Yava, the stylish new cafe and restaurant located in Wasl 51, takes inspiration from across the Mediterranean and ties it together with a modern twist.
Across Dubai, delicious Mediterranean cuisine isn’t hard to come by. But seeking out delectable dishes that are both familiar yet unconventional, in a setting that marries casual sophistication with location traditions, is not so commonplace.
Hence, we were happy to discover Yava, the casual dining spot which opened in Wasl 51 early this year. The menu is comprised of famous dishes from across the region that have each been given a Yava-exclusive twist. Likewise, the interior design adds a modern take to decorative traditions of those same countries, too.
Visiting the eatery for a late afternoon lunch, B Living UAE explored the menu and observed the appealing interiors. We later caught up with Kareen Khasho, who, alongside F&B Consultant Anaïs Zerdazi, worked on the concept behind the aesthetic. She ventured out to acquire the unique furnishings and decorative elements that make Yava simultaneously serenity-inducing and Instagram-worthy. And here’s what we discovered.
The city of Jaffa is a key source of inspiration
Upon arrival, one of the initial striking elements is the orange trees that greet us as we make our way through the courtyard.
As Kasho explains, “The interiors were inspired by the Mediterranean countries in a minimal yet fresh way that infused certain elements from the city of Jaffa, especially the orange tree out the front of the restaurant.”
That influence is carried into the restaurant, too, as greenery is placed between soft, peachy-orange furnishings; a pretty yet understated setting for sipping on coffee while studying or sharing stories and mezze dishes with friends as the evening falls.
The colour scheme is reflective of a coastal town
Step through the shiningly modern exteriors that make up Wasl 51, and you feel as though you’ve been transported to a quiet yet soulful coastal town along the Mediterranean Sea. The walls are white sand coloured, seashells are decoratively displayed within the tables themselves, and hues of cyan and teal make for chairs and decorative pieces.
“Yava is all about the details, whether they be small or large,” says Khasho. “From the furniture to the accessories, everything has been carefully selected to make the customer feel as though they’ve been transported from the hustle and bustle of Dubai. Almost as if they are on vacation,” says Khasho.
Locally sourced items tell a global story
Ask about the origin of most of the furnishings or decorative pieces – from the brightly coloured pots encasing dried florals to the sturdy but worn faded wood wardrobe at the front of house – and chances are there will be a story to tell. “We were committed to finding original, antique pieces that can add more value to the interiors,” Kasho tells us. “Handcrafted elements were a top priority for us.”
But one of the most striking elements (which can be easily missed, should you rush to be seated) is the bespoke tables spotted across the restaurant. Brass trays hold different trinkets symbolic of areas across the region, from bracelets branding the protective eye to mosaic coasters.
“The tables have an identity of different elements of the Mediterranean, from both the culture and cities, with glass encasing jewellery and other elements on the table. The colours and patterns that have been used in the interiors represent different parts of each Mediterranean country.”
UAE-based artists grace the walls
If you’ve seen Yava tagged in your social media feeds, there’s most likely one standout shot that’s crept up time and time again. “Our signature element is designed by Inkyways [Dubai-based artist and designer, Lourdy Ghorayeb]. It is an abstract line drawing that highlights a woman holding a jar full of dry flowers, representative of Mediterranean women of the past,” says Khasho. Simple, yet still compelling.
Colourful portraiture painting is also proudly displayed inside the eatery, and supporting local talent is very important to the team. “We’ve also included a gallery area for artwork to be displayed and sold if wanted. Our current artwork displays have been created by artists Amar Al Chaar, Z Al Khalidy and Manon Robillard.”
Artistic workshops held within the venue are also a regular occurrence, further supporting local talent – or simply providing a beautiful spot for some relaxing self-expression.
The menu brings a new element to traditional dishes
While setting here is satisfying in itself, the food served doesn’t disappoint either. Stand out menu items include, truffle mushroom soup served with gnocchis and toasted bread, lobster ricotta seasoned with lemon olive sauce, truffle oil and honey, and succulent lamb shanks served with creamy sun-dried tomato orzo.
We opted for the delicious North African tabouleh, baba ghanoush revisited, and the honey lemon salmon served with plenty of irresistible fresh bread, moreish coffee and refreshing juices. Although they sound simple, each dish quite literally bought something new to the table, leaving us more than satisfied with our dining choices. Naturally, the presentation and serving ware matched the overall aesthetics too, the perfect final touch on a beautiful meal.
Take a peek at more restaurant interiors here.