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Mediterranean Menu New at Mimo's Cafe

The Tarzana restaurant's new owners offer kabobs, moussaka and other items at prices generally less than $10.


If you believe it possible to have too many restaurants in the San Fernando Valley, then you also believe it possible for a woman to have too many shoes or a man too many socks.

Against the odds, brave souls keep opening restaurants from one end of the Valley to the other, giving diners what looks like no end of choices.

One of the newest of these choices comes from Mike and Mirvat Kamel, the new owners of Mimo's Cafe, a fixture on Ventura Boulevard in Tarzana for the better part of a decade.

Egyptian by birth and irrepressible by nature, Mike Kamel does all the cooking at Mimo's. His predecessor offered such standard fare as filet mignon or lamb shanks at prices approaching $20, but Mike and Mirvat concocted a menu of Mediterranean foods spiced with the flavors of Egypt--and at prices generally less than $10.

Among the cafe's offerings: kafta kabob (freshly ground chicken or lamb mixed with onion and parsley and charbroiled) moussaka, bastia (chunks of chicken breast with herbs, nuts and spices baked in filo dough), and Mediterranean fajitas of lamb, beef, chicken or shrimp. The prices top out at $8.95.

Is he succeeding?

"Yes, thank God, thank God!" Kamel said. "I am so happy when I see customers come back two and three times in my first month because I know they must like the food."

One of his repeat customers, Bob Helper of Encino, puts it simply: "This guy knows how to cook Mediterranean food. My wife, Eileen, and I got to know Mike when he cooked at another restaurant, Mediterranean Feast in Tarzana. . . .

"So we were happy when Mike took over Mimo's; I think we went there three times in his first week. I want to see him become successful."

* Mimo's Cafe occupies a small space in a courtyard behind a popular Starbuck's, at 18672 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana, (818) 996-8070. It is open for lunch and dinner.

Christmas Dining: Here's news for Danny Aiello fans curious about the Valley locations used to film his recent movie, "2 Days in the Valley."

Leon's Steak House in North Hollywood, whose exterior formed a backdrop for one scene in the movie, may open for Christmas dinner--probably for the first time in its 53-year history, a co-owner said.

Thanksgiving dinner is a tradition at Leon's, founded in 1943 by Leon Grown and his son, Warren, and now operated by Javier Morelos and his partner, chef Mateo Medina. But the restaurant always closed for Christmas, the only occasion when all employees got the day off.

"We're open for Thanksgiving this year as usual--turkey and all the trimmings, all for $7.95," Morelos said.

Always known for its steaks and chops, Leon's now features the occasional Mexican special. It offers live big-band music Mondays, karaoke on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and Latin music Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

* Leon's Steak House is at 10945 Victory Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 762-1958.

A Passion for Dancing: Haleh Adel got the idea for her Studio City restaurant Pasion a few years ago while watching a television soap.

"I was watching 'One Life to Live' and saw two people do the tango and it was so romantic that I just couldn't believe it," Haleh said.

"I got my husband, Allen, and took him right to a dance studio because I just had to learn to do this dance. Now we teach the tango here on Tuesdays, and on Saturdays we have live music so people can dance."

The tango lessons are free with dinner on Tuesdays, and on Saturdays a band plays dance music--the tango, swing, American big-band tunes, you name it.

Chef Rudy Gonzales--formerly with the Los Angeles landmark restaurants La Scala and La Familia--prepares entrees ranging from salmon Rockefeller with spinach and a hollandaise to chicken breast in a pink sauce containing wine, shallots and garlic. Desserts include a tiramisu and dulce de leche, an Argentine specialty.

* The Adels recently expanded, adding new seating for 50; the restaurant now serves 180. Pasion is upstairs in the Times Square mall, at 12215 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, (818) 752-7333.

Juan Hovey writes about the restaurant scene in the San Fernando Valley and outlying points. He may be reached at (805) 492-7909; fax, (805) 492-5139; or e-mail 103254,

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