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By Edwin Goei
Photo by Joy BastI feel sorry for people in the Anaheim Hills. There, in the northeasternmost part of the county, they get OC property taxes along with the fine weather and cultural amenities of Norco. They get the benefit of intercounty 91 Freeway traffic no matter where they want to go. And sometimes their houses slide right down the hill, as if even their homes want to escape to somewhere nicer.
But I feel less sorry for Anaheim Hillsians now having eaten at Rosine's. What a little gem of a restaurant they have nestled there in the hills!
Hagop Najarian opened the place six years ago, after his stint as maitre d' and sommelier at the Hobbit. As one might expect from his background, the quality and attention to detail in his restaurant are first rate, and he has one of the finest wine lists in the county, with a staggering 400 selections.
721 S. Weir Canyon Road
Anaheim, CA 92808
What those accustomed to Hobbiton won't expect is Rosine's casual, comfortable atmosphere and the value the food offers. Given some of the wine selections, you could probably run up a bill of a couple of hundred dollars for dinner, but it's far easier for two people to dine and leave entirely satisfied for less than $20—or even $12.
Najarian's family is Armenian by way of Lebanon, and Rosine's offers a wide swath of Eastern Mediterranean cuisine. A lot of the usual suspects appear—kebabs, shawourma, falafel, and a rotisserie chicken with garlic sauce that's not too unlike what Zankou Chicken serves—along with more exotic items, such as the eggplant Napoleon (grilled and topped with feta, roast peppers and a balsamic vinegar reduction) and muhammara, alternately called walnut caviar and consisting of ground walnuts in a tart pepper paste, pomegranate molasses and olive oil.
None of this is generic but instead tastes like someone's mother made it for you. That's because Najarian's ace in the hole is Rosine, his little dynamo of a mother who either prepares or oversees nearly everything that winds up on a plate there.
I tried most of the kebabs: the luleh, chicken, tenderloin, lamb and vegetable are available on an "ultimate kebab" platter that serves two, leaving only the seafood kebab to fend for itself. They are all excellent, but the most blissfully flavorful of the lot is the luleh kebab, a sausage-like apparition of minced lamb and beef, parsley, and onion marinated in spices.
There are other entrées to discuss, but a mention of the desserts just won't wait any longer: the baklavas—standard and cream-filled—and the pistachio cheesecake are among the finest desserts I've ever had. The baklava tastes like baklava at the beginning of the world, like you were tasting honey and cinnamon for the first time. And the cheesecake? I'm lactose intolerant, but even if I was lactose belligerent, I couldn't avoid finishing this beguiling, lush but not heavy, ground-pistachio-topped wonder.
The rotisserie chicken is succulent and flavorful, served with a knockout creamy garlic sauce. The only item that didn't bowl me over was the shawourma, the rotating, conehead-shaped meat mass that is like the Middle Eastern restaurant version of a barber's pole. Rosine's uses sirloin for theirs, and it made me wonder if maybe a cheaper, fattier cut of meat isn't better suited to such treatment.
If so, that's the only spot where Rosine's pursuit of quality is a debit. Every entrée, even the $5.49 pocket sandwiches, comes with a side dish or two, and they are uniformly splendid, from the garlicky white beans to the garlic mashed potatoes to the garlic-laced ratatouille. If you'd like a little garlic with that, Rosine's garlic sauce is also available as a side.
Rosine's Mediterranean Rotisserie & Grill, located at 721 S. Weir Canyon Rd., Anaheim Hills, is open Mon-Thurs., 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri., 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sat., noon-10 p.m.; Sun., noon-9 p.m. (714) 283-5141. Beer and wine. Dinner for two, $11-$50, food only. All major credit cards accepted.