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Byline: Larry Lipson Restaurant Critic

One of the few true thoroughfare hangouts along Ventura Boulevard, Aroma Bakery Cafe in Encino always looks busy to passers-by. And you won't see a beer mug, wine glass or cocktail glass on any of its tables.

Instead, young people sip iced concoctions or coffee mixtures and converse animatedly, more mature and older folks enjoy the casual but nearly always tasty fare, and customers of all ages nibble the excellent pastries and dessert items.

In addition to its obvious see-and-be-seen characteristic, Aroma is the kind of place that, from a culinary standpoint, nearly always exceeds expectations. That's probably the secret to its unquestionable success.

First-timers order something from the colorful menu, and it invariably looks as good or better than its menu illustration, along with its surprising size.

It's hard to imagine you not getting your money's worth here. Consequently, most diners seem to be leaving with bags of leftovers. That's unless they've just been sipping a fountain drink and hanging out.

Meanwhile, the busy Aroma kitchen seems to thrive during the most frenzied times of the day, whether the order is a snack for one or full meals for a table of six.

Occasionally dishes arrive out of order, but if they're supposed to be served hot they generally are.

Matzo ball soup ($4.50 or $6.95) is nutritious and satisfying in the smaller size. If you wish to wait an extra 15 minutes, a deep bowl of onion soup ($7.50) covered with puff pastry can be a satisfying midday or supper main course.

A dozen salads, both warm and cold, range from the gratifying veggie chop ($11.95) to a red sweet potato melange called the Batata Extravaganza ($11.95) which adds pine nuts, walnuts, calamata olives, onions, cherry tomatoes, sunflower seeds and feta cheese to this interesting plate.

Pastas with a choice of sauces, clay oven pizzas and numerous sandwiches served with a house salad are the backbone of the menu.

Aroma's clay oven is also used for a calzone-style goodie titled Samboosak ($8.95) stuffed with feta cheese and veggies (olives, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, eggplant) or other things, also served up with a house salad plus a hard-boiled egg.

A couple of puff pastry and cheese concoctions ($8.95 each), one named Ziva and the other called a Malawach Roll, also are similarly baked in the clay oven.

Trout, tilapia, tuna and salmon -- we had a respectable rendition of grilled salmon teriyaki ($16.95) one evening -- provide the main entree dishes. Just don't expect any hearty meat plates here.

But, for sure, sweet finales at Aroma can hardly be called anticlimactic.

Display cases full of skillfully crafted, delicious-looking pastries provide enticements that patrons cannot resist.

From an eclair ($7.95) to Bavarian cream pie ($7.95) to simple apple pie a la mode ($7.95), you leave here licking your lips and perhaps doing a little sniffing as well.

Because if you'd chosen to eat in the inside dining room, your nose would be telling you why this restaurant bears its particular name. It's Aroma Bakery Cafe's tantalizing, oven- fresh, bakery aroma.

Larry Lipson, (818) 713-3668



Food: Three stars - Service: Three stars - Value: Two and one half stars

Where: 18047 Ventura Blvd., Encino.

Phone: (818) 757-0477;

Meals/hours: Open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks from 7 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

Food type: Israeli/international.

Cost: Soups and salads from $4.50 to $12, sandwiches and bakery specialties from $7 to $10, pastas and entrees from $11 to $18, desserts from $7 to $9.

Credit cards: All major.

Patio dining: Yes.

Parking/valet: Street or valet (first hour free).

Full bar: No alcohol.

Music/entertainment: No.

Takeout/delivery: Yes on takeout. Delivery service soon.

Reservations: Needed.


2 photos


Ziva -- laden with Swiss cheese and nestled in a puff pastry ring -- are baked in Aroma Bakery Cafe's clay oven.

Evan Yee/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 14, 2006

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