Greek restaurant Yassou Tel Aviv is one of those hidden treasures in Tel Aviv that are worth knowing about. Located just off Hayarkon Street through a dark parking lot round the back of a small hotel, it’s not the kind of place you just walk past by chance. This may not be the most inviting of entrances, but once inside, Yassou offers a very warm Greek welcome.
From the decor to the music, Yassou, designed as a traditional Greek tavern, oozes authenticity. It's a lively place that attracts the younger trendy Tel Aviv crowd looking for something a little different. A huge open bar in the middle of the restaurant takes center stage, with various other seating options available in the split-level space. There is also a large terrace overlooking the Mediterranean for those who want to take advantage of the special location.
Tasked with making the food as authentic as possible is Israeli chef Aviv Moshe, who is well known for his upmarket chef restaurant Messa.
Moshe was joined by chef Tal Holtzer to create a varied menu based mainly on fish and Greek-style salads.
Messa is known for its sophistication and formal atmosphere, along with an innovate menu. At Yassou, however, it’s all about the intimate, fun vibe with traditional food.
Our waitress for the evening could not have been more friendly and inviting. She really wanted to make sure we had a good time, so she invited us to do shots of ouzo after each course, something she did with a number of other tables as well. In the laid-back spirit of the place, she joined in with most of the rounds of shots. That may explain why she was always smiling.
We started off with a huge portion of delicious fresh bread served with olive tapenade and fresh tomato sauce (NIS 24).
For our first course, we shared a number of different starters that were piled onto our large table one after the other by our waitress and her trusted trainee. Of all the starters we tasted, I liked best the mushrooms stuffed with foie gras served with tehina and spicy date honey (NIS 52). The rich flavors worked well together, while the date honey added an extra level of sweetness.
We both agreed that the grilled cherry tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella and balsamic vinegar (NIS 48) was up there with the best.
As a sort of intermediate course, we had one of the restaurant’s signature dishes. It may come as no surprise that the dish was a classic Greek salad with chunky pieces of cucumber, tomato, red peppers and onions with feta cheese (NIS 44).
Nearly every regular coffee shop in Israel has a Greek salad on its menu, but this one was different. The chunkiness of the vegetables, the rich taste of the cheese and the subtle dressing made it a Greek salad to remember.
By this stage we were positively full, but our very persuasive waitress convinced us to try the restaurant’s flagship dish. Thank goodness she was so convincing because it would have been a real shame to miss the fillet of sea bass, creamy mashed potato, sour cream, vine leaves and roasted tomato vinaigrette (NIS 98).
It was one of those dishes that were presented so well we didn’t want to ruin the perfect placement of each component. In the end, though, we were glad we did because everything tasted as good as it looked, if not better.
With the ouzo flowing and not being able to say no to anything our waitress said, we were talked into trying two large desserts. One of them consisted of frozen vanilla cream sandwiched between thin layers of brandy snaps served with cooked bananas, while the other was thick vanilla cream with blueberries topped with meringue and macaroons. Both were slightly unusual and extremely heavy, but that’s not to say that we didn’t polish them off with big smiles on our faces.
We had a great time at Yassou not only because the food was of a very high standard but also because of the fun atmosphere and the extremely friendly staff. Every Sunday they host a traditional party with Greek performers and traditional plate-smashing fun.The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Yassou Tel Aviv
105 Hayarkon Street, Tel Aviv
Open every day from 7 p.m. until the last customer leaves
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