The sweet exotic aroma of hookah pipes gently wafts out to greet you from the outdoor patio as you make your way toward Almaza, the new Mediterranean restaurant located on Venice Boulevard at National Boulevard. Barely two-months-old the restaurant has already become a favorite among the young hipster scene.

Beyond a sleek décor, which offers lounge seating by candlelight, what attracts the crowds is the delicious cuisine. From hummus to baba ghanouj, falafel to fattouch, Almaza rivals any Mediterrean joint this side of, well … the Mediterranean.

It is without a doubt the very special care put into each item that makes the food stand out. Everything is made fresh and by hand.

The kebbeh balls of seasoned ground beef and pine nuts fried in a cracked wheat shell are fantastic, as are the cheese rolls and bite size meat pies. Entrees of shawarama (beef and chicken) are popular favorites, as well as the selection of kabobs. Each entrée is served with fresh hummus, a salad and your choice of rice or French fries.

Vegetarians are made to feel welcome with a combo platter of six items, including a freshly chopped tabbouleh salad and a pair of delicious grape leaves. The falafel is something special. Perhaps it is the quality of garbanzo and fava beans; maybe it is the variety of spices, cilantro, onion, garlic … we may never know. The result is a mix, which melts in your mouth with each bite.

Almaza will soon release a fuller menu, including authentic Tunisian couscous prepared in a traditional manner. Steamed instead of boiled, which makes all the difference.

Above all, one is infected with a positive energy when you walk inside Almaza. Hip Middle Eastern tunes bump over the sound system, and it is not uncommon to see owner Jason raise his arms and sing along with the music while doing a little dance. Maybe it’s true what they say about good food: It makes you wanna dance.

For more information, call (310) 280-9006