Very high ceilings in the main dining area allow for informal Middle Eastern elegance on a grand scale. In all, two comfortable dining rooms have space to spare. Families, diplomats, office gatherings and other groups abound. Many diners seem to be regulars from way back. Mama Ayesha started to develop a following as a chef at the Syrian Embassy when she first came to the country; now the restaurant belongs to her nephew. In many ways, it's like dining in a private home. The combination platter is the best bet for first-timers. It offers a sampling of shish kebab, kifta kebab, couscous, rice and stuffed grape leaves. The kifta is something of a specialty dish, including ground lamb, parsley, onions and spices cooked on charcoal. Many of the entrees are just too much for one person or too filling. Consider splitting an entree and trying an extra appetizer or two. Other than the must-try falafel, the baba ghanoush and the cucumber salad are smart choices. Come with a large group, not your Saturday-night date: This is not a romantic spot, in the classic sense. Maybe you think you don't like Middle Eastern food, but the menu is extensive and Mama Ayesha's puts so much warmth into the event, that it's hard to imagine a disappointing dining experience. -- Bernadette Flagler
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