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Restaurants & Bars 7

"Mesopotamian California Style" Cuisine: Yaya Is Back!

Melanie Wong | Apr 11, 200510:24 PM

O Mythos is dead, long live Yaya!

The site of a not that good Greek restaurant in my neighborhood is now the new home for popular restaurateur Yahya Salih. It opened less than four weeks ago. I'd not tried his cooking in various incarnations around the City. But whenever I'd mention that a sign for "Yaya Mesopotamian California Style Cuisine" had appeared nearby, my friends who knew the food would get very excited that he would be cooking again. They'd ask me to keep them posted on the opening, so here you are.

I stopped in last week for an early dinner on my own to check it out. It was interesting to see the former scenes of the Greek islands painted over with views of ancient Ur or the mural of the Parthenon turned into a Mesopotamian ruin. Modern Arabic music is piped in. Seated at tables at each side of me were long-time customers happily digging into the generous servings and commenting on what was the same as they remembered and what was new and innovative.

As I waited for my order, I enjoyed the poufy flatbread (thankfully served warm) with the addictive sesame oil dipping sauce tinged with fragrant zatar. I had the grilled Japanese eggplant with pomegranate sauce ($5) and the seafood mujadara with taratoor sauce ($15) as shown below. Prices are low and entree portions are big. Way too much sweet sauce on the charry, soft and sweet eggplant, but it was fine once I wiped some off and balanced it with the zippy cucumber salad. The mujadara had wonderful flavor, but the phyllo pastry was crunchy for about three bites then turned soft from the steaming bulger and lentil filling. This had three large scallops and three prawns and lots of pinenuts and fresh shitake mushroom slices in the filling. Unfortunatly, there was gritty sand in five or so mouthfuls. The taratoor sauce was my favorite part of this dish. For dessert, I had the Layali Baghdad ($4.50), a giant white brick (did I say portions were gigantic?) of semolina pudding topped with a baked layer of rich cream, powerful rosewater syrup, and gratuitous chocolate squiggles. After a bite of this heavy dessert, I had the rest packed up to take home and have finally finished it after four days of consuming a few spoonfuls for breakfast. They were out of mint tea.

All in all, I found the food interesting and good value. What it lacks in execution, it makes up for in exuberance and portion size. The entrees are large enough to serve two --- every table had boxes of leftovers. Service was enthusiastic and friendly. You'll get a lot of atmosphere and exotica for your dollar here.

Yaya Cuisine
2424 Van Ness Ave.
(between Union and Green)
San Francisco
415) 440-0455
Dinner only
Tuesday - Sunday
5:00 PM - 10:00 PM
Valet parking available



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