The Mid-City West and Beverly Grove neighborhoods surrounding Beverly Boulevard have long been a Jewish-American stronghold, but has often lacked a higher-end Kosher restaurant to meet their cultural needs. Now there is Charcoal Grill & Bar, a full-service restaurant that took over the short-lived Fleishik’s place three months ago. Their impressive wood grill, full bar, and relaxed setting have all built an early local following.
Past a black awning and sunny patio lined with wood tables is an impressive wood-burning hearth that spits sparks in an open kitchen. It resembles what diners can find at established restaurants like Hatchet Hall, Rossoblu, or Scratch Bar up in Encino & Kitchen. Executive chef/partner Lenny Nour first learned to use this type of hand-cranked Grillworks grill while working with chef Oscar Martinez at Doma Land + Sea near JFK Airport in New York City. Here, he favors smoldering almond wood and mesquite charcoal.
Nour compares Charcoal’s upbeat vibe to Jerusalem’s colorful souks (markets) at night, after business is done for the day. It certainly helps that they have a full bar — a rarity for a kosher restaurant — and host live music in the evenings. If anything, Nour says, it can be tough to turn tables, since people are comfortable hanging out until midnight.
Larger dishes emerge “from the charcoal,” ranging from $38 for house kabobs to $60 for a 24-ounce bone-in rib-eye steak or baby lamp chops. Nour tailors complementary accompaniments to each meat, serving sides like hand-cut fries, roasted wild mushrooms, and seared baby peppers.
Don’t mistake the larger, meatier mains for making this a steakhouse or typical American grill. Nour’s menu also includes cauliflower charred in a skillet and topped with tahini, chimichurri and roasted nuts, or a wood-smoked whole roasted branzino, eggplant, and sweet potato dish.
Creamy hummus bowls ($15 to 19) are dressed liberally with tahini and olive oil, then plated with pickled onions, garlic, and parsley, and served with charred house-made pita. Combinas mix hard-boiled egg with parsley- and cilantro-flecked falafel bound with day-old pita instead of flour, a preparation Nour calls the “ultimate peasant food.”
Nour has an Italian mother and Iranian father, and spent his first years growing up in Los Angeles. At 14 he was sent to Israel, where he worked on a farm and served in the Israeli military. Most of his restaurant career has been spent stateside in New York City, where he worked for Doma Land + Sea, Mike’s Bistro in Midtown Manhattan, and for owner Yuda Schlass at a modern Israeli restaurant called Alenbi in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. The owner’s brother opened Charcoal Grill & Bar. and lured Nour back to Los Angeles as a partner.
“I don’t want to simply make good food,” Nour says. “I want people to be floored when they take a bite. I want my food to etch an unforgettable memory.” Toward that end, he values three tenets in cooking: simplicity, authenticity, and creativity.” The chef describes himself as “pretty impulsive,” so expect the menu to change as his moods and seasons shift, though certain dishes will inevitably achieve “tenure” status to appease returning customers.
Cocktails include the signature Charcoal that combines gin, muddled cucumber, fresh lime and grapefruit juices, a hint of activated charcoal for dramatic effect, a splash of simple syrup, and a salted rim. The cocktail name Cloven Hoof plays on a Kosher rule that forbids eating animals with cloven hooves, instead mixing Irish whiskey with Drambuie, fresh lime juice, and cloves.
“I was never a sweet tooth,” Nour says. “My parents often remind me that as a 4-year-old I would trade my dessert for my brother’s steak. It worked out well for both of us.” Given that, he entrusted a classically trained pastry chef from Paris (and his sous chef) to serve “modern creative twists on Israeli classics” like halva tiramisu and phyllo “cigars” with tahini pecans.
“That’s our quintessential philosophy here,” Nour says, “taking the concept from the old country and modernizing it. It’s what the Jews have always done throughout history, it’s what Israel did when it became an independent country, and now we are doing it here.”
Charcoal Grill & Bar, 7563 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, 323.433.4787