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Welcome to this installment of the BYT ME, where every frisé, sautée, filet and brulé is out for itself.

0 byts = wtf? i did not sign up for dog-food.
1 byt = edible. would consider eating again if on deserted island or lost in space and running low on dehydrated food and ice cream astronaut dots.
2 byts = decent at best. might eat again if haven’t eaten in a few days and nourishment was between this and belly button lint.
3 byts = eh. would probably eat it again. definitely if handed to me if on verge of fainting from hunger and/or at end of a sloppy evening.
4 byts = tasty. missing something, but not much. would likely order again.
5 byts = heck yes.

Entering Yazuzu is like entering a mod, red-bellied den. It has the aesthetics of an early 60s dream-come-true, with big, red, plastic-y arching walls and ceiling; bright white, long, narrow tables that cover the length of the room and have little wing-like flaps to lift up to get into the banquette; a full wall of floor-to-ceiling mirror, perfect for checking your teeth after dinner, or dancing with while you’re on your cell phone (really, we tried it – photo proof available); a series of flat screens (ok, not so 60s) that hang from the ceiling and show different cable tv channels or various psychedelic images, depending on the time of day/night you’re there; and funky, fancy cafeteria-style white trays as dinner plates. The décor was perhaps best described by one BYTer this way: “If Willy Wonka ran the school cafeteria, this is what it would look like.”

Open only since December 2006, the Yazuzu menu has almost found its feet. The owners have restaurants in other locations, including Beirut and Chicago, but it is clear that Yazuzu is still figuring out exactly who its clientele will be. More specifically: they’re still figuring out a. what their price range should be (within the last few months the average price for a meal has ranged from $25 to $8 to $12 – where it is now.), b. how adventurous they can go with food and flavor (ex: along the lines of dandelion salad, pomegranate braised short ribs, and chicken pistachio curry? or – mashed potatoes.) and c. exactly what crowd they’re appealing to (the weeknight lunch and dinner set? or the late-night drunken eaters. or both?)

All of this said, Yazuzu left a great impression on this jaded palate crew.

Yazuzu offers a variety of very reasonably priced dinner combinations, ranging from $8.50 to $12.50. You can also choose an entrée or sandwich with sides a la carte-style.

Our group sampled the sandwiches and sides combinations and stayed away from the entrees – for no other reason than we all happened to want sandwiches. Or maybe it was a little bit because of the presentation of the food – which was basically large vats of the pre-cooked entrees behind the counter, the kind of vats you see in 80s movies except they have sloppy joes or something. I don’t know…

The following is the run-down and ratings of our eats:

merguez sausage with baba ghanough and zough – 4 – A few of us got this delicious spicy sandwich. The sandwiches were prepared upon ordering, and were wrapped in pita-like (but thinner) bread. The lamb was crispy, with a kick, and its flavor did a terrific little dance with the eggplant in the baba ghanough. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what zough is – but whatever it is, it was good. We all loved this one.

turkey with avocado, tahini, spinach and tomato chutney – 3 – The turkey sandwich was a disappointment to one BYT-er, who had eaten it before and loved it, but found it a little bland and flavorless this time around. It wasn’t bad, necessarily, just not something she must have again. The chicken shawarma, on the other hand…

zuzu’s chicken shawarma – 4.5 – Presenting the exclamations made after bites of the chicken shawarma will suffice for a review:
“Holy shawarma, Batman!” – Jeff
“Shawarma me crazy!” – Will
“Is that a shawarma in your pants or are you just happy to be eating this shawarma?” – Bec
“Yaya-shawarma!” – Rebekah
“I love to nibble your shawarma.” – Kristin
“Yazuzu’s bringing shawarma back.” – Marshall
“I wanna do it to this shawarma” – Cale (obv)

hindbeh – 4.5 – Hindbeh is described as Lebanese braised dandelion and caramelized onion. It looks sort of like green swiss chard or collard greens – they’re a thick leafy green. And they’re amazing. A little lemon, a little sweet, juicy, and a lot of awesome.

chizu salad – 3.5 – Mixed reviews were reported for this salad of julienne carrots, toasted cumin seed and honey. I adored its bright orange color, the smoky cumin mixed with sweet honey, and the texture of the thin, crispy carrots; others found it uninteresting. (Whatever! I got the leftovers!)

hummus – 2.5 – At first I chided myself for ordering hummus since I have a vat of it at home at all times, and basically eat it on the daily. But as one BYT-er pointed out, it’s always smart to sample the simple stuff. He was right. The hummus was fine – but nothing to write home about. This is the sort of thing I want any Middle Eastern place to get right and get good – as right and good as shawarma.

mashed potatoes – 1.5 – This is why I only grudgingly take boys with me to BYT ME dinners – they are more simplistic an unimaginative when it comes to ordering food. They want to eat what they know (or think) will be good. The point is, every boy at this dinner ordered one side, and it was the mashed potatoes. And they weren’t very good! Bland, served kind of room-temperature or cooler (yuck!), and definitely not a classic Middle Eastern dish. Clearly on the menu for men who get dragged in by their girlfriends. Blugh. Live a little!, boys.

There are many more sides, salads and entrees that we didn’t sample, which only means we’ll have to go back. And we will go back. Because we loved us some yazuzu. We rated the overall experience as a 4.5! Yazuzu is a wild and unexpectedly cool escape from the mangy streets of Adams Morgan South (did I just coin that? I think I just coined that.) With a little more time, a little more red, and a lot more shawarma, we think Yazuzu is only going to get better.

Bec, your Jaded Palate, correspondent; jaded so you don’t have to be.

and now for the all important visuals:

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