The first time I realized Ya Hala had a brunch was when it was listed as March of 2015 when they initially launched it and were recommended by Portland Monthly (Three Reasons To Try Ya Hala’s New Lebanese Brunch) and the Oregonian (Ya Hala’s brunch goes beyond bacon and eggs: Cheap eats). And then this was reinforced when shortly after I tried Ya Hala’s entry at the Portland Monthly Country Brunch last year of a Breakfast Canape with grilled potato, tomato marmalade, egg relish, and smoked lamb bacon was assembled on the spot by Chef Mirna Attar and team. It was one of the best bites of that brunch event, and so I knew I had to go.
Since then, I’ve been a few times. It’s located in Montavilla, at SE 80th and Stark, literally right across the street from famous brunch / fried chicken restaurant The Country Cat. Unlike The Country Cat though, each time I’ve been there has never been a line, and so I think Ya Hala is still one of the best kept brunch secrets in Portland.
Here’s a look at some of the dishes I’ve tried – they are huge, meant for sharing!
One of my favorite dishes to share is the Brunch dish of Fried Haloumi and Rainbow Carrots served with a Pomegranate Demiglace, Arugula and two Fried Eggs. It had me at the words Fried Haloumi. And, the additional Rainbow Carrots with the sweet Pomegranate Demiglace and the slightly peppery arugula make it seem healthy enough to justify eating fried cheese as part of brunch.
There’s also the Lebanese take on the classic, a Ya Hala Lebanese Brunch big plate of Lebanese Country Breakfast with house-smoked lamb bacon, house soujouk, fried egg, potato-mint hash. All the good breakfast meats of bacon and soujouk (the sausage) are here to share with your brunch party. I think I preferred the soujak to the lamb bacon.
The huge earthen bowl of Houmous Balila with garlic spiced garbanzos, classic homous, vegetarian ghee and pine nuts is F’s favorite. When you sit down, you are given a complimentary HUGE freshly baked and grilled pita to share, still warm, so this is a great accompaniment for the pita.
If you order the fried chicken dish, remind yourself that this is not going to be your crispy Southern fried American chicken. It’s Moroccan Fried Chicken, so it will be in a tangy sticky sauce that includes flavors of with onion and garlic with cinnamon and cardamom, so don’t expect crispy breaded chicken. The Moroccan Fried Chicken is served with couscous gratin and a fried egg.
Personally, I think the star of this platter is actually the creamy cheesy but fun texturally Couscous Gratin. Having this dish eventually inspired me to make a Israeli cheese couscous which I’ve shared before. They are a great mash up of the luxury of a risotto and a mac and cheese, combining their powers!
You can order this for dessert or just as a sweet starter, but the small brunch plate of Kanefe Bejeben, a sweet cheese pie served with a sesame pita and rose water syrup is definitely unique to Ya Hala by offering this Lebanese dessert. It’s gooey and yet feels like a perfect combo of rich and light. This is especially fine paired with that Turkish Cofee.
Have you heard of the Ya Hala brunch before? Have you had a Lebanese Brunch before, which of these food dishes I highlighted would you order? Where is your brunch secret spot?