Austin and Greece don't have tons in common, but that's why husband and wife team Hristos and Roxie Nikolakos wanted to bring a slice of the islands over with them. Yamas (stylized YAMAS) brings the "Aegean blue" to the Lone Star State (5308 Balcones Dr.) this June 23, carrying with it traditional Greek cooking and an upscale coastal interior.
Hristos Nikolakos is chasing a big dream: He wants to "own the only authentic Greek restaurant that [is] up to par with the food from back home." Since this venture came out of hosting at home, it sounds like he has a shot. Although Austin does have more homey Greek restaurants than glittering modern eateries in our downtown acropolis, there is certainly a gap in upscale Greek food after the sudden disappearance of Simi Estiatorio, whose owner allegedly skipped town.
Ingredients come first in this plan, either locally sourced or imported from the homeland. The menu promises a "culinary journey across Greece's diverse regions," all prepared with traditional techniques by Chef Dimitrios Kelesoglou. The third-generation chef previously headed culinary efforts at Nisi, the Mediterranean restaurant at the Hilton Long Island in Huntington, New York.
Diners will enjoy this meticulousness in a variety of distinctly Greek dishes, like fried feta with sesame, honey, and walnuts; a grilled octopus salad with lentils, tomatoes, scallions, and dill; and several meat dishes featuring lamb, cod, and lobster. These things paired with orzo, horta, and lemon sound light and refreshing, although the full menu has not been finalized yet. Pair them with wines from Greece and America, plus beer and craft cocktails. Be sure to say "Yamas" — cheers in Greek — before sipping.
Even if the food turns out to be excellent, visitors will likely remember the space first. Like any great Greek restaurant, Yamas is almost entirely white with cerulean accents, and made unique from surrounding buildings with its wall niches housing Greek art and artefacts. Everything was designed by the couple and executed by Greek TX, Hristos' building company.
The cozy bench seating encircling the dining space gives it the air of a beach resort, even though the West-Central neighborhood is decidedly landlocked. Murals by Cabo-based artist Aurora Covarrubias include a giant octopus and Medusa, bringing a living Greek spirit to the space, which could otherwise appear museum-like.
"At Yamas, we aim to transport our guests to the coasts of Greece through rich flavors, warm hospitality, and cherished traditions," said Roxie Nikolakos in a press release. "We want to create an inviting space where everyone feels like family and can forge lasting connections over Greek cuisine that is so close to our hearts and heritage.”
Yamas is starting operation with limited hours from 4 pm to midnight every day of the week. Soon it will expand to brunch service on the weekends, and lunch service from 11 am to 3 pm. A soft launch on June 10 invites a limited number of guests for a preview during the two weeks before the official public opening. Call 512-243-7499 to reserve.
More information about Yamas is available at yamasatx.com. The restaurant is hiring "front and back of house professionals" with career days on May 30 and 31, from noon to 5 pm. Apply in-person at Yamas for an interview "on the spot."