Villa Yara: One of Georgetown’s Loveliest Havens

The romantic tale of Yara, an imaginary woman in love with music, life and food, inspires this charming Lebanese restaurant and garden at 2815 M St. NW in Georgetown. Vivid florals, images of beautiful women and clever Mediterranean accents make its airy, white-walled space (formerly Le Pain Quotidien) one of Georgetown’s loveliest havens. The menu of classic and inventive mezze  generously portioned to encourage sharing  offers intriguing vegetarian, fish and meat options that can satisfy a broad range of tastes and appetites.

Owners Ramzi Iskandar and Mike Saadi  together with Maurice Dirany, a veteran Lebanese chef — developed a menu of Lebanese classics, enlivened by original spins for dishes labeled “Yara.” Lebanon, Saadi explains, is a “Near East melting pot” and the menu’s diversity reflects this. A compelling list of cold and warm mezze plus oven-baked and charcoal-grilled mains offer endless possibilities for communal dining. Classics like hummus, baba ghanoush, kibbeh and spinach pies are compelling starters. Baked fish with rice, lamb chops, grilled branzino and a comprehensive mixed grill satisfy the heartiest of appetites.

Halal meat arrives daily and is butchered in house for specialties like the Yara kofka made with a house-made, filo-like dough layered with succulent ingredients. Beef pies are baked in yet another specialty pastry. Chef Dirany designed these dishes for “the meat flavor to come through.”

Desserts are a special focus here. Current choices hail from the area around Tripoli. Here, too, the kitchen takes a hands-on approach making its own, intensive reduction for the sweet, clotted cream that enriches elaborate preparations of semolina, almonds and pistachios. Made-in-house ice creams have orange blossom or tahini and halvah accents.


A select international wine and beer list includes Lebanese choices. Specialty cocktails feature, variously, fresh and herbaceous, spicy, “hot” and “bittersweet” flavors. Special attention is paid to mocktails. These took “weeks to develop,” says owner/manager Saadi. The resulting drinks, he explains, “stimulate the bitter note of alcohol by steeping cinnamon and almonds in syrup to complement the juices.”

The delightful street level dining room, like a Lebanese villa, focuses on the courtyard at the rear. Custom arches frame the entrance to the tree-shaded patio. Brilliant floral images on the dining room wall draw the eye. Nostalgic photos of lovely women and happy times in the 1970s and 80s, on the same wall, are worth a close look.

A lovely fountain is the focus of the courtyard that offers attractive seating. There’s another set of photos – this time of famous women – on the far wall of the patio.











Upstairs is another charming dining setting, along with one of the most inviting private rooms in town. This white-walled dining room focuses on an arresting mural of a beautiful woman and a wall of windows overlooking M St. Continue down a hall, and a very feminine-looking dressing table signals the entrance to a room perfectly suited to intimate gatherings and celebrations. Another compelling mural of a beautiful woman – this one in deep red and orange tones – dominates the wall. There’s a handsome wooden communal table and a private balcony perfect for pre-dinner cocktails and snacks.


Throughout the restaurant, thoughtful details like decorative plates, ironwork accents, beads and floral arrangements evoke a place that’s been called the “Paris of the Middle East.”

Villa Yara is at 2815 M St. NW. For more information go here


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