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Restaurant review: House of Mandi unites Bruins with homey atmosphere, shareable food

House of Mandi, a Yemeni restaurant located in Westwood, is pictured. (Jeremy Chen/Photo editor)

“House of Mandi”

1083 Gayley Ave 

Los Angeles, CA 90024

By Martin Sevcik

April 19, 2024 4:13 p.m.

This post was updated April 30 at 7:47 p.m.

Westwood has found a good home for Yemeni cuisine.

House of Mandi opened its doors March 15 near the corner of Gayley and Kinross avenues, a brief walk from the university apartments. Owner Faris Alkabass developed the restaurant as a space for authentic Yemeni cuisine in the United States. It captures this vision with style, offering a focused menu in a welcoming atmosphere.

(Jeremy Chen/Photo editor)
House of Mandi opens its doors near the corner of Gayley and Kinross avenues. (Jeremy Chen/Photo editor)

Prices may initially seem steep for college students’ budgets. For example, portions of the restaurant’s signature mandi dishes range from $26 to $35. But these dishes are meant to be shared, with plates typically served to the center of the table rather than as entrees for individuals. A group of three or four diners can satisfyingly share a main dish, a couple smaller items and some drinks for less than $100, making House of Mandi comparable to other sit-down restaurants in Westwood.

Customers will certainly want to order a variety of items. The Hrada of Seltah, a vegetable stew with finely chopped potatoes, okra and ground beef, came out of the kitchen still boiling. The broth, which was hearty and meaty without being overly salty, paired well with the slightly fluffy chapati flatbread, served a la carte or as a fitting accompaniment to several items. The potatoes perfectly absorbed the flavor of the broth and other ingredients, while pieces of pepper gave some bites a sinus-clearing spiciness.

The appetizer menu offers plenty of options to help cool down, including shareable plates of hummus, salad, soup and more for prices usually below $10. The shafoot, a huge portion of chilled yogurt with vegetables and spices mixed throughout, is another enticing dip for the bread. The cool yogurt flavor is always refreshing after sampling the hotter dishes, and the spice mix leaves a pleasant aftertaste as the initial flavors subside. The vegetables used in the shafoot and throughout the menu are particularly juicy and very refreshing, making the $3 salad a light accompaniment to any meal.

The salad pairs well with the mandi – a traditional Yemeni dish of tender meat served atop a bed of long-grain rice – the restaurant’s namesake. The tender lamb mandi falls off the bone, with the excellent flavor of the lamb speaking for itself without intense seasoning. On the other hand, the rice is immensely flavorful without being overwhelmingly greasy. The saltiness of the rice becomes somewhat fatiguing over time, but it serves as a solid accompaniment to the mandi’s meat.

House of Mandi offers mostly canned and bottled drinks, though customers can purchase cups or pots of Middle Eastern coffees and teas. However, when asked about tap water, the waiter offered bottled water instead, presumably for an upcharge. In another instance, a meal that purportedly came with bread was served without. The same wait staff did not serve the table’s lamb mandi for around an hour. Their apology after being asked about it implied they had forgotten about it. Luckily, each table can grab the attention of a waiter using a service button attached to each napkin dispenser. While potentially uncomfortable to use, they are certainly useful in the restaurant’s relatively large floor space.

Despite these service errors, the restaurant is among the most homey in Westwood. Seats and tables throughout feature an eye-catching red carpet pattern, while elegant wall art and pleasant framed pictures pop along the red-brick walls. The back corner features several floor-level tables fit for large groups. Everything about the restaurant’s design, from the cushioned chairs to the prayer space, gives customers a comfortable experience.

(Jeremy Chen/Photo editor)
House of Mandi offers a comfortable space for social gatherings with shareable food. (Jeremy Chen/Photo editor)

These design choices undeniably play into the restaurant’s strengths. The true joy of House of Mandi is sitting around a low table with a group of friends, sampling a table full of different flavors and items. Going solo, or even as a pair, will likely result in lots of leftovers and a less satisfying meal. Luckily, for many Bruins, going into Westwood for a meal can serve as a social occasion. Rather than trying to fit five or six people around the tiny tables in Westwood’s favorite takeout spots, students should consider opting for a slightly pricier but far more comfortable and equally delicious experience.

With some service improvements, House of Mandi has the potential to become a true Westwood classic.

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Martin Sevcik
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