I must be in a Mediterranean mood, with meals at Papa Cristo’s yesterday and Aroma Cafe today. Or maybe my preferred comfort food is European and I just want to be comfortable :-)
In a small strip mall across from the Westside Pavillion, Aroma Cafe offers a cuisine rarely seen here in Los Angeles, Bosnian food. Just as the USSR is now several countries, the former Yugoslavia is also and the distinct food of the Bosnian region is featured here with dishes I have never seen anywhere else.
The hearty menu has options of kebabs, sandwiches, and salads you will recognize, like the shish kebab with salad for $6.50, a grilled chicken sandwich for $10.50, and a Greek salad for $7.50. The bread served with meals here is similar to a ciabatta loaf, with a soft interior and chewy exterior, about 10″ in diameter.
The most interesting options here are the ones like the Sarma wrapped in sour cabbage for $14.50 that is served in a tangy sauce with sour cream. I loved this combination of a rich filling with a tangy sour exterior, but I know many will find this a bit strong and strange; I would recommend you stick to the chicken or lamb kebabs is you prefer your meals to have less complex notes.
Sarma is a mixture of rice and ground beef which is used to stuff cabbage, grape leaves or peppers and offered in all three varieties at Aroma Cafe. Since I love cabbage, I had it stuffed in the sour cabbage and somehow managed to eat all four rolls (one more bite became several).
Another unique offering here is Kajmak, a clotted cream that is spread on sandwiches of beef prosciutto. If you love the meat they use, you can also buy both cheeses and meats in their deli case to take home. I had fun perusing the deli shelves of products that I had never seen before and which had labels that did not even have an alphabet I recognized. One jar looked like nutella combined with a creamy spread that was infused with a cherry jam which I may go back just to buy for one of my sweet toothed friends. For dessert they offer baklava and apple or cherry pie, and to wash it all down they have Turkish coffee, espresso, or kefir.
Even if you don’t have a desire to travel to the Balkan region, you may want to travel across the street from the mall and get a taste of a culture and food that you won’t find elsewhere in Los Angeles.