked down, but I'll say it anyway: Larsa's is putting out some of the best shawarma around these days. I suppose it's possible that I keep hitting them at just the right time, but my last 5-6 orders have been outstanding: crisp, juicy, well seasoned. Of course, by the time it arrives I'm basically full from the excellent gratis torshi and the amazing lentil soup. But if you're in the Skokie area, I highly recommend giving it a try. You can hedge your bets by getting a smaller portion as part of the combo plate, where you also get reliably juicy kifta and chicken kebabs and buttery basmati. Ignore the Bud Lite signs and pizza part of the menu -- these guys are trying to stay in business.
  • Post #60 - March 4th, 2011, 11:42 am
    Post #60 - March 4th, 2011, 11:42 am Post #60 - March 4th, 2011, 11:42 am
    cilantro wrote:So I know this is the kind of bold claim that practically begs to be knocked down, but I'll say it anyway: Larsa's is putting out some of the best shawarma around these days. I suppose it's possible that I keep hitting them at just the right time, but my last 5-6 orders have been outstanding: crisp, juicy, well seasoned. Of course, by the time it arrives I'm basically full from the excellent gratis torshi and the amazing lentil soup. But if you're in the Skokie area, I highly recommend giving it a try. You can hedge your bets by getting a smaller portion as part of the combo plate, where you also get reliably juicy kifta and chicken kebabs and buttery basmati. Ignore the Bud Lite signs and pizza part of the menu -- these guys are trying to stay in business.

    What time do you typically go there? We get lunch from Pita Inn often enough that Larsa's would be a no-brainer. We had a couple of lackluster lunches there and it fell off our rotation a while back. Maybe we should give it another try.

    =R=
    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain

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