When I lived in So Cal, the sky was the limit when I needed my fix of gyros with feta fries and tzatziki on the side. On Oahu, not so much. Greek restaurants are few and far between — but fortunately for me, my new place is six minutes away from one of the best Mediterranean restaurants on the island.
Yamas Mediterranean Cuisine is in the same plaza as The Food Company, Maui Mike’s Fire-Roasted Chicken and Round Table Pizza. Before my first visit, I always thought of the Moiliili poke shop when I heard the name “Yamas.” Not anymore.
We come for one specific thing: the super gyro, which is a half-pound of gyro meat (classic, seasoned strips of woven lamb and beef) stuffed inside a warm pita with tzatziki sauce. All pitas come with a choice of Greek salad, hummus, baba ganoush, spanakopita spinach-cheese filo pastries, dolmades stuffed grape leaves or garlic fries. We order ours with garlic fries and decide to share the monstrosity.
When the super gyro comes out, I’m a little disappointed. I thought it would be bigger and overflowing with meat. Then we pick it up.
This super gyro is some serious business. It’s basically a mountain of meat and tzatziki, with minimal greens. I’m glad — who wants an entire salad on top of their gyro