Restaurant Review: Restaurant Review: Yamas Greek Kitchen + Bar

Inconsistent food and service mar influencers’ darling

The scallops at Yamas are plump and delicious, served atop a creamy dill sauce (Photos by John Anderson)

When it opened on Balcones Drive in mid-June, Yamas basically became an overnight sensation, thanks to word of mouth generated by social media influencers. Photos of luscious seafood dishes and drool-worthy cocktails – and highly filtered skin care girlies dressed for the club – flooded our Instagram feeds, fueling FOMO something fierce.

We made our first visit to Yamas on a Friday night, having booked an 8:45 reservation three weeks in advance (this is a place you need to plan ahead for). When we arrived, I was taken aback by how beautiful the restaurant is, its stark white walls accented with pops of bright Aegean blue and tasteful, sand-colored cushions. Myriad evil eye amulets ward off evil and bad luck; murals of Medusa and a giant octopus reference the darker parts of the sea; pink bougainvillea drips from the walls, lending the space a resort feel. You're definitely meant to feel like you're on vacation at Yamas.

A mural of a giant octopus overlooks a dining room

We were seated in the back dining room at a two-top against the wall – perfect for people-watching, as owners Hristos and Roxie Nikolakos flitted around the crowded dining room and Roxie's brother, ponytailed and suit-clad, wandered around doing card tricks for amused diners. The clientele consisted mostly of groups of four to 12 or more; there were many birthdays and bachelorettes celebrating at Yamas that night.

I was taken aback by how beautiful the restaurant is, its stark white walls accented with pops of bright Aegean blue. You’re definitely meant to feel like you’re on vacation at Yamas.

Because it was very busy, it took quite some time for our server to greet us. Once he arrived, he was gracious and hospitable, taking the time to walk us through the extensive menu (there are about 50 items listed), explaining the details of each dish (he even described the fish dishes according to how light to heavy they were). We chose the pikilia appetizer and a couple of cocktails, then settled in.

I loved my Greek sangria, with white wine and chunks of peach and strawberries; it was perfectly refreshing on a very hot late-summer night. My spouse enjoyed his Medusa Margarita, bloodred and rimmed with menacing black salt. The pikilia was delicious and a very strong "dips for dinner" candidate (BYO Gut Milk). The tzatziki was thick and creamy, redolent of dill and cucumber, while the Kalamata olive spread was the perfect blend of salty and umami. The hummus tasted fishy; when we inquired about it, the waiter was surprised to inform us that the kitchen had run out of hummus and replaced it with taramasalata, a dip made with fish roe, olive oil, and lemon juice (vegetarians may want to confirm that they are actually receiving hummus if they order this dish). The roasted pita was warm and delicious and, as we waited quite a while for our mains to arrive, generously replenished.

Dips can indeed be for dinner, and the pikilia mezze is proof

My spouse loved his scallops, four plump, fresh, perfectly cooked bivalves served atop a delicious dill sauce. I enjoyed my moussaka, a large slab of casserole stuffed with spiced ground beef, tender potatoes, smoky eggplant, and a creamy béchamel. We both liked the lemon potatoes, some of which were a bit undercooked but flavorful nonetheless. We left feeling full and happy, despite the unrelenting din (chatting over dinner is overrated, amirite?).

We returned for a double date with another couple a few weeks later. After we'd been seated for several minutes, our server, whose hospitality ethos could best be described as "perfunctory," greeted us coolly and took our cocktail and mezze orders.

I didn't care at all for my Artemis Spritz; the lime and cucumber juices overpowered the gin, mint, and prosecco (strangely, my friend's tasted much lighter and more balanced), while the Tasos Old Fashioned, described as containing bourbon, cinnamon, and nutmeg, was sweeter and less spiced than anticipated.

(clockwise from left) Amaro spritz, sangria, and Medusa Margarita at Yamas Greek Restaurant

The calamari was nicely cooked, with a light, crispy batter, served with a lovely aioli and lemon. The beet salad we ordered never arrived.

For dessert, we were served a lukewarm slab of tough, stale-tasting phyllo filled with a slimy custard. “It’s got hints of school cafeteria,” said my friend’s spouse.

We wandered into tempestuous waters with the entrées. My spouse opted for the chicken souvlaki, while my friend and I chose the seafood youvetsi to share and her spouse selected the short ribs. When our plates arrived, we were disappointed to see that the short rib and seafood entrées were basically interchangeable apart from the proteins: a too-large portion of orzo drowned in a tomato sauce that was a spoonful of sugar shy of Chef Boyardee, topped with a hunk of braised short ribs for him and a smattering of sad mussels and a few pieces each of calamari, lobster meat, and shrimp for us. That said, the short ribs were nicely cooked and seasoned, and fortunately weren't lost in that sea of tomato sauce.

The real kick in the pants, though, was the chicken souvlaki. While the chicken, which came in plump chunks on two skewers, was nicely cooked, it had precisely zero seasoning. Not even the accompanying thick, creamy tzatziki could remedy the lack of flavor. The fries, another too-large portion, were lukewarm and rubbery. They definitely didn't earn their spot on the plate. The price tag? Twenty-nine American dollars for underseasoned chicken and cold, inedible fries.

We reluctantly inquired into dessert; there are three options, two of which contain pistachios, to which I am allergic. So we opted for the galaktoboureko, which the waitress helpfully described as "like a bread pudding but with phyllo dough." What we got was a lukewarm slab of tough, stale-tasting phyllo filled with a slimy custard and swimming in a tepid, too-sweet cinnamon-honey syrup. "It's got hints of school cafeteria," said my friend's spouse.

Finally, it was time for us to launch our ships back out into the world, our Aegean adventure coming to a blessed end. The waitress, who'd spoken maybe two dozen words to us during the entire sojourn, dropped the check and I kicked myself for not having Apple Pay so that I could scan the QR code and hasten the end of a disappointing adjunct to that exciting earlier visit.

Ultimately, the inconsistent food and service sank Yamas for us. If you're looking for a restaurant to celebrate a special occasion alongside your favorite Instagram influencers but you don't care about the cuisine or the service, by all means, book a table at Yamas. But if you're looking for a thoughtfully curated, high-quality meal with service that's commensurate with the price point, you've got a big fat variety of better options.

Yamas Greek Kitchen + Bar

5308 Balcones, 512/243-7499
Daily, 4-11pm

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