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Go to Layalina Restaurant


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Had dinner last night at Layalina Restaurant (Syrian/Lebanese) in Arlington, VA -- the experience made me wonder why I waited so long since my last visit.

The authenticity and splendor of their Mezza dishes really stands out (not to mention the bomb-like service & generosity of the owners) -- just like I remember from living and traveling in the Mideast. I could go on and on, but I'll keep this short for now... below is Sietsema's commentary:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?node=entertainment/profile&id=796811&typeId=2&type=restaurants

If you like Middle Eastern quisine, definitely give Layalina a try. You will not be disappointed!

"Whenever someone asks me if I want water with my Scotch, I say, 'I'm thirsty, not dirty' ". Joe E. Lewis

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I'll definitely second that! Been there probably three or four times and it has always been a great experience both with the food and the service.

"See these? American donuts. Glazed, powered, and raspberry-filled. Now, how's that for freedom of choice."

-Homer Simpson

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I always go there with a large group, and I must say, the servers deal with that really well-especially with the kids. The food is great, and the prices are low.

Food is a convenient way for ordinary people to experience extraordinary pleasure, to live it up a bit.

-- William Grimes

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I forgot to add -- this place is so good that even King Abdullah II of Jordan is a regular when he's in town (which has been quite often over the last year).

"Whenever someone asks me if I want water with my Scotch, I say, 'I'm thirsty, not dirty' ". Joe E. Lewis

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  • 2 months later...

It's hard to go wrong here, at least up until the desserts. Start with the Sultan's Mazza Feast which seems crazily expensive at $69.95, but will easily stuff three people. On the weekends (or during the week if you call ahead) you should order the kibbeh nayeh, their version being as good as any around. The food invites lingering and convivial discussion over a Lebanese red wine, as the quality is so high that even as the hot dishes cool to room temperature, they're still great (not always the case). This family-run restaurant is one of the hidden gems of the Washington area.

Cheers,

Rocks.

P.S. Here's their website.

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It's hard to go wrong here, at least up until the desserts.  Start with the Sultan's Mazza Feast which seems crazily expensive at $69.95, but will easily stuff three people.  On the weekends (or during the week if you call ahead) you should order the kibbeh nayeh, their version being as good as any around.  The food invites lingering and convivial discussion over a Lebanese red wine, as the quality is so high that even as the hot dishes cool to room temperature, they're still great (not always the case).  This family-run restaurant is one of the hidden gems of the Washington area.

Cheers,

Rocks.

True that.

I can't remember the last time I was welcomed into a restaurant with such warmth and sincerity. Definitely a memorable evening.

Firefly Restaurant

Washington, DC

Not the body of a man from earth, not the face of the one you love

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it is about a mile from me, but haven't gotten there yet.  What specifically is good there?

Please don't say "everything". :)

Everything!

I love feasting with my friends in an atmosphere like Layalina's. It's memorable, it's real. The service is personal and has a familiar glow.

It was quiet last night (which it should not have been, looking back), and we got a corner booth in the front. I can't think of a more perfect escape from the muggy beast of a night, a more perfect escape after a few episodes of Ali G.

Now, to get into my story, I'm going to ask you all to step in and take the tour.

Come on in, don't be afraid.

I'll highlight. I wanted to do a longer, more creative post, but if I don't do this now I never will. The alert has changed colors. Orange you glad, the market's less crowded.

Mmmm,

silky hommos done right (I'm really foolproof after last night) and salads that so many imitators have gotten away with mangling for centuries. Did you forget how far lemons and tahini and cucumbers can go? Thought you were bored of that stuff. Think again.

I enjoyed the labneh: creamy yogurt cheese sprinkled with mint, the fatoosh rocks, that grilled cheese with the black sesame seeds, I love pickled turnips and every other pickle that was produced and greedily steered to my pie hole. And Kibbeh, these perfect little deep-fried balls of beef, with a little crunch on the outside and great spice. I could go on and on and on...

and just might after I pick up my umbrella and whatnot that I left there last night (because I was instead carrying a styrofoam box of dessert they insisted that we take), and grab another bite.

Looking forward to doing this again! King Abdullah, it was fun.

PS: Losen up

edited for spelling

Edited by morela (log)

...

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  • 1 month later...

I had dinner at Layalina on Friday night. It's been a favorite of mine for years now (since shortly after they opened), but I always forget just how good the place is, especially in comparison to Lebanese Taverna (which ain't bad either) until I eat there.

The menu is extensive. The atmosphere is a joy. The service is wonderful without being intrusive. And the food is always delicious. I am still thinking about those Ma'anick sausages, three days later. Delicious!

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  • 3 weeks later...

OK - I agree. Layalina easily surpasses Lebanese Taverna. The menu is similar, but it's obivous that more care goes into the cooking and the service. This has a much more personal, familial feel.

