Don’t be fooled by its name — tiny NoHo eatery creates Mediterranean fare with flair
House of Bonjour is not what you might expect, and yet the name says it all.
No, it is not French. You will find nary a crepe, nor a single quiche on the menu of this small kosher restaurant in North Hollywood.
Despite the mural on the wall — the one of a cafe whose windows are filled to overflowing with French bread — despite the sandwiches served on freshly baked baguettes, despite even the pastries behind the front counter, this place is indisputably Israeli, from the menu available in Hebrew to the last scoop of homemade hummus.
So, what’s in a name?
In fact, owner Ofir “Phillip” Savariego, 37, inherited the restaurant’s moniker when he bought the establishment a couple of years ago, but that doesn’t mean there’s no truth to it. Literally “House of Hello,” there’s a welcoming vibe that pervades the premises.
On a more personal level, this House has become a second home to Savariego, a native Israeli, and his family.
“We decided we wanted to have a reunion of my family,” he said. After his parents came to the United States, “my mom wanted a business to be busy with, so I purchased this business.”
“My mom” would be Violet, House of Bonjour’s main cook, who lives nearby and sometimes can be found there all day. Her little piece of American heaven is located in a strip mall on Oxnard Street, right next to — fittingly enough — a business called House of Beauty.
The Savariegos are from Afula, in northern Israel. Phillip got into the construction industry and sold sandwiches with his mom for a couple of years. After he came to the United States in 2001 to try his luck abroad, his two brothers eventually followed suit. Now Phillip, who has settled in Studio City, owns a moving company.
When Violet came along, she took a restaurant that was already kosher — House of Bonjour was founded eight or so years ago by another Israeli, Phillip said — and brought her own flair, adding Mediterranean items that she had perfected back home. That isn’t to say it was an easy transition.
“In the beginning, we used to buy the pastries, and then over time we started to make them by ourselves,” Phillip said. “She is trying to improve all the time.
“[Almost] everything is home-cooked by us by now,” he added.
There’s an intimate, familial quality about House of Bonjour that befits its name. Humble in its design and décor, it has room for only a handful of wooden, slatted tables inside and a couple of others outside. A gray sectional couch in the corner begs for someone to sit on it while reading one of the available Hebrew newspapers.
For some patrons, it’s become a comfortable, habit-forming haven, Phillip said.
“I know that most of my clients come because they know this place already. They come to get the Mediterranean food that they’re used to.”
The dairy and parve menu is varied, offering everything from split pea soup to pizza to a shakshuka sandwich. Orders are taken at the counter and then delivered to your table.
The sabich sandwich, full of subtle flavors and a hint of sweetness, features grilled eggplant, egg, tomatoes and tahini, a lovely sauce made from sesame seeds. It comes with potatoes and an Israeli salad.
The Turkish boureka plate — a serpentine variation on the traditional flaky pastry filled with savory cheese (or a variety of other things) — is perfect for waking up the taste buds without putting them into a state of shock. For something more colorful, try the tuna salad, which comes with red onions, corn, bell peppers and egg.
Plenty of other things to try are on the menu, but before you say au revoir to House of Bonjour, don’t forget that this is a bakery, too. Friday means it’s time to pick up challah, and every other day it’s open (the restaurant is closed on Saturdays) … well, try one of the date cookies.
Soft and sweet, they hit the spot — a perfect treat to bring back to your own home.