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Westwood’s new House of Mandi offers a variety of Yemeni food for the community

People walk past House of Mandi. (Jeremy Chen/Photo editor)

By Gabrielle Siegel

April 7, 2024 9:38 p.m.

House of Mandi is bringing authentic Yemeni cuisine to the Westwood community.

The restaurant, which opened March 15, features traditional Arabic seating and music along with its Yemeni menu. Located on Gayley Avenue, the interior of House of Mandi displays colorfully patterned cushions and tables.

The restaurant is known for mandi, an authentic Yemeni meat and rice dish, which is cooked while buried in an underground pit to give it a unique taste, said Faris Alkabass, the owner of House of Mandi. He added that the dish is popular because of its flavor and the quality of its ingredients.

“Our meat, it’s fresh – daily (every) morning from the farm,” he said. “I personally wake up (at) 4 in the morning, go to the farm, and get everything ready and come over here.”

The menu features a variety of Yemeni dishes in addition to mandi, including haneeth – a slow-roasted lamb dish – and shafoot, a yogurt-based appetizer. It serves desserts such as masoob – a banana-based pudding – and sabaya, a Yemeni pastry. The restaurant also offers sharing meals and traditional teas and coffee.

Alkabass said despite the presence of Yemeni restaurants in the United States, he could not find an authentic Yemeni flavor at any he had tried. Noting the difficulty of finding a chef, he said the restaurant decided to hire chefs Om Fayad and Zumzum Omer, who moved directly from Yemen and Eritrea, respectively.

(Jeremy Chen/Photo editor)
Patterned booths and tables inside of House of Mandi are pictured. (Jeremy Chen/Photo editor)

Illay Bar, a first-time customer at House of Mandi, said he greatly enjoyed his meal, adding that Yemeni food is one of his favorite cuisines because of its distinct taste and variety of food.

“It’s amazing. The hummus is fantastic. The sambosas are also very, very good,” he said. “So far, 10 out of 10.”

Bar added that he sees the restaurant’s space as a great place for dates and parties and for UCLA students to enjoy a meal. He added that he thinks the location could be one of the best upcoming restaurants in the Los Angeles area.

“It’s a great addition to Westwood,” Bar said. “There’s a great menu, a great atmosphere. It seems they’re very eager to please, so the service is very good.”

Yemeni currency sits on a table in the restaurant. (Jeremy Chen/Photo editor)
Yemeni currency sits on a table in the restaurant. (Jeremy Chen/Photo editor)

The first House of Mandi opened in Anaheim four years ago with the Westwood location serving as the restaurant’s second, Alkabass said. He added that he has seen limited authentic cuisines available in Westwood and hopes students will explore food from Yemen.

Jose Rivera, another first-time customer at House of Mandi, said he appreciated the friendliness and knowledge of the staff at the restaurant.

“You go to a restaurant, and you want to have somebody who tells you about the food,” he said. “The food is not just about the food – it’s about the culture.”

Rivera said he enjoyed the interior design of the restaurant, adding that he plans to return and bring his coworkers to try the cuisine.

The restaurant has been busy with students, said Mohammed al Seragi, the manager of the House of Mandi location in Anaheim. Al Seragi, who is also from Yemen, said both Arab and non-Arab students have enjoyed House of Mandi’s menu.

(Jeremy Chen/Photo editor)
Decor hangs on the walls behind tables at House of Mandi. (Jeremy Chen/Photo editor)

Alkabass also said the restaurant’s opening has been positively received by the Westwood community. He added that he hopes to incorporate more affordable options for students in its menu by offering different portion sizes.

During the restaurant’s open buffet for Ramadan, there was a line of people standing outside, and the restaurant was fully booked, Alkabass said.

“I love it,” he said. “I feel like there is a potential, a huge potential. I’ve seen a lot of people who actually started coming day one, and they’re rapidly coming back.”

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Gabrielle Siegel
Siegel is a 2023-2024 slot editor. She was previously a 2022-2023 Copy staff member and has contributed to News, Sports, Prime and Photo. She is also a fourth-year communication and Spanish student from Lincolnshire, Illinois.
Siegel is a 2023-2024 slot editor. She was previously a 2022-2023 Copy staff member and has contributed to News, Sports, Prime and Photo. She is also a fourth-year communication and Spanish student from Lincolnshire, Illinois.
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