Here’s a new EATabetical (and general life) rule. Eat with locals.
A couple of weeks ago, Pete and I ate at Yalla Yalla (“hurry! hurry!”), a restaurant serving Beirut street food, with Nael, a colleague of Pete’s from Lebanon. And what a difference it made.
To be fair, there was no question that I wasn’t going to like Lebanese food (I eat it at least once a week at work!), but I couldn’t pass up doing an EATabetical letter with an expert. We let Nael do all the research and restaurant-picking and Yalla Yalla was what he chose.
At first I’ll admit, I was skeptical of Yalla Yalla’s sleek website and chain-like atmosphere (there are two locations in London), but not all amazing food has to come from hidden holes-in-the-wall. There’s a reason Yalla Yalla was packed on the Tuesday night we went: the food is delicious.
Nael also, of course, did all the ordering. We shared hommos shawarma (hummus with lamb), kibbe nayye (lamb tartar), taboule, baba ghannouj (eggplant dip), samboussek lahme (a pastry with lamb and pine nuts), sawda djej (chicken livers cooked with garlic and pomegranate molasses), and a mixed grill with chicken, lamb, and kafta (minced lamb). All washed down with the surprisingly tasty Almaza beer (‘almaza’ means diamond.)
Although I kept quiet while Nael was ordering (not an easy task for an opinionated order-er such as myself!), I was secretly eyeing the lamb tartar and chicken liver dishes, and was relieved when he selected them.
These two dishes were by far the stand-outs, though everything was incredible. Lately I’ve been trying to convince every I know that they would love these chicken livers, even if they aren’t liver fans (which I am.) Same goes for the raw lamb. Even the dishes I’m very familiar with- baba ghannouj, taboule, hummous- were noteworthy at Yalla Yalla.
While we ate, Nael explained more about the dishes to us, common ingredients, how people eat in Beirut, and the slight variations on the same dishes from country to country. Here’s a video of Nael listing all of our dishes.
Everyone knows travel and food experiences are better with a local, and this is just further proof.
So if you’re from a country that begins with ‘M’ and lives in London– I’m looking at you!
1 Greens Court W1 0HA or 12 Winsley Street W1W 8 HQ
meals: about £15-20 each with drinks, sharing.