The spicy hommos was a nice change of pace from the traditional, the parsley and walnut salad was bursting with clean crisp flavors and the shawarma and mixed grill entrees we had we moist and flavorful, which isn't always the case. The pitas and desserts are pretty weak, and the garlic sauce a little thinner than I'd like, but its easy to overlook those few missteps.

On another thread there is a discussion about cooking or restaurants with soul. This is a perfect example of two similar restaurants. One has soul - one doesn't. It might have at one time, but it doesn't lately. Go to Layalina to see what I mean.

Edited by bilrus (log)

Bill Russell

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This is a perfect example of two similar restaurants.  One has soul - one doesn't.  It might have at one time, but it doesn't lately.  Go to Layalina to see what I mean.

The food at Layalina is definately prepared with a lot of soul and care. On a previous visit I was able to taste Lebenese/Syrian meatloaf (as a special) that the owner had actually made for her family... All I can say is that meatloaf with ground lamb is the bomb!

I do agree that the desserts were weak the last time I was there -- but that shouldn't stop anyone from going there!!!!

"Whenever someone asks me if I want water with my Scotch, I say, 'I'm thirsty, not dirty' ". Joe E. Lewis

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Layalina definatly gets a thumbs up from me. The food at Lebanase taverna is okay but service is lacking. Why does it take 45 minutes before someone takes my order? Someone just gave me a $40 gift certificate to the place. Not sure if it will ever get used.

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Layalina definatly gets a thumbs up from me.  The food at Lebanase taverna is okay but service is lacking.  Why does it take 45 minutes before someone takes my order?  Someone just gave me a $40 gift certificate to the place.  Not sure if it will ever get used.

If you don't want to use it at the restaurant, why don't you see if they'll accept it at the Lebanese Taverna Market off Lee Hwy. in Arlington. You could get a roast chicken & a mezza to go -- the food is always fresh there -- better most of the time than the restaurants.

"Whenever someone asks me if I want water with my Scotch, I say, 'I'm thirsty, not dirty' ". Joe E. Lewis

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  • 3 weeks later...

Here's the problem with egullet: you guys get me so pumped up about a place that it's hard not to be disappointed by the real thing.

Tonight I had dinner with two friends at Layalina. I agree that the decor is cozy, and perhaps with a drink or two (darn antibiotics - again!!), it would be rather easy to forget you're in VA. I also enjoyed the service which was very warm and attentive.

The mazza further met the hype. We shared the hommos with red pepper puree - the little bit of spice added by the pepper puree made for a delicious alternative to the more common basic hommos. Loved it. The pita wasn't the best I've ever had, but it made for a fine vehicle for the hommos. We also had the beef sausage in tomato garlic sauce (soujok). So tasty! Definitely something I'd order again (and not share).

But all around, we were disappointed by the entrees and part of it could have been our own fault for not choosing something more exciting. One friend had the mousakaa (she is crazy for the version at Lebanese Taverna so maybe it just suffered by comparision). My other friend and I had the chicken shawarma. Unlike other versions we'd each had (including, yes, LT's), it was just...bland. The chicken didn't seem very seasoned, the rice was just plain white. Big time snoozer.

I'll definitely go back when I next need to pick a place in VA because I so wanted to like it and from the mazza, it's clear that the kitchen is doing something right. But I'll be sure to ask for more suggestions from the peanut gallery so I don't end up with another dull dish.

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My other friend and I had the chicken shawarma.  Unlike other versions we'd each had (including, yes, LT's), it was just...bland.  The chicken didn't seem very seasoned, the rice was just plain white.  Big time snoozer.

That's interesting because the Shawarma was the one dish in particular that I found much more appealing at Laylinya vs. Lebanese Taverna. I would agree that when they do it right, LT's version is good, but is been two or three years since I've had it at LT when it wasn't cottonball dry.

Laylinya, may have some missteps (what is with the pitas?), but LT just strikes me as going through motions.

Bill Russell

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Sorry to hear that the entrees were rather dull. Next time I'd suggest just asking for a mixed grill/kebab platter -- enough for how ever many people are in your party. Having spent a great deal of time in the Middle East (Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria), I can tell you that shawarma is sold mainly by vendors in small street stalls or even from contraptions that resemble our hot dog stands in the U.S. In a sense it's a fast food type of wrap not really intended as a main course as for instance mousakaa, kebabs, mensaf, and milouchia.

As for a dish like Mousakaa, I can think of a half dozen different ways it is made (with carrots, green beans or okra) -- i.e., everyone in the Middle East has their own favourite (kinda like Kansas City BBQ vs. Memphis, etc...) so your friend just got someone else's recipe/ingredients. One last thing about Layalina, always be sure to ask what the specials are (they don't always tell you). I remember one time I asked and was served just about the best (Syrian) meatloaf ever -- made from ground lamb -- that the owner was also preparing for her husband and daughter to eat at home!!!!!

Edited by Minister of Drink (log)

"Whenever someone asks me if I want water with my Scotch, I say, 'I'm thirsty, not dirty' ". Joe E. Lewis

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