Thursday, May 21, 2015

Syria: Sad Times

I knew better than to eat at Layalina. This place is walking distance from our house and when it first opened, was truly revelatory. The lamb was tender, the flavors were explosive, pomegranate seeds burst in every bite, and the attention from the owners (she's Syrian, he's Lebanese) was so warm and familiar, it was like having instant Syrian-Lebanese grandparents. In the last few years, something happened, though and Layalina is no longer magical. The food is greasy and the flavors less intense, the portions are small, my kibbeh were frozen in the middle, the decor is starting to fray (literally), it feels like someone is paying my grandparents to dote on me, and the place is empty (the Salvadoran place across the street was PACKED on the same Friday night). With the exception of the kibbeh (ice cold-frozen in the center), nothing was terrible and maybe if I hadn't know it when, I might have been happy with it, but the current state of affairs just makes me sad, sad sad.

5216 Wilson Blvd., Arlington

Sweden with better furnishings

There are surprisingly few Swedish options in the DC area - an Ikea cafeteria or Domku in DC's Petworth neighborhood. I've had plenty of meatballs at Ikea in my day and they are fine, but this here project is an opportunity to explore, so ... off to Petworth. The area is slowly gentrifying as a restaurant serving Slavic and Scandinavian fare in a previously African American area might suggest (as do the independent bookstore, fashion boutique, Asian fusion restaurant, and antique shop all on Domku's block) suggest. I will say, that we arrived promptly at 5 pm, toddler in tow (we decided to make it a Petworth afternoon and toured the nearby Lincoln Cottage (overrated if you're wondering). We were told that only the bar opens at 5. Surely we can get some bread for the little one? Nope. Not a crumb and this is not at all clear on the restaurant's website. No matter - we solved this near crisis with a Richard Scary book from the independent bookstore and a box of off-brand Wheat Thins from the liquor store with a bulletproof glassed-in cashier -- gentrification clearly still in the works! I would never had ordered a cocktail if we could have gone straight to meatballs, but the drink (which I can't reference because the website isn't working properly now) was the best part of our meal. We shared Swedish meatballs, which were good, better than Ikea's, (that's not saying all that much is it?) and beet gnocchi, which were fine in terms of flavorful but also the epitome of gumminess. It was nice to have an excuse to visit Petworth and we are more grateful that you can imagine to have more variety in our Richard Scary library, but ... I probably wouldn't go back to Domku.

821 Upshur St., NW, DC