PRESS
News:

Chef Mirna Wins Portland Iron Chef October 10th!!


Reviews:

OPB Article "Cook It At Home: Mirna Attar's Roasted Eggplant And Brown Rice Tabouli" (redirects to their site)

OPB Article with recipes for Lamb Kebabs, Fattoush, Hummus, Fatayer, Moujadra and Shaibeyet (redirects to their site)

Oregon Live (redirects to their site)

Portland Monthly (redirects to their site)

Under the Table with Jen

Willamette Week

PDX Guide

Roger Porter, Willamette Week

Oregon Live

Happy Customer

Columbian





























































Beside my pita crumb-strewn table, a stout little pine tree wrestles a playful breeze, and through the stone archways of my villa's lofty open terrace, I can gaze into the coastal valley below, at the peaceful Lebanese village perched on the edge of the deep blue-green Mediterranean. In the background, the lilting strains of a lute fill the cedar-scented air, and as I take another sip of arak and reflect on my good fortune, a nearby American voice bleats through a mouthful of falafel, "I never get tired of the food here!" And I'm instantly grounded, jolted from the windswept Lebanese villa of my fantasies to Montavilla's cheerfully kitschy Ya Hala Lebanese restaurant, with its gold-tasseled copper-colored drapes, pine tree and shrub-filled window beds, pomegranate margarita-fueled joyful din, and huge wall murals of Mt. Lebanon and the surrounding countryside.

I have to admit, my raucous fellow diner has a point—it's impossible to grow tired of Ya Hala's authentic, lovingly prepared Middle Eastern delicacies. Chef Mirna Attar's falafel is ethereal—orbs of ground garbanzo and fava beans tinted the color of fresh-cut grass by chopped fresh cilantro and parsley and flash fried until just a crackly, deep gold, paper-thin crust separates the moist mixture from your eager lips.

The baba ghanouj is as sultry and haunting as a Fairuz song, the lemon and mint-kissed tabouli is as fresh as a Mediterranean breeze, and the hummus has a garlicky kick to it that lingers like a lazy tendril of hookah smoke. Tiny locally-made soujouk rolled into pitas with tahini and tomatoes, olive-oil drizzled sheep's milk feta and labneh, savory kafta kabobs, stuffed artichoke hearts, braised lamb shanks and eggplant and okra-choked stews round out your culinary excursion to the land of the Phoenicians.

For dessert, order a cream-filled Shaibeyat pastry floating in rose flower syrup, or one of three kinds of baklava, savor a Turkish coffee, and pretend you're luxuriating in the hills of Batroun.

Next to Ya Hala is their adjoining market, International Food Supply, a tidy treasure trove of hookahs and Mediterranean pantry staples both familiar and exotic—stock up on flatbread, olives, sheep's milk cheeses and Lebanese wines, as well as fresh pistachios, carp roe caviar, pickled sour grapes, labne, argan oil, orange flower water, and bulk spices like Syrian saffron, sumac, cardamom, black caraway and Aleppo pepper.
    Under the Table with Jen
    http://underthetablewithjen.com/eat/restaurants/ya-hala-2/


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"Other Lebanese restaurants may be cheaper, or closer to your office; and you may see them more often, and bring them more presents. But John Attar's Montavilla palazzo is no spot for a quick bite. Here, my friend, you will feast. You will start with sensuous appetizers that prickle the palate: big plates of hummus ($3.95), tabouli ($4.25) and curiously spiced nakanik sausage ($4.25), a delicacy you won't find elsewhere. Then you will move on to stews, kebabs ($9.95-$13.50), arrays of baked goodies and pickles ($2.25) and, finally, baklava ($2). You will spend $25 on a meal for four, and, amid pleasing Mediterranean murals, you will rejoice. (BW)"
    Willamette Week
    http://wweek.com/editorial/3419/10636/


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"Try Ya Hala in Portland. This place features outdoor dining. When you step inside the restaurant, you'll notice a family atmosphere. This restaurant is very affordable."

