The bald eagle is the United States of America’s national bird, a majestic emblem of freedom, and apparently a fellow kabob lover. The eagle depicted on Eagle Russian Armenian Cuisine’s red, white, and blue sign carries a kabob in its talons, which sure beats a muskrat. This eagle must be picky, since the North Hills restaurant has some of L.A.’s best skewers and not so humbly touts “the best shish kabob in the world.” Clearly, the family that runs Eagle Russian Armenian Cuisine is long on confidence.
The menu captures the region’s diaspora, including dishes from Russia, Armenia, and the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. Kabobs of course occupy a place of honor on the overhead menu. Eagle favors simple seasoning with black pepper, salt, and paprika to accentuate the protein’s natural flavor. I was particularly impressed with juicy baby back ribs, though owner Karine Khachatryan also prides herself on lamb chops, ground beef lula, and of course their vaunted shish. If you call ahead, sturgeon is another possible order.
At home, Khachatryan has a tonir (traditional Armenian clay oven) built into the ground that burns wood and cooks kabobs. However, given how long it takes to heat up, and considering L.A. County’s code limitations, the tonir is reserved for catering. Instead, the restaurant relies on a charcoal grill that cooks kabobs on the back patio.
Eagle Russian Armenian Cuisine first debuted in Encino in 1997 and moved to their current North Hills location in 2014. The restaurant now resides just west of the 405 freeway, past Monroe High School in Nordhoff Shopping Center, sandwiched between a liquor store and appliance spare parts store.
Right inside the front door, a brown wall sports a mural from Elmira Adamian (the owner’s sister) that features a couple holding a plate of pomegranates. The front room is a deli with just two tables and faux plantlife while an adjacent dining room houses round tables and traditional décor.
Karine Khachatryan is the family’s matriarch and chef. She has Greek and Jewish heritage and grew up in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. Husband Redik Pogosyan has Russian and Armenian roots, and makes movies in Armenia, but occasionally returns to L.A. help at Eagle. Their daughter Narin Pogosyan runs the front of house.
Kabob plates cost $10.99 to $16.99 and come with a choice of French fries or pillowy rice pilaf with toasted vermicelli strands. All orders come dressed with parsley, shaved red onions, grilled tomato and Anaheim chile. Ordering an entrée entitles customers to raid the deli case twice.
Refrigerated sides include creamy, paprika dusted hummus crafted with garbanzo beans and tahini. Spinach comes folded with chopped walnuts and tangy sour cream. Vinigret features julienne beets with beans, potatoes, pickles, carrots, and onion. Greek salad comes made to order, and combines sliced tomatoes and cucumbers with shaved red onions, black olives, and savory crumbles of feta cheese. If you prefer more basic tabouleh or baba ganoush, both options are available.
Beef stroganoff ($12.99), a famous Russian dish named for Count Pavel Stroganoff in the 19th century, gets careful consideration at Eagle. Strips of lean, tender filet mignon are stewed with onion, tomato, and sour cream, and come served with a choice of buttery mashed potatoes or rice pilaf, both of which help soak up the sauce.
Pelmeni ($12.99) are boiled dumplings with thin skins filled with chicken, beef, or a combo. Regardless of the animal, you’ll be eating thigh meat, but chicken is more tender. Top the dumplings with a dollop of cooling sour cream and dust with black pepper.
A plastic dome by the register touts chicken, cheese, or spinach puff pastry ($2.50 each). Khachatryan suggested the version with molten mozzarella, a flaky, triangular turnover she made to order. The spinach version takes a rectangular form.
“Nobody makes chebureki like me,” Khachatryan says. “It’s perfect.” I’m no chebureki connoisseur, but really enjoyed her version ($3.50), a deep-fried beef pocket that requires one day’s notice. Puffy dough with good chew contained ground beef, parsley, and cilantro. Each chebureki comes with pickled cauliflower, carrot, and cabbage, which pack the punch to temper the pastry’s richness.
Desserts all run under $3 and include five choices: baklava, Napoleon, cheesecake, chocolate cake, and honey cake. Typically, they’ve just got one option available in back. Firm honey cake comes dressed with thin layers of honey cream and a blizzard of crushed walnuts. The cake’s good on its own and even better with hot tea.
Weekend entertainment varies, but may involve anything from live jazz to Sinatra night to a sword-wielding belly dancer. Check Facebook to time your visit with swordplay and dial up the danger, or just come to Eagle for good old-fashioned comfort food.
Eagle Russian Armenian Cuisine, 16147 Nordhoff St., North Hills, 818.830.0605