RESTAURANT REVIEW : Saying Yes to Persian Food at Glendale’s Yaas


Once meat and potatoes, Glendale is now full of small, colorful ethnic restaurants--places where you can sample the world’s cuisines at suburban prices. Yaas Restaurant stands near the head of the list; it’s one of the most authentic Persian kitchens around. Many of the dishes here compare favorably with similar ones served in Westwood, where the Farsi-speaking community is concentrated. Prices do too.

Yaas (it means jasmine) bills itself as a Persian-Armenian dining room. On a quiet downtown street, it looks more like a ski lodge than a restaurant. The walls are paneled in stained wood, with plenty of disco-style mirrors hanging on them. But look more closely, and you notice that a dark Persian rug hangs on a back wall. Listen more carefully, and you hear mysterious music emanating faintly from speakers. In Glendale, exoticism is understated.

American Heart Assn.

But what comes out of this kitchen certainly is not. Owner Madhu Gandhi’s menu offers most of the traditional Persian favorites. Yet unlike many of those Persian restaurants in West L.A., several dishes are marked with hearts, indicating that they have been approved by the American Heart Assn. This is accomplished because Gandhi trims his meats religiously, using little oil in preparation. Much of his food is light and lean.


The dishes that aren’t marked with hearts are divinely heavy. In the best Persian tradition, these dishes are full of nuts, oils and the bounty of the region they represent. And despite the raised health consciousness of the management, they are the better dishes in the restaurant.

Best of all is kashk budemjoon ($4.99), fried Japanese eggplant dripping with kashk, a fragrant, thickened yogurt. Atop the kashk is minced garlic, a crunchy fried spice topping made from dill, cilantro and plenty of olive oil. You dip the eggplants into the wonderful, piping hot, sesame-topped house bread, and sprinkle the whole thing with chopped fresh onion. If there is a more soul-satisfying appetizer in town I don’t know about it.

Exotic Yogurt

Other starters are good too. Dolmeh ($3.89), stuffed grape leaves, are more familiar to most, but these are dolmeh with a twist. Besides being far meatier than those in Greek or Lebanese restaurants, they are topped with garlic yogurt. Yogurt fanciers will be pleased to note that there are mint and shallot yogurts on the appetizer list. Just try to find those in your dairy case.

The extensive kabob list is the heart of this menu, and probably what most people come for. I found the kabobs rather hit and miss. Barg ($8.99), a fillet steak in thin strips, had very little flavor, despite being lean and tender. Other Persian restaurants must use more marinade, or tastier meat. Ditto for the koobideh ($5.95), a long, tubular skewer of ordinary ground beef, which tasted Middle Western, rather than Middle Eastern.

On the other hand, lamb chop kabobs ($11.95) were wonderful, meaty, juicy and flavored just right, with the meat falling from the bone. Shrimp kabobs ($11.99) were equally fine, eight large, slightly blackened shrimp, with a pungent lemon-garlic butter as an inspired compliment.

Good kabobs notwithstanding, I would say the stews and specialty dishes here make more pleasing main courses. They are homey and comforting, big enough to share, and more interesting. My favorite of these is fasenjoon ($7.99), chicken floating in an impossibly rich sauce made from walnuts, pomegranates and stock. The sauce is sweet and grainy, the texture of pipian (a Mexican sauce made from pumpkin seed). A few bites of it are enough to make anyone swoon. How one person is expected to eat the whole thing is anyone’s best guess.


Slightly lighter (but also plenty filling) is bagali pulo ($6.99), lamb shank in tomato stock with a lima bean rice overwhelmed by a mountainous heap of chopped dill. I’d personally choose the chicken cherry ($7.99), known in Farsi as albaloo pulo. Yaas’ version is a tasty rice reddened by the juice of sour cherries that aren’t really sour, flanked by an excellent flame-broiled chicken kabob. The chicken kabob itself is not on the menu, but is the best kabob the restaurant serves, tender, juicy and pleasantly spiced. The mild pungency of the rice balances it well.

Coffee and Dessert

Try to save a little room for those sticky desserts. Persian ice cream ($2.65) is perfumed and creamy, loaded with pistachios and the scent of rose water. The Heart Assn. wouldn’t come within miles of it. I like zoolbiah ($2.45), swirling rings of floured batter that are deep fried and drenched in honey; they remind me of the Tunisian pastry shops in Paris. And there is always that thick, sweet, muddy coffee, called Armenian coffee on the menu. I wondered why Yaas billed itself as a Persian-Armenian restaurant. I guess it must be the coffee.

Recommended dishes; kashk budemjoon , $4.99; aashreshteh , $2.99; lamb chop kabobs, $11.99; shrimp kabobs, $11.99; fasenjoon , $7.99; chicken cherry, $7.99.

Yaas, 110 E. Wilson Ave., Glendale (818) 242-8648. Open 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, till 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Beer and wine only. Parking in public lot across the street. Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa accepted.