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MB Yummyyalla hotmezza

Review: Yummy Yalla

Michelle Brotohusodo

One of the most enjoyable ways to learn about a country’s culture is through its food.

As most of us don’t have the luxury to be able to travel around the world eating, we’re lucky when our fellow Canberrans decide to bring that culture and food to the capital.

One such person is Wadad Rahme, owner and chef of Yummy Yalla, Canberra’s newest Lebanese restaurant. When I asked her what made her want to start a restaurant, her answer was simple: “I love it.” She explained that she comes from a family who loves food and cooking, particularly her father and brothers, and she wanted to share this with others.

When someone is this passionate about food, you can be sure you’re in for a treat. So when I went to Yummy Yalla with a group of friends, we thought it best to let Wadad and her team decide what we should try. Most of us had had minimal exposure to Lebanese food, and we were looking forward to finding out more.

We started with a selection of cold mezza: mushroom salad, artichoke salad, hummus, labneh and seafood salad, served with some impressively puffy pita bread.

MB Yummyyalla coldmezza

Everyone loved the bread (it was so puffy!) but other favourites varied according to taste. One of my friends and I really liked the seafood salad, while others preferred the labneh and hummus.

Another round of mezza was next, this time a mix of hot and cold: vine leaves (stuffed with rice, tomatoes, shallots, fresh mint and spices), Safiha Baalbakieh (handmade pastry filled with ground lamb, tomatoes and onion), fried kibbeh (crushed wheat stuffed with spicy minced lamb, pine nuts, and deep fried), felafel, and cheese sambousek (handmade pastry filled with feta cheese).

 

MB Yummyyalla felafel

We’d never heard of some of these dishes before, and actually ate them not knowing what they all were (we asked at the end), which was kind of fun. In particular, watching everyone try the fried kibbeh was entertaining as we all had pretty much the same reaction, which was to pause, nod, and smile after the first bite (yep, they were that good). I liked Wadad’s description of them: “fried meat filled with meat.”

MB Yummyyalla kibbeh

The cheese sambouseks also proved to be a hit, as did the Safiha Baalbakieh. There’s a picture of Baalbek on the wall of Yummy Yalla, and we were told that the Safiha Baalbakieh was a specialty dish from that region. The vine leaves were pleasant, and the falafel had that perfect balance of crispy on the outside but soft and not dry in the middle.

One of my friends found the taste of the falafel on its own a bit strong, but this could be balanced by eating it with the pita bread or the garlic sauce that came with it. We all agreed that each dish had a distinct taste, not that ‘same-y’ flavour that banquet dishes can sometimes have.

MB Yummyyalla hotmezza

We were starting to feel a bit full, but were told we couldn’t be, because there was more food coming! This turned out to be meat, and a lot of it, including kafta (baked lamb and beef), shistawook (diced chicken kebabs), lamb kebabs, quail and hot chips.

I love quail, and am always happy to try it cooked different ways. It can be a bit fiddly to eat, especially off the bone, but it’s worth it, and I liked Yummy Yalla’s take on it. The chicken seemed to be the most popular amongst our group, as it was really tender and tasty. The kafta and lamb skewers also had a good flavour but were a bit drier.

The chips actually also deserve a mention, because they were awesome—they had just the right amount of crunch. One of my friends and I on opposite ends of the table ended up having a sort of ‘ping pong’ with the chip bowl, as the only way we could stop eating the chips was to have them as far away as possible from us—but which meant they were then in front of the other person.

MB Yummyyalla meat

We were pretty stuffed by this point, but were persuaded that we needed to try the fruit cocktails, which weren’t drinks but more like desserts.

Some of my friends tried the mango and banana cocktail (mango, banana, honey, kiwifruit, strawberries and cream) and I shared the avocado cocktail with another friend (avocado, fruit salad, honey, strawberries, almonds and cream). In Australia avocado is seen as a savoury food, while in other countries, like Indonesia and Lebanon, it’s actually eaten as a sweet. The cocktails looked impressive and were also delicious and refreshing.

MB Yummyyalla fruit

I also need to mention the drink I tried; Jallab, which is fruit syrup made from carob dates, grape molasses, rosewater, and pine nuts. I was told that Jallab is a drink that’s popular during Ramadan, as it’s refreshing and energising. After trying it, I can understand its popularity. It was really, really delicious. My friend had a sip and described it like Turkish delight in drink form.

MB Yummyyalla jallab

My friends and I really enjoyed our dinner at Yummy Yalla. The atmosphere was good, the service was friendly and attentive without being intrusive, and there’s also entertainment on Saturday nights in the form of bellydancing. As a former bellydancer, I have an appreciation for how hard it is, and the dancer who performed while we were there certainly earned her applause. Yummy Yalla is also kid-friendly, and there were some very sweet moments between the dancer and two little girls at the table next to ours.

While we had a lot of meat in our meal, Yummy Yalla caters for a range of dietary requirements, including vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free. And it’s a great place for dinner, but it also has a breakfast and lunch menu, with a quick turnaround so people aren’t delayed getting to work or on their lunch break.

As for the name of the restaurant, Wadad explained that it was a combination of the two cultures and language. Yummy in English and yalla, which means ‘come on’ or ‘hurry up’ in Arabic. So, yummy, yalla! What are you waiting for?

The essentials
The place: Yummy Yalla
Where: 49/51 Colbee Court, Phillip
When: 9am-3pm, 5.30pm-10pm Monday-Saturday, 9am-2.30pm Sunday
Food: Lebanese
Drink: Wine, beer, a range of soft drinks including fresh juices and jallab
Contact: Call 02 6281 3009, or visit their website or Facebook page

The author and her friends dined courtesy of Yummy Yalla, but all opinions remain their own.

Slide image: WikiCommons

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Michelle Brotohusodo

Michelle moved to Canberra vowing to stay for two years, tops. 10 years later, she’s a bona fide Canberra convert. When she’s not working in her day job as a public servant, she’s enjoying Canberra’s culinary delights or finding fun things to do/see in and around town. More about the Author

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