Israeli food is trending in Los Angeles right now with high-profile, full-service restaurants like Bavel, Kismet, and Mizlala celebrating the tiny Middle Eastern country’s robust flavors. Other chefs and restaurateurs have taken the movement to the streets. Tarzana-based Burekas Plus may be the best of a new wave of Israeli food trucks that also includes nearby Falafel on Wheels and Hummus Yummy
Burekas Plus owner Shevi Rubinstein worked for famous Tel Aviv chef Haim Cohen in the pastry department at a restaurant called Dixie. She draws on her family’s sixth-generation bureka recipe for the truck, a breakout hit after just seven months on the road, with steady crowds including many Israelis.
The flaky, savory phyllo pastry is substantial at Burekas Plus, stuffed with either cheese, spinach & cheese, cheese & olive, or potato. At noon, they were down to just one bureka ($7) filled with briny feta cheese and green olives. Edges formed crispy cheese skirts during the baking process. The top comes studded with black and white sesame seeds. Each plate comes with sliced hard-boiled egg, punchy pickles, nutty tahini, a tomato slurry folded with olive oil, and house hot sauce spiked with schug, a fierce, herbaceous Yemeni condiment.
Shaul Rubinstein, the food truck’s frontman and a character in the best sense of the word, has strong opinions about food. He’s dismissive of anybody who takes shortcuts or uses lesser ingredients. When asked if anybody’s copied them yet, Shaul says, “Nobody can do what we do because they don’t want to do the work.” He singled out burekas as especially painstaking to make. Every morning, his wife gets up before dawn to shape and bake.
Hummus with falafel comes as a plate or in pita. Each plate ($10) hosts six garbanzo bean fritters with delicate crusts flecked with cilantro and garlic. They stay soft for at least 30 minutes, not that anybody in their right mind would let them sit around that long. Shaul said lesser falafel will harden quickly due to bread filler, whereas his wife’s version is pure and maintains integrity.
The accompanying hummus was also a revelation, impressively creamy, made with classic chickpeas, tahini, garlic, and lemon juice. She takes the added step of using a chinois to get the hummus so smooth. Tahini lashings, an olive oil drizzle, chopped cilantro and more schug helped to fill out the floral plate.
Sabich ($8) is a signature Israeli sandwich that’s particularly good at Burekas Plus. They import thick, fluffy pita from Israeli, slice open the top, and fill to bursting with hummus, tahini, fried eggplant, hard-boiled egg, crunchy cubed cucumber, tart pickles, chopped tomato, and scallions. Add amba, the pickled mango slurry, for kick.
They also serve shakshuka and salads. That’s it. There’s something to be said for focus.
Everybody loves a good off-menu dish, and Burekas Plus serves a secret dessert. The magic word is malabi. The milk-based custard is similar to panna cotta, and particularly creamy at this food truck, topped with crushed pistachios, fluffy shredded coconut, and a fragrant sugar syrup crafted with rose water. Mix to integrate the different flavors and textures. Shaul shuns lesser malabi, which use powdered custard and watery store-bought sauce. Apparently, this sweet secret is out, since Burekas Plus sells 30 to 40 orders per day.
Shaul Rubinstein is a longtime restaurateur who’s had success in Israel and on both American coasts, including an Italian restaurant in Jacksonville. He’s returned to his roots by teaming with his talented wife. The couple initially parked down Ventura Boulevard at Bank of America, but relocated to a side street next to an Office Depot, still visible to drivers in a space that lets them stay put during rush hour from 4 to 7 p.m., when parking spaces become tow zones.
Demand is so high for the couple’s burekas that Shaul recently bought an old school bus, which he’s fixing up to house a bigger kitchen with more racks for burekas. Some vehicles run on gas or biodiesel. Baked goods help to power Burekas Plus. Burekas Plus is open Sunday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and closed Saturdays.
Burekas Plus, 5300 Nestle Ave., Tarzana, 818.917.5135