Editors' pick

Layalina

Middle Eastern
$$$$ ($15-$24)
'

Editorial Review

2006 Fall Dining Guide
By Tom Sietsema
Washington Post Magazine
Sunday, Oct. 15, 2006

Rima Kodsi isn't shy about letting you know how good her restaurant is. The foyer of the cozy Middle Eastern restaurant is plastered with photos of notables who have dropped by for her cooking, and she nods approvingly when she hears you order one of her signature dishes. "That's mine," the Syrian native says proudly when we request kafta bil jawz, beef mixed with walnuts, red pepper, bulgur and mint and rolled into zippy cigars. Her boasting is mostly justified. Baba ghanouj weaves together smoke, velvet and garlic. Something as simple as a plate of fried potato cubes tossed with cilantro and garlic is quick to become an addiction. Yogurt is made from scratch and served as a tart, snow-white well for chopped tomato and crushed mint. Tempting as it is to order just appetizers from the dozens available, do yourself a favor and delve deeper into the menu; it would be a shame to miss out on fried lamb shank on creamy orzo. Even if you don't order dessert, Kodsi might insist you try something, gratis, along with a cup of clear "coffee." ("It's good for digestion," she says of the fragrant drink, which is actually rose water.) The wimpy pita bread and pedestrian wine list need work, but if Layalina is good enough for the crown prince of Bahrain, it's good enough for me.