Where to Get Authentic Middle Eastern Food
Arlington's Bluemont neighborhood is home to two gems: Layalina and House of Mandi
House of Mandi
When you meet Abdulbari Alshehari and his wife, Arwa Aljarmozi, you can’t help but be captivated by their warmth and hospitality. The couple emigrated to the U.S. in 1995 after fleeing civil war in their native Yemen. What started as a home-based business is now a charming 60-seat restaurant with a takeout counter next door.
“Abdul is a Bedouin, so he’s very generous and welcoming of visitors,” Arwa explains. “If someone was here from out of town or passing by, or if someone had a baby, he’d invite them over. People loved the food, and little by little they asked us to cater parties.” The business grew by word of mouth and the couple opened their restaurant in March of 2015. Now U.S. citizens, they have five children.
What are the defining features of Yemeni cuisine? “We were occupied by the Ottoman Empire for 400 years, so their influence is in our food. Also Pakistani and Indian,” says Abdul, a former academic adviser at the United Arab Emirates Embassy in D.C. Spices such as coriander, cumin, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, black peppercorn and turmeric are predominant flavors in dishes served with freshly made chapatti, a puffy tandoori bread.
“We are 100 percent halal and buy free-range whole lambs from an Amish farmer in Hagerstown,” Arwa adds. “We make the food from scratch and in small batches so that it’s always fresh.” www.houseofmandi.com
On the Menu
Mandi: a rice dish cooked tandoori-style with lamb or chicken
Mougalgal: lamb leg sautéed with bell peppers, tomatoes, spices and onions
Fasha: beef stew with cilantro, onions and tomatoes
Saltah: stewed vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, okra), topped with whipped fenugreek, lemon, basil and cilantro
Whole spiced pompano, a perfectly grilled and deboned fish