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Restaurant reviews in Tyson's and surrounding area... mostly

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Yayla Bistro - Turkish / Greek / Eastern Mediterranean Cuisine in Arlington, VA

2201 N Westmoreland Street
Arlington, VA 22213
Tel: (703) 533-5600

We were thrilled when our friends asked us to join them for dinner at Yayla Bistro because not only are we fans of Eastern Mediterranean cuisine, but we also really like the convenient, quiet, uncrowded neighborhood of East Falls Church, recently showcased in the Washington Post.

The East Falls Church area is quite special. It is smack dead on the border of Arlington and Fairfax Counties with a wonderful walking / biking trail. It is both a quiet place to live and a historic area with old large beautiful homes and smaller homes built for soldiers returning from WWII. As an added bonus, it offers a short walk to much of the City of Falls Church, recently rated by Forbes Magazine as the wealthiest "county" in the United States. One of the main attractions here is the famed State Theater. Most recently, however, like much of Northern Virginia, East Falls Church has been the construction target for swanky new mid-rise hyper-modern condominiums and a few new restaurants that cater to the residents in the new condos.

One of these new restaurants is Yayla Bistro.

Yayla Bistro calls itself an Eastern Mediterranean bistro that serves Turkish and Greek food with a Lebanese flare.  It has a snazzy modern website and offers an atmosphere quite apart from other dining establishments available within walking distance in this neighborhood, which are mostly older and divier, not the kind of places that offer small plates (Mezzes) or Flat Breads (Pideler) offered at Yayla.

We came here for dinner on a Sunday night with a small group of friends. The restaurant was empty for the most part and the waiter, who did not manage to crack a smile throughout out our entire dinner, coming off confused and less than friendly, tried persistently to convince us to order off the Restaurant Week's menu, as it was the last evening it was available.  A few of us did; most did not.

The complimentary bread basket arrived first with a dense braided round bread accompanied by a ramekin of black olive tapenade. We ordered the Halloumi cheeese appetizer, which in some restaurants comes out of the kitchen aflame for dramatic presentation. Here, fortunately, that was not the case. However, the only thing with any remote flavor on this platter was the orange marmalade, which we bet was not made on premises. We had to keep asking for more bread because almost everything we ordered needed bread, so we were going through it very quickly.

One of our entrees was the Grilled Kofte, which was a combination of ground beef and lamb served as a doner kebob, even though the menu specifically called it "patties." The menu also said that it is comes with Cacik, a yogurt prevalent in most Turkish dishes, alas, it was missing. The Rice Pilav that accompanied the Kofte was a plain white rice; nothing that resembled a Pilav, which is usually rice with seasoning, typically containing other items, such as carrots, raisins, pine nuts, or any additional flavors. The Kofte was served with a grilled tomato, some shredded fresh carrots and pickled shredded red cabbage. EVERY SINGLE THING ON THIS PLATE WAS BLANDER THAN BLAND. Even for one of us who doesn't like spicy, it was way too bland.

The other entree we selected was a trio of spreads. This seemed to be a good way to taste several things. On its own, each spread was priced at $7, so a trio priced at $12, seemed like a good value. There was no pita or any additional bread served with the spreads, only the same dense braided bread round. Out of the spreads, the Baba Ghanouj was quite garlicky and good, while the others were BLANDER THAN BLAND.

By the way, if you order the Turkish wine, stay away from the Doluca Klasic Turkish wine unless you like very tart and heavy wines.  Even for someone who is a fan of Shiraz, like one of us, this was seriously heavy.  It is the least expensive wine on the menu, but since it is Turkish, we ordered it wanting to taste a Turkish wine. Seriously, the tartest most sour wine.

Tyler Cowen, whose opinion we usually respect, said he would recommend this restaurant, but we were disappointed.  If we had friendly, welcoming service, our experience may have been more pleasant. But that was lacking, also.

Despite this, we had a fun evening out with friends and that's all that really counts!

In short. we would not return here, it's just not our sort of thing. However, on a nice day, the patio would be a fun place to meet friends for happy hour if you live in that area and want modern, new setting.

Yayla Bistro has been around for 15 months, will be interesting to see how long it sticks around.

 Patio seating at the entrance

 Nope, did not know....!

 Additional outside seating if you don't mind pebbles on your shoes

 Modern romantic setting

 Simple pleasant decor

Braided round bread accompanied by a ramekin of black olive tapenade

We kept asking for more bread, as everything we ordered seemed to need bread

 Pan-seared Halloumi cheese served with orange mamalade garnished with tomatoes and parsley can be either an Appetizer or Hot Mezze ($10.00)

KOFTE Grilled ground beef and lamb patties with garlic, onions, cumin and spices. Served with Cacik, but actually it isn't served with cacik, but it does come with pickled shredded cabbage ($14.00)

Trio of Spreads from left to right Baba Ghanouj (Pureed roast eggplant with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic), Htipity (Roasted red peppers with feta cheese, olive oil, garlic, and mint) and Ezme (Fine chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, mild peppers, parsley with olive oil) ($12.00)

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