Friday, October 22, 2010

Yamas - It's All Greek to Me

There nothing better than being greeted with a bite of baklava while walking to work. How can anyone say no to the sticky and nutty pastry that hails from the Middle East? The dessert makes you want to lick your fingers to ensure you can savor every sweet morsel. That was my serendipitous introduction to Yamas, a new family-owned Mediterranean spot in Bethesda. Since then, it has become my go-to lunch spot.

The first day I went to Yamas I was treated to a sampling of their side dishes and I ordered a side opa fries, which are topped with feta. When I took my first bite of the roasted vegetable orzo, I was immediately transported back to the shore of the Mediterranean. The vegetables were clearly fresh and not at all mushy (a common problem). Although the fries were a tad mushy, the seasoning and the feta gave them the extra kick they needed.

Yamas (which means “to our health” in Greek) is quite proud of how they prepare their gyros. The menu proclaims there is no pressed meat in the restaurant (unlike what you find at most other Greek restaurants in DC and around the country). Instead they create their own meat cones which are made with naturally raised beef and lamb. The difference is apparent from your first bite of the ubiquitous sandwich. The flavors are much more pronounced, especially when coupled with fresh tomato, lettuce and onion and served wrapped in fresh pita. And do you want to know the best part about this version of the fresh Greek sandwich? It will set you back a mere $6.95.

If you head to the restaurant between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday – Friday you will be greeted with $5 mezze. Be prepared to gobble down fresh spanakopita, calamari, kolokithokeftedes (a.k.a. zucchini fritters) and other dishes. All of the offerings live up to the fresh label and are a good value since you can easily make a dinner out of the small plates.

I think that Yamas is still a bit off the beaten path, but something tells me it won’t be that way for long. They have already appeared on Todd Kliman’s 25 places he would spend his own money and Washington City Paper had a nice piece on the meat at Yamas. So get there sooner rather than later and be prepared to be transported to the Greek Isles.

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