Thursday, 12 January 2012

Yalla Yalla - Oh La La

Mister and I had been deciding on a place for dinner since we woke. While I had been authorised a free choice, the conversation went more or less like this:

Me: I feel like sushi… Atari-ya?
Mister: I’ve got a cold, can’t taste anything.
Me: Sichuan Folk to wake your buds?
Mister: Sore throat + spicy = lost voice
Me: Korean at Centre Point?
Mister: You don’t really like Korean.
Me: Meatliquor?
Mister: Not open on Mondays.
Me: Chinese at CT / I cook?
Mister: Too greasy / Too much work.

In short, he was being a woman. Just as I was about to explode, I found Yalla Yalla on my Eat list. And because Mister had no idea if Beirut was a rude word I just made up, he couldn’t quite protest. When we turned into a quite alley in Soho, he was finally intrigued by the bright yellow sign with odd scribblings (and maybe the dodgy staircase next door with ‘Models’ painted across the wall).

It was a brief 10-minute wait before a table freed up in this cosy little spot; deli counter cramped with less than 8 wooden tables. Since Mister is not a major fan of yoghurt and I don’t eat chicken breast, it didn’t take long for us to pick from the exotic menu.

Mint tea drew our memories back to the Moroccan days… I felt as though I was doing sugar shots, stirring a packet of sugar per glass, but it wouldn’t taste the same with the sweetness.

Makale Samak - Deep fried tiger prawns, calamari and white bait with spring onions, crispy aubergine and chilli minted Greek yoghurt
This was all I wanted – a generous bowl of well seasoned seafood in crispy light batter. The chilli Greek yoghurt was more cool than hot, but absolutely perfect with the goodies. These made my day. 

Just don’t expect tiger prawns, these were more like kitty prawns, but good bouncy ones.

Kibbe Nayye - Lamb tartar with spiced cracked wheat, spring onions, fresh mint and basil
I was feeling brave with the raw lamb, or I had roughly chopped steak tartar in mind. Not sure what to make of this, the meat was finely minced but grainy in texture, and it didn’t carry the flavours that comes with melted lamb fat, quite bland by itself. This got better when smeared inside the pitta bread with a healthy dose of salad and a dollop of chilli yoghurt. It was the salad that stole the show, energetically crunchy and refreshingly flavours with a squeeze of lime and a drizzle of olive oil.

Sawda Djej - Sautéed chicken liver with garlic and pomegranate molasses
The sauce was citrusy; so much so that my left eye was involuntarily twitching while my right eye remained firmly shut… Okay I knew it was supposed to be tangy, I just wasn’t prepared for it to be face-wrenchingly sour. The pomegranate seeds were bizarrely sweet. I get the theory with the dense, drab liver taking on a sharp kick, but really it was too much of a complete knock out.

Lahem Shawarma - Grilled thin slices of marinated lamb, grilled tomato, sumac, parsley and red pepper salad
So glad we shared a main, it’s a total calorie overload. The vermicelli rice reminded me of Hainanese chicken rice, fragrant with animal fat, all balanced off with yet another stunning salad. Lamb pieces were tender, juicy and bursting with spices, and still gorgeous the next day when it was reheated for lunch.

I thought Middle Eastern cuisine was all pretty similar until Yalla Yalla introduced me to street food beyond the usual kebab with garlic mayo. That said I won’t go overboard and say how I’m drooling over the keyboard, it was just a cute little place that was different, in a positive way. Nothing overly complicated about the food, but simply well-made. As for the pomegranate molasses, I blame it on cultural differences.

1 Green’s Court
Tel: 0207 287 7663

Yalla Yalla Beirut Street Food on Urbanspoon
You may also like: Riding House CafeDishoomTayyabs


  1. This is one of my Bf's favourite places to eat.. I've yet to go!

  2. Next time when you're bf is being a woman, remind him to take you:)

  3. Randomly stumbled upon your blog! I too love Italy and really it is a country that needs to be experienced slowly, hence why i detest those HK tours that whisk you around way too fast!

    I've tried don't like pomegranate molasses twice and still don't like it!

    1. Tours all the way from HK emphasises on value for money... which works for the majority of HK travellers funnily enough.

      Great, you've saved me from trying anymore molasses...:)

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