Yaya Restaurant

Cliché-Free Greek Cuisine

October 23, 2019By Heidi EllisonRestaurants
The Secretan branch of the modern Greek restaurant Yaya.
The Secretan branch of the modern Greek restaurant Yaya.

Friends who have been to Greece (I haven’t yet, unfortunately) say that the food is simple, fresh and delicious, although others add that such dishes as moussaka and souvlaki can become rather monotonous. Not having much experience with Greek restaurants in Paris, except for Les Délices d’Aphrodite and a few delis, I was delighted to have a superb lunch recently at Yaya that was indeed simple, fresh, and delicious, and not in the least monotonous (there was absolutely no mention of moussaka or souvlaki on the menu). “Yaya,” by the way, is what grandmothers are called in Greece.

Octopus with dandelion leaves.
Octopus with dandelion leaves.

A group of seven of us had gathered to celebrate a Syrian refugee friend’s recent receipt of the French equivalent of a 10-year green card. We started our feast with a few shared starters from a list of mezes, beginning with a marvelously tender roasted octopus tentacle served with dandelion greens and Kalamata olives.

Smoked eel with eggplant purée.
Smoked eel with eggplant purée.
Figs with feta.
Figs with feta.
Feta a la plancha.
Feta a la plancha.

That was followed by delicious smoked eel with eggplant purée and a crispy tuile; roasted and pickled figs with creamy feta and pistachios; and feta a la plancha with Peloponnesian honey and smoked almonds. Each one was as good as the next.

Bass ceviche.The ceviche was delightfully fresh and well-accompanied by confit lemon, coriander and Kalamata olives.

Kalamata olives.
Kalamata olives.

The Kalamata olives on their own were the best I have ever tasted and went beautifully with the delicious homemade bread.

Beef pastilla.
Beef pastilla.

Then we each ordered a main course. My pastilla of beef was fabulous: super-tender shredded beef with a hint of cinnamon in a filo-pastry crust served with a marvelous carrot-and-orange purée (but without the eggplant purée and Swiss chard promised on the menu). I loved it.

Lamb shoulder.
Lamb shoulder.

The slow-cooked confit lamb shoulder, which came with eggplant roasted with honey and vinegar, won many kudos as well.

Vegetarian platter.
Vegetarian platter.

The only main course that fell down on the job was the uninspired vegetarian offer, which is left up to the chef. That day, it consisted of a pale tomato and a couple of pieces of zucchini stuffed with rice, with a few cherry tomatoes and a vegetable purée on the side. The two friends who ordered it did not look very happy.

Yogurt mousse, honey, mango coulis and pistachios.
Yogurt mousse, honey, mango coulis and pistachios.

Those wonderful olives showed up in many dishes, but I didn’t hear anyone complaining. A couple of chopped ones were even added to the fantastic yogurt mousse and honey dessert with pistachios and mango coulis. They added a nice little burst of saltiness.

Roasted figs au gratin.
Roasted figs au gratin.

The other dessert we tried was roasted figs (it’s the season) au gratin with the most amazingly flavorful pastry tuile, just drenched in butter and honey.

I hope to get to Greece soon, but until then, I will be dropping into this branch of Yaya and the one in the suburb of Saint Ouen (8, rue de l’Hippodrome, Saint Ouen) as often as possible, gaining strength for the trip abroad from this modern gourmet version of the healthy Mediterranean diet. 

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