Hi!! You made it to my first food post, on the new blog. I actually posted my “first” first post yesterday – the April Workout Playlist – but this is the first food post so I’m going to count it as the “official” one. Of course, I thought there would be no better opening post than one about a restaurant known for it’s kebab (and other delicious Persian food). Thanks for stopping by and continue reading for my first review…
Where: YAAS Grill House @ 1629 Lonsdale Avenue, North Vancouver BC
Yaas Grill House is definitely the busiest Persian restaurant in all of the city. It is located in North Vancouver on Lonsdale Avenue, home of the most visible Iranian immigrant population in Vancouver. All up and down Lonsdale there are Persian grocery stores (Persia Foods, Vanak, Ayoubs) and a plethora of Persian restaurants. You can literally smell the grilling kebab meat as you walk up and down the street.
Environment: Casual, busy cafeteria-style Persian restaurant with kebabs, daily special stews, and various side dishes.
Yaas Grill House started as a small, hot buffet take away station inside the Yaas Market (now called Vanak) on 19th & Lonsdale. You could do your grocery shopping and then swing by their take-out counter and grab a well-priced kebab platter on your way out the door. Although seating was very limited, the hot food area was always packed.
Luckily, Yaas decided to break out of the grocery store and open up their own restaurant, Yaas Grill House (with much more seating!), just a few blocks down Lonsdale. The cafeteria style restaurant, where you place your order and pay at the front till, then take a number and find your own seating, is packed to the brim – anytime of the day. The thing I like about Yaas is that it has a huge selection of Persian dishes, a much larger selection than any other Persian restaurant I’ve been to. You can order the usual kebab platters (many different kinds) and stews served with rice but they also have seasonal specialties (Fried Trout & Sabzi Polo for the Persian New Year) as well as dishes you rarely find outside of your home kitchen (Salad Olivieh – the Persian version of potato salad).
*Yaas Grill House is opening a new location a few blocks North on Lonsdale (@ 21st & Lonsdale) and it appears to be a bigger space! I’m looking forward to it because everything is nice and new and shiny (and there are chandeliers!). No official opening date has been released, yet.
Service: You don’t really interact with the servers past ordering/paying at the till and having your food dropped off at your table. The waitresses seem focused on getting all the food out, efficiently, to the hungry hoard. With that being said, I’ve never had anything other than friendly and patient service. Not once have I felt rushed to order and get out of the way, even in the middle of their busy dinner service.
I will mention, however, that I watched a server at Yaas that was so patient and kind to two women who kept trying to order food that was specifically not Iranian (they didn’t even bother looking at Yaas’ menu). These women kept asking for samosas (India and Iran are two different countries, believe it or not) and then, when they weren’t able to order the samosas, they proceeded to order “Greek” dolmades – which are also not on the menu.
I was kind of flabbergasted at the level of ignorance one has to have to not even care to research or figure out what kind of food is offered at a specific ethnicity’s restaurant. This young waitress was very patient and took the time to explain, in detail, what every dish on display in the hot bar was to these two women (who then proceeded to leave the restaurant without buying anything anyways). People amaze me everyday and not always in a good way, unfortunately.
Kashkebademjan & lavash – $6.99
(Grilled Eggplant dip w/ onions, fried mint & garlic, kashk drizzle)
The amount of toppings on this dish was perfect – very generous kashk (dried yogurt) and fried dill/onions but the actual flavour of the dish was lacking. I felt like it could have used more something – what that something was though, I ‘m not sure. It was almost like the onions weren’t caramelized for long enough? I’m really just guessing. It was good though and I would probably order it again if I was craving some and just too lazy to make it at home. Comparably, I do prefer Mehman restaurant’s Kashk-E Bademjan but I would order this dish again, when at Yaas.
Fesenjan w/ Basmati rice – $8.99 *Saturday Special
(Chicken breast meat in a ground walnut, pomegranate paste stew served on Basmati rice)
True story, this is my absolute favourite Persian dish. I never, ever ate it growing up because my Mom is super allergic to walnuts and therefore this dish couldn’t even be prepared in our kitchen without her having a reaction. So I just never ate it (deprived childhood, I know) unless I was at a friends house. And when I did get a taste – ohmyyyy. I just loved it. It’s a VERY rich dish so you really can’t eat a ton of it without becoming sick but oh I pushed that envelope, many a time. Needless to say, I’m such a fiend for it that I love this dish every time I eat it and I’m probably not the best judge on whether this was a “good” batch of Fesen Jan or not (to me every dish of Fesen Jan is freaking amazing).
Saffron Koobideh with 1/2 rice & 1/2 salad – $12.99 + $1.99 for half rice/half salad
(2 skewers ground beef kebab -koobideh- basted in saffron butter during grilling served w. 1/2 basmati rice, 1/2 house salad)
There is only one thing better than Kebab Koobideh and that is Kebab Koobideh basted in saffron butter whilst being grilled. To be honest, I just thought this was how Kebab Koobideh was made because that is how my Dad has always done it. This is like going to a restaurant and ordering Kebab Koobideh but with an extra bit of love added to it. Adding melted butter to anything makes it taste good but there’s something about the mixture of creamy butter, fragrant saffron and the fiery grill that perfectly combine to make this dish 100x better. To the best of my knowledge, Yaas Grill House is the only Persian restaurant that offers you the option to order your Koobideh this way – for a price, an additional $2 for 2 skewers. Do it, just trust me.
Very affordable, homestyle cooking in a casual (but at times, hectic) environment. I would recommend take-out as the environment can get a little loud and cramped during peak times – unless, you like a little hustle and bustle. They also turn the (Persian) music on and off intermittently, which is a little strange but I’m guessing it’s so the cooks can hear each other at the grill.
When dining at Yaas, I highly recommend ordering the Saffron Koobideh. Grilled meat basted in saffron infused butter? No brainer, must try. If you’re unfamiliar with anything outside of the kebab realm, ordering one of the many stew varieties at Yaas is a good way to get a broader scope of Persian cuisine. I found the Fesenjan flavourful and tasty but the dish could have used more chicken to balance out the abundance of super rich sauce. As with many culture’s cuisines, these types of dishes aren’t regularly available outside of one’s home kitchen and if they are, they taste quite different because every family has their own special tweaks to the recipes passed down between generations. Still, ordering these types of dishes, when available, will broaden the scope of your understanding of the cuisine’s offerings (just maybe don’t fully judge the taste of said dish until you’ve had it prepared in a friend’s home).