Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Mama Ayesha's

When school got out back in May, I was optimistic that I would be able to clean our long-neglected apartment in no time. But then internship piled upon job piled upon life and other obligations, and usually by the time I get home I'm so exhausted that I just have enough energy to cook and clean up (the latter if I'm lucky), and then it's bedtime.

This past weekend marked the first in a while that we weren't tied up with something, so I took advantage of the time on Sunday to make a cleaning and organizing afternoon of it. And after that, we decided to take a break and get dinner out (even in the heat, and with M somewhat disabled by his new shoes which gave him a fierce blister). I recommended Mama Ayesha's (Lebanese place in Adams Morgan), since I've been walking past there on my way back from the Metro, and also because I was inspired by my Arabic immersion lessons last week (also part of my duties for my summer job -- paid to learn Arabic? You don't have to twist my arm...) to get some food from the Arab world.

All in all, we probably (and predictably) ordered way too much food. We started with Homous bil Lahmeh with lamb and pinenuts, which I have made before with ground beef. It was very smooth, but I think the combination overall was too mild (not enough dynamic contrast). M ordered a combination plate from the grill that contained very nice chunks of grilled lamb and "springy" (I don't know how else to describe it) nicely spiced kofte, and I ordered the baked garlic chicken. The chicken was some of the best I've had in a long time! I know that restaurant reviewers often say this of chicken done right, but I have to add my voice to the mix: it was so tender *it fell off the bone*. I admit that some of the white meat was a little dry, but the flavor of whatever marinade they put on it (Mama Ayesha's "special garlic sauce") saved it. The skin was also lovely. (my meat eater's self-hatred is kicking in a little at the moment, but what can I say. I'm my mother's daughter. I eat the skin, and I enjoy it!).

I would guess that it was a mixture of yoghurt, garlic, hot peppers, and either sumac or lemon (which would account for the tang). I'm not sure if it was lemon, because my own prior disappointing experience roasting chicken that had been sitting in lemon water told me that a long lemon soak is not always good for the tenderizing department. The pita was chewy and crispy, and great warmed up the next day. We also ordered a salad that turned out to be chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, and parsley mixed with tahini (hey, I can do that!). After such a huge meal, our stomachs called for some settling with the help of Arabic coffee -- their version is cardamom heavy, and like we've seen before, comes pre-sweetened (M thinks it may be brewed with the sugar). I was happy with my semi-sweet, and M with his sweet.

We also ordered a bottle of wine (again, in retrospect probably a little much, also considering the heat). Not a place that we would go regularly, since it's a little spendy (the price of M's combo was a little more than we'd like to pay). For kabobs we would probably go to Moby Dick's more often, though admittedly the meat and spicing of Mama Ayesha's kofte is better.

Mama Ayesha's also gets points for atmosphere: I especially liked the star cutouts in the ceiling.

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