Dinner Out: Authentic Syrian Food At Kobee Factory In Van Nuys

(FOX 11) With a name like Kobee Factory, you might not be thinking Dinner Out. On a less than glamorous street in Van Nuys, the restaurant's Chef Owner Wafa Ghrier cooks her menu as if you're a guest in her home in Syria.

What's kobee? It's a traditional Middle Eastern dish made with bulgur wheat, beef, spices and pine nuts. Perhaps, you've seen the dish on other menus listed as kibbeh. At this small, spare restaurant, the kobee comes in three shapes; the most popular are cooked on a grill like a burger, the other is like a croquette, deep fried until the outer crust is smooth and crunchy.

Watching Wafa make the kobee is a treat. She takes the dough for the crust and quickly forms a mini saucer. She then spoons in the meat filling, then tops with another flat disk. Her hands smooth the edges until the kobee looks like a round turnover.

In Syria, this is the version favored for summer. When it's too cold to barbecue outside, the kobee is deep fried. It's also given a different shape, rounder and pointed on the ends. Wafa's son Louie told me that the way his mother shapes the fried kobee is a secret. She takes a blob of dough and shapes into a small pocket. She fills it with the meat filling and then that's when the magic begins. Her fingers move quickly to seal the top over the filling.

Both versions are delicious. Pick up the char grilled version and eat like a hamburger. The char adds a little smokiness to the kobee. If Wafa hadn't told me, I might not have realized there was meat mixed into the bulgur wheat crust. Take a bite, then squeeze a little lemon on the kobee for the next bite. The citrus off sets the spices. I could taste clove and cinnamon, but Wafa said the rest of the spices are an ancient secret.

The fried version is a little crunchier on the outside but there's no greasiness.

Wafa also makes her own sausage with the same handmade care. The m saren is a beef sausage, but because the filling includes rice, when she stuffs her natural casing, she keeps the sausage on the thin side to allow the rice to expand. The sausage isn't pretty. It's misshapen where Wafa's fingers squished the filling. The sausage is served in a deliciously fatty broth along with giant chunks of beef shank and onions. The sausage has a softer bite than a meatier sausage; all in all a mild taste, until you add a splash of the lemon, garlic and oil dip. Umai!

Her falafel are also hand shaped, but instead of a simple sphere, hers have a hole in the middle to increase the surface area for frying. The end result is a crunchy on the outside, tender on the inside sphere of nutty goodness.

If you're looking for Middle Eastern comfort food, bring a crowd and order the magloba. This is a composed rice dish with savory rice, eggplant and chicken. Wafa layers all the components in a large, deep round pan. She then flips the pan onto a large platter and tops the "cake" with roasted nuts. She gave me a heaping helping. We asked diner Dante White what he likes about the magloba. He advised us to get a bite with all the components, especially the nuts.

"The nuts really set it off," he told me.

But as much as he likes the magloba, he's in love with the shawarma. Another diner, Jim Creighton told me he comes to Kobee Factory nearly every day for the shawarma. We talked to him as he was digging into a chicken shawarma. He said the chicken was juicy and he said the sandwich with the house made pickles and the garlic cream and mayo was the best in town. Wafa served both the chicken and the beef version to me. The meat in both sandwiches is tender and juicy, but what made the sandwich for me were the fresh pickles. The cucumber version is good, crisp and not too vinegary. But I particularly loved the pink turnip pickles. This version you can actually taste the turnip as opposed to those ones I've had at another fast Mediterranean place.

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