GENERAL COMMENT: The new food court in the Santa Monica Place is a lot of fun. There are two Japanese restaurants, one taco place, a chicken and rib joint that needs improvement, a crepe place, one pizza place (and it was tasty), a typical Chinese, and best of all, Charlie’s Kabob. The boss, John Mahgadi is right there to watch over you, and lots of his friends show up.

WHERE: On the third level of the new Santa Monica Place.

WHEN: Seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, 8 p.m. on Sundays.

BEST DISHES: The Persian beef, enough for two, at $9.95 is the best deal. All the kabobs are great, and the portions very generous. But the special treat here is the Persian lamb shank, which is gourmet quality. Good pita bread, pita sandwiches and rice.

BEST FEATURE: Fast service, top quality, good tomato and cucumber salads on the side.

WORST FEATURE: Nothing negative if you don’t mind eating in a food court.

WHAT TO DRINK: I had a root beer.

PRICES: Don’t even worry about it.

BOTTOM LINE: Worth the voyage. And don’t neglect the baklava for dessert.

Merv Hecht, the food and wine critic for the Santa Monica Daily Press, is a wine buyer and consultant to a number of national and international food and wine companies. He can be reached at mervynhecht@yahoo.com.

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