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VALLEY LIFE | Restaurant Review

Flavorful Fusion

At Kira's, couple from Iran offer various tasty dishes from Russia and Armenia.


Here's a Russian cafe owned by an Armenian couple from Iran. Nothing out of the ordinary in multiethnic San Fernando.

Actually, it happened like this: Once upon a time, Kira's International Restaurant did belong to a Russian lady named Kira, but she sold it several years ago to Garnik and Satik Mehrabian.

Atmosphere isn't quite what you come here for. The place is jammed into the corner of a nondescript mini-mall and you sit at the five-stool counter or on wooden captain's chairs at an unadorned table set with paper place mats.

At lunch, when most customers are on short breaks from local offices, the menu emphasizes American sandwiches on huge loaves of white bread. But the Russian and Armenian dishes are the restaurant's real raison d'e^tre.

In lieu of appetizers, all entrees come with a choice of soup or salad. The salad is just lettuce with a pungent commercial Italian dressing, so have the soup, usually a rich cabbage borscht topped with a tablespoon of sour cream, or a homey chicken soup with a richly flavorful broth.

This is one of the best places in the Southland for chicken Kiev, a chicken breast stuffed with herbs and butter and fried in a thick coating of bread crumbs. I'm also fond of Kira's Hungarian goulash, inauthentic though it may be. There's no paprika, no sour cream, no egg noodles; it's just beef stewed with minced carrots and onions and served on rice, but the beef is fork-tender and the sauce really tastes homemade.

The stuffed grape leaves are also terrific. Kira's gives you eight firm, dense dolmas, each with a fragrant, subtly spiced filling that's about 90% meat, 10% rice.

The best of the kebabs is probably the shish kebab that Garnik Mehrabian makes from a mixture of ground beef and lamb. Another kebab, shashlik, is actually filet mignon on a skewer, and the meat literally melts in the mouth. About the only kebab I didn't care for was the underspiced, slightly fatty chicken kebab, though the portion was enormous. In fact, all of the portions here are fairly big, and everything on the menu is under $10.

For dessert, there is a fairly workmanlike pistachio and walnut baklava, which you can have with a demitasse of Armenian coffee.

And if you give the chef a day's notice, he'll make you a creamy, classic beef Stroganoff. Don't worry, you'll get proper noodles, not rice, to go with it, Russian style.


Kira's International Restaurant, 137 N. Maclay Ave., San Fernando. Open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. Beer and wine. Parking lot. Cash only. Dinner for two, $19-$26. Suggested dishes: chicken Kiev, $9.99, Armenian dolmas, $8.99; shashlik, $9.99; beef Stroganoff, $9.99. Call (818) 361-8145.

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