Yayla Bistro made its debut this spring, setting up shop in what was once the private dining room of the French restaurant and neighborhood stalwart La Côte D’Or. Already the Mediterranean restaurant, helmed by Turkish chefs, is earning a solid reputation, with praise spreading by word of mouth and raves posted online.
A meal at Yayla Bistro could begin with a selection from the beer and wine lists – which, when taken with the elegant décor and cloth-draped tables, lend the first indications that a fine dining experience awaits. Beyond those libations are a selection of coffees and teas, including the Turkish Coffee ($3). Prepared to your preferred sweetness, the coffee is delightfully rich, with the grounds from the potent drink settling to the bottom of the small, ornate cup in which it is served. Once you take your seat, you’re treated to thick pieces of bread while you peruse the menu, to pull pieces away in knots and dip them into the accompanying chopped olive spread.
Many of the appetizers served here are dips for that warm and fluffy bread. The dips on the menu range in price from the $6 Hummus of pureed chickpeas to the $7.50 Patlican Kozleme of roasted eggplant. You could try a scoop each of three for $8.25 with an order of the Cold Meze Trio, perhaps sampling such staple Mediterranean appetizers as the Hummus or the Baba Ghanoush, the pureed eggplant and tahini dip made here with balanced earthy and sweet flavors. While most of the appetizers are chilled dips and salads, a few warm starters are highlighted. Among them is the Grilled Calamari ($8.50), all drizzled in a thin “chef’s special” sauce that imparts only a mild taste to the fresh and flavorful grilled seafood.
Pita wraps are served at lunchtime, but at dinnertime diners have their choice of assorted salads, a few flatbreads, some classic Mediterranean dishes served as small plates, and a trio of seafood platters. The Lahmacun ($7) combines minced ground beef and lamb and fine pieces of tomato with a sprinkle of parsley on thin, crisp flatbread sliced into pizza-like wedges. The crackling texture of the flatbread, its presentation, and the surprising heat of its components make for a dish that’s as fun as it is tasty.
Among the small-plate dishes, the Moussaka ($9.95) is a must-order entrée. Despite the “small entrée plate” designation, an order of Moussaka comes with a reasonably sized piece of the casserole-styled layered meat-and-eggplant dish. The thick top layer of béchamel sauce is a delight. The texture? It genuinely melts in the mouth. The flavor? Downright buttery. Beneath the sauce are a few tender strips of eggplant, followed by plenty of savory seasoned ground beef.
The tour of Mediterranean cuisine continues with dessert, where Baklava ($4.95) beckons, with buttery layers of thin filo dough and crushed walnuts slightly sweetened with honey. Just as decadent, if not more so, is the Apricot Delight ($5.95), in which apricots are filled with walnut pieces and placed upon a bed of sweet mascarpone cheese, with some added honey.
The Yayla Bistro menu has plenty to pique the interests of curious diners, and even a few surprises; one could certainly round up a few culinary explorers to share and sample its many Mediterranean appetizers and small-plate entrées.
Yayla Bistro is located at 2201 N. Westmoreland St., Arlington. For more information, call 703-533-5600 or visit yaylabistro.com. Restaurant hours are Monday – Sunday: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.