I’ll be the first to admit I was a little skeptical when the signs first went up for the new Yayla bistro. Not because I don’t like Turkish food, on the contrary – it’s one of my favorite cuisines. However, Yayla’s was taking over the treasured french bakery on my street where I could get authentically baked baguettes and gooey pain au chocolat on a Sunday morning – I was panic stricken and went into mourning for my euro brethren. Then yesterday morning a funny thing happened, Kenny came home with a piping hot bag of french pastries and informed me that the Cote D’Or had not closed for good, the owners had merely downsized their premises so to speak and were now serving my beloved croissants through a back door, round the other side of the block. All was not lost, Vivre La France! This happened to coincide with the official opening of the Yayla bistro, so I could now confidently partake in a meal in our new neighborhood joint, safe in the knowledge everyone was happily doing business side by side.
I am extremely glad I had this change of heart because Yayla’s did not disappoint. As mentioned, this was opening weekend, so there were definitely some glitches and we’ll get them out the way before I start fawning over the food.
The interiors are admittedly a little confusing; when I think Turkish bistro, I imagine warm, inviting and moreover informal interiors. This costly revamp has unfortunately left the bistro a little stark and shiny, lots of stainless steel, replete with crisp table cloths and towering wine glasses. Not unpleasant by any means, just a contrast from what most will probably be expecting. There was also an awkward quietness in the dining room for the first fifteen minutes of our arrival, due to a lack of music, after which we were finally entertained with some jolly and appropriate Mediterranean numbers, which brought me a little closer to the theme at hand.
The service was overall exceptional. A minor hiccup early on with an appetizer was swiftly remedied with no fuss and our server did a great job making recommendations for the entrees and desserts. My only real complaint was that Kenny’s plate was cleared the minute he stopped eating, even though I had not – which left me as the embarrassing slow eater at the table. When I trained as a server in my youth this was rule 1. Never clear a plate until all parties have finished eating, it’s just good manners.
Now for the good stuff. It’s Turkish – so the menu is mainly made up of a variety of cold/hot mezze dishes with a few interesting and honestly mouth watering kebab/seafood /pide entree options.
Meze or mezze /ˈmɛzeɪ/ is a selection of small dishes served in the Middle East and the Balkans. In Levantine and Caucasian cuisines, and in parts of the Balkans, meze is served at the beginning of all large-scale meals.
For our appetizer we chose the 3 cold mezze plate combo with Imam Biyaldi (eggplant stuffed with onions, peppers and garlic), Baba Ghanoush (spiced, roasted and mashed eggplant dip) and Cacik ( a traditional middle eastern strained yoghurt, cucumber and garlic dip).
All three were light, tasty and accompanied by bottomless rounds of hot turkish bread. TIP!! Beware the bread basket, it is easy to eat your entire body weight in this dangerous, doughy goodness.
The entrees of buttery, sautéed shrimp and donor kebab were satisfying but the pièce de résistance for this meal, was the dessert. Our waiter tried to sway me towards the rice pudding and I’m sure it’s divine. But if you get the chance to visit Yayla’s – do not miss the apricot bites. A long smear of creamy mascarpone cheese topped with honey soaked apricots, pistachios and a drizzle of butterscotch sauce was enough to ensure we will be coming back frequently. This was topped off with a couple of near perfect turkish coffees and all for under $50.
Great food, great service, great value – and I’m sure they’ll get there with the ambience. For Day 1 this was an impressive score. Welcome to the neighborhood.
Overall Rating: 7.5/10
Yayla’s Bistro 22201 N. Westmoreland St, Arlington, VA, 22213.