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Just Say Yas

Yas Restaurant
Traffic Stop: Drivers on Saratoga Avenue can escape rush hour inside Yas Restaurant.

Photo by Christopher Gardner

Persian palace offers a meatless feast

By Andrew X. Pham

WHEN THE TRAFFIC is particularly riotous, we like to duck into a curious-looking place on Saratoga Avenue to mellow out over a seven-course Persian vegetarian feast ($34 for two diners). Anyone who has driven this stretch of asphalt must have noticed the white-coated and navy-trimmed dollhouse/marina cafe with round windows. Inside, a leaf-patterned carpet, chandeliers, mirrors and linen tables with stemware evoke a country club aura.

We primed our appetites with pita bread and mast-o-musir ($2.50), a yogurt sauce blended with diced cucumber and mint. The sauce redeemed the parchment-dry bread, which was store-bought--unfortunate, because it was the vehicle for many courses. But fine flavors and artistic presentation prevailed in other offerings, such as kashke bademjan ($5). This is definitely the most regal item on the menu, very posh and satiny: sautéed eggplant infused with Eastern herbs and decoratively layered with caramelized onion and yogurt. It tasted even better than it looked.

Homos ($3.50) arrived on a plate like a paprika-gilded sun with a sprig of parsley. Cream-smooth, this blend of garbanzo beans, tahini sauce, olive oil and paprika was subtle and faintly sweet, a true vegetarian treat.

Featuring mostly table wines, the very short wine list had two decent choices, a Clos du Bois chardonnay ($5.25 per glass) and a Robert Mondavi cabernet sauvignon ($29 per bottle). We also sampled a glass of doogh ($1.50), a spectacularly sour yogurt drink made with carbonated water and herbs--refreshing, but first-timers might not be able to guzzle a whole glass.

The cook presented his four dolmeh ($5.50)--grape leaf rolls--like compass points on a sunset-hued saute of citrusy onion and butter. Cooked in lemon water, the leaves lost most of their bitterness and became pliant, scented sheets for their cargo of rice, split peas, nuts and herbs. Tangy and very flavorful, these are some of the best around.

We ordered the vegetarian kebab ($8.95) more for the fluffy basmati rice than for the "charbroiled" veggies, which wore crusty black coats on the outside yet were just barely cooked on the inside. The kebab was quite good, although we longed for something a little more exotic than saffron-laced mushrooms, bell pepper, quartered onions, zucchini and tomatoes.

For dessert, there were batani ($2.50), a chunky Persian ice cream, and zoolbia bamieh ($2.50), sweet Persian pastries. Both finished off the meal very well with tea.

Yas is located at 1138 Saratoga Ave. in San Jose, 408/241-5115.

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From the May 29-June 4, 1997 issue of Metro

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