In Los Angeles, a Restaurant Equal Parts California and Middle East


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At Kismet in Los Angeles, aromatic freekeh fritters are deep fried and come with a pickle-y green sauce.

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Aliza Sokolow

It is surprising that in Los Angeles, where one lucky break can be the difference between obsolescence and global stardom, that there was not already a restaurant called Kismet. The word is a whimsical synonym for fate, the unpredictable forces that lead people to their destiny. The co-chefs Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson thought it was so perfect a name for their new Los Feliz spot that at first they could not believe it was available. “It is a Middle Eastern word, and we are making Californian food inspired by the Middle East,” Ms. Kramer said. “It means chance, and we took a chance coming out to Los Angeles.”

Kismet opened in January, with a bubble-gum-pink neon sign and décor that is almost Scandinavian in its simplicity. The food, by contrast, is some of the most colorful cuisine you can find on the East Side. (The people-watching isn’t drab either: The night my partner and I were there, the place was crowded with young, dewy Angelenos clad in playful Dusen Dusen jumpsuits and neon silk athleisure.)

Ms. Kramer and Ms. Hymanson, who met slinging nutty hummus and pillowy pitas at Glasserie in Brooklyn and then migrated to Los Angeles with a restaurant called Madcapra in the Grand Central Market, have brought their love of intense, surprising Middle Eastern flavors to Kismet, putting an emphasis on the fresh, the bold and the bright: a tart and colorful salad of marinated kohlrabi with pumpkin seeds, kumquats and barberries, for example.

The restaurant’s signature dish is jeweled crispy rice, a sizzling cake of saffron-yellow grain fried to a crunch, its golden shell hiding a wobbly egg yolk that oozes from the middle with one hard whack from a spoon. It’s a playfully interactive dish that prompts conversations between tables. The menu is vegetable-heavy, with a focus on small, shareable bites.

We tried the spicy freekeh fritters (deep fried, aromatic, indulgent), the barbari bread (herbed focaccia on steroids) and the smashed fingerling potatoes with labneh and a dusting of dried scallops (a salty, creamy, messy, delicious dish that may be the most elegant iteration of disco fries). There are a few meat dishes, including a rabbit feast for two, which was brought to the table next to us with great fanfare, on a table-size board.

The pastry chef Meadow Ramsey serves airy, ethereal and complex desserts. We had a soft meringue with boozy strawberries, poached rhubarb and a brown butter cookie crumble that I wanted to take home with me. If Ms. Kramer and Ms. Hymanson are at all worried about having made the transition from New York, they should take comfort in the very Los Angeles way in which our dessert was presented. “Our pastry chef is named Meadow, and she looks like she was birthed from an actual meadow,” our server said. “And get this: Her best friend is named Blossom.”

Correction: June 9, 2017

An earlier version of this article misstated the status of Madcapra, which the chefs at Kismet opened. It is a full-time restaurant, not a pop-up.

Correction: June 9, 2017

An earlier version of this article misstated the surname of one of the chefs at Kismet. She is Sarah Hymanson (as the article stated correctly elsewhere), not Hyland.

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