"Great food! We really enjoyed our first Ya Hala experience. The restaurant itself is a little cheesy but pleasant. The service was fantastic, responsive and quick. We had the veggie appetizer..."
    PDX Guide
    http://www.pdxguide.com/lifestyles/restaurantReviews/hodas.cfm


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The famed kibbeh, a sort of glorified meatball, receives fine treatment here ($9.95). Ya Hala's version is made with a ground-beef exterior filled with more beef, pine nuts, and onions, then baked. This is triumphal Middle East cooking: moist, browned to a crisp, and jammed with intense flavors, the whole cooled down with garlicky yogurt. It complements the football-sized pita bread, which appears at your table with comforting predictability-and is great for scooping up sauces."
    Roger Porter, Willamette Week
    http://wweek.com/editorial/3125/6247/


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"John Attar's store is the go-to place in Southwest Portland for ethnic and gourmet packaged foods. But here's the inside word: A stop at the deli case is a must for Middle Eastern recipes from his wife, Mirna Attar, chef at their well-regarded Ya Hala Lebanese restaurant across town. Before the clerk starts scooping up hummus, place your order for a made-to-order pita bread sandwich to go. The freshly made bread - baked before your eyes in the gas-fired clay oven - is what makes this wrap rock: authentic, delicious and couldn't be more fresh. ($4.50 for falafel)" - Shawn Vitt
    Oregon Live
    http://www.oregonlive.com/dining/reviews.ssf?24069?BarburWorldFoods-24069-BB07


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"Ya Hala, whose name is an Arabic expression for "welcome," packs them in nightly, for it's a casual place where the greeting couldn't be warmer, typical of the region's vaunted hospitality. Host John Attar regales you with tales of his native land, and he knows the food like a forester knows the cedars of Lebanon State Park. If your wait is lengthy, as ours was on a recent mobbed weekend evening, a well-stocked Middle East grocery store adjacent to the restaurant will keep you fascinated, even if you don't purchase the tempting figs, eggplant relishes, or tangy yogurts on display. Among the cold appetizers, I love the makdous ($3.25), tiny eggplants stuffed with walnuts, garlic and chilies, then marinated in olive oil. The sensuous skins slide easily down the throat, accompanied by the crunch of the nuts. Among the hot mezza, the sambousak ($4.95) are glorious little crescent pies filled with ground beef and pine nuts and deep-fried to a delicious crisp. There are numerous grills and stews, but Ya Hala's "signature" entrees stand out. One of the best is makloube ($10.95), a complex casserole with a layer of eggplant underneath and one of rice, almonds and braised lamb above (there's also a vegan version). Each tier reveals different textures, colors and flavors, and you literally dig into this dish to expose the various strata. But more amusing is moughrabieh ($12.95), which arrives in two bowls: one heaped with couscous beads and peppers, the other with shredded chicken and chunks of stewed beef, sweetened with nutmeg and onions. You go back and forth, all the while ladling a meaty sauce over your choice.

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"Entering Ya Hala Mediterranean Cuisine feels like a border crossing. Half-grocery, half- restaurant and take-out, it's casual fun and is filled with activity centered on food. The third sister in this family triangle, Mirna, directs the kitchen while her husband, John Attar, manages the small restaurant and grocery. This team is often so busy baking and cashiering that slow but genial service counts as part of the dining experience. The menu offers similarities to Nicholas' and Hoda's because we expect certain Lebanese dishes: mezzas, kabobs, pita sandwiches, eggplant dishes and more fresh baked pita bread. Ya Hala expresses individuality in other ways: stuffed grape leaves are three-bite size (Hoda's are single). Mezzas taste more subtly seasoned, lighter on the garlic, lemon juice and onions. Kafta kabobs simmer in pale, gentle tomato sauce and are served with rice. Pizzas are folded into calzones, single-serving pies made from delicious dough and filled with spinach and feta, or chicken and mushrooms, or pepperoni and sausage."
    By KATHRYN KURTZ for The Columbian

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OPB Article and recipes for Lamb Kebabs, Fattoush, Hummus, Fatayer, Moujadra and Shaibeyet
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