Saturday 17 March 2012
The Road To Beirut - Yalla Yalla, London W1W
'Yalla Yalla' or hurry hurry in Lebanese is the name of this Beirut street food joint. Quietly tucked behind the side street of the sleazy Soho is this little hidden gem.
I stumble upon this almost by pure accident. I was planning to grab a quick bite before meeting up with friends for a drink after work on Friday. I headed toward the new Pitt Cue Co, only to find out that they open for dinner at 6. So I had to walked around and that is how I found this cosy little restaurant. I have heard good things about this restaurant from a colleague who has been to the other venue near oxford street. Seeing that they serve a selection of Mezze here, I thought I will give it a go.
From the outside, this look like one of those trendy modern restaurant, with it's mix of bright yellow and black facade. However, upon entering, I was immediately greeted with a charming and warm atmosphere. It is surprisingly small, and is heavily characterised with it's chunky wooden counter, filled with an arrays of beautiful wraps available for those in a hurry; tightly packed oak table sittings with wooden stools; Keffiyeh cushions were scattered along the side benches, even the curtain are made of this distinctive Keffiyeh. Along with it's hand painted portraits on the wall and the low lightings, this is just the sort of relaxing atmosphere you need to enjoy a cosy meal.
The menu consist of a good selections of mezze dishes to share or the more heartier mains of casserole, charcoal grilled sea bass or king prawns as well as the usual suspect of typical middle eastern food such as Moussakka. Being my first time to the restaurant, I asked for recommendations from the lovely lady who served me, whom I suspect might be the owner of the restaurant. She was very knowledgeable and gave a very good decription of the mezze suggestions that she made, including what goes into it and how they were cooked. Brilliant! I thought , I am in good hands. Heeding her advice, I had the Baba Gahannouj - charcoal grilled aubergine, tahini and fresh lemon juice dip, Sawda Djel - sautéed chicken liver with garlic and pomegranate molasses and Samboussek Lahmé - Pastry filled with spiced minced lamb. Even though she said this will be enough for one, I've also ordered the Tabboulé - Chopped fresh herbs with bulgur wheat salad. She was very pleased with my choices as she said that there are a good balanced mix of hot and cold dishes, a dip and fresh salad.
I was brought some lovely pickled green chilies and radish, along with juicy olives and fresh pitta bread to began with. Baba gannouj and the tabboulé arrived not long after. With a garnish of little pomegranate seed jewels and slivers of fresh mint, the baba gannouj are a pretty thing to look at. It is lightly tangy, smoky and have the creamiest texture and yet hidden within are surprising tiny bites of soft aubergines, the textures is just sensational and utterly addictive. The tabboulé is vividly flavoured and so fresh. All the green-tasting herbs are just beautifully balanced, crisp, crunchy and are just a joy to eat. The sawda djal arrived just as I was still savouring with a mouthful of the herby greens. This is definitely without a doubt, the best chicken liver dish I have ever tasted. It was rich, gutsy, and well flavoured. The sweet-sour balance from the homemade pomegranate molasses were simply tantalising. It was so good that I had to mop up every single drop of the remaining sauce with the pitta bread. The samboussek lahmé that looked like small versions of Cornish pasty arrived piping hot. A quick bite revealed a richly spiced minced lamb in a crispy pastry. The sweet and sharp once again were well balanced and make this a truly deletable and moreish treat. All these were nicely washed down with some superb Lebanese beer.
The whole meal came to about £20, including a bottle of beer. A bargain for this amount of food. I was stuffed by the end of it with some leftover.
Everything were sincerely and freshly prepared. The venue may be small - my table were nearly knocked over by a diner on his way to the restroom, but the flavours of the food were big and punchy. The Lebanese music in the background also added to the charm of this place - although there was a Lebanese version of Summertime playing on the soundtrack while dining. Well at least it was in Lebanese. If you want to experience true Lebanese food in London, this is definitely the place to go to and with their current plan to open a third venue in King's Cross soon. I am pretty sure that they will soon be on every true foodie's must go list. Yalla! Yalla!
1 Greens Court
(Prices of the mezze ranges form £3.50 - £6 and mains are £9 - £11.75)