It occurred to me recently that in my scouring of the local scene I’d neglected Glendale. To make up for lost time I headed out on a Saturday to explore the culinary offerings and possibly stumble on a hidden gem that hadn’t been covered by my fellow columnists.
For a late lunch/early dinner I went to King’s Kitchen on South Central Avenue. I am so used to the inescapable struggle of Pasadena parking that the private parking at King’s started my trip off on a high note. As I walked in I noticed some covered windows and arrows on the asphalt indicating one of the previous tenants was a fast-food place. I don’t hold that against them or think of it as low brow. In fact, I recognize just how intense the LA dining scene is, so there’s something pretty authentically rock and roll about putting a gourmet multicultural spot in the carcass of a fallen fast-food joint.
While King’s Kitchen doesn’t lose points for the fast food remnants, it definitely foreshadows the mix of worlds in which it simultaneously exists.
They advertise as serving Mediterranean and American cuisine, not as fusion. Rather, one side of the menu lists traditional American fare: burgers, sandwiches, salads. And the other side features traditional Mediterranean dishes consisting of lamb, chicken and beef kabobs.
The tables inside are all preset with silverware and napkins and thus bussed. That was somewhat surprising though, mainly because all orders are placed at a walk-up counter and food is brought to your table, a la a fast-casual restaurant. With some entrees in the $20 range, the price points and the quality of the menu options are incongruous with a fast-casual style. They are in their first month, so there are kinks to work out (they could pull a reverse Pie’N’Cone which, shortly after my article came out, transitioned away from their wait staff and is now walk-up service).
The American side of the menu features some subtle elevated takes on classics. The caprese avocado toast ($11), for instance, takes the trendy millennial punchline and kicks it up a notch. This isn’t overpriced smashed avo with salt and pepper served alongside an overpriced coffee. Their avocado mash is accompanied with baby heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella, baby basil, and drizzled with a basil aioli. It plays with the caprese concept by adding some much needed texture with the wheat toast, and the acidity of the tomato enhances the buttery richness of the avocado.
In spite of the fact that I wasn’t too impressed by the less than modest size of the chicken breast hidden beneath the breading of my spicy crispy chicken sandwich ($13), I was impressed by the attention to detail and quality of ingredients used. Under the buttery brioche bun, sliced Mexican jalapenos add another layer of crunch and bring some heat to the fried chicken. Rather than slap on some iceberg lettuce and call it a day, King’s uses butter lettuce and red cabbage to neutralize some of the spice and pairs it with the melted Swiss cheese.
There are two different filet mignon options on the Mediterranean side of the menu for those who want to see how the steakhouse staple works with a Middle Eastern style. The luleh kebab ($16) is made with ground prime filet mignon skewered and charbroiled, while the barg kebab ($22) is a thin sliced filet.
If you want to go all in on a Mediterranean experience at King’s, go with the lamb chops ($24) served on the bone and grilled with bell peppers and onions.
All of the sandwich and burger options come with either a side salad or fries. The Mediterranean plates come with basmati rice, grilled tomato and grilled chili, and toasted pita bread. Diners also get to choose two sides to complement their meal: hummus, shirazi salad (diced cucumber, tomatoes and lemon juice) tsatsiki (a creamy yogurt, cucumbers, garlic, olive oil dip), Armenian salad, mast o musir (a Persian yogurt shallot dip), or ikra (an Armenian eggplant tomato spread). A heads up to those who have only had pita from American restaurants; the pita at King’s is thinner and drier than what you may be accustomed to.
As thinly spread as the kitchen staff of King’s must be, whipping up everything from tacos and pastrami sandwiches to kebabs, I respect how well they manage to simultaneously dive so deeply into authentic Mediterranean plates while maintaining the quality of their American options.
I appreciate that King’s was bold enough to buck the trend of fusing their traditional ethnic cuisine with American concepts. Instead they maintain the integrity of the traditional dishes while concurrently offering burgers and tacos for those who aren’t ready to embark on a culinary expedition.
Kitchens generally maintain overhead by eliminating as much food waste as possible. For major chain restaurants, that equates to giant freezers and fewer fresh ingredients. King’s Kitchen manages a menu of fresh options cooked to order which is an effort for which they should be celebrated.
I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to King’s Kitchen and I plan on coming back and seeing how they grow. The pragmatist in me is concerned for how well they will be able to maintain the sheer amount of overhead needed for two divergent styles while maintaining the high caliber ingredients I tasted.
If King’s Kitchen can maintain the high-quality ingredients and fresh flavors they’ve had coming out of the gate then by all means, I encourage they continue their dance between cuisines.
1235 S. Central Ave., | Glendale | (818) 649-1333 | kingskitchenla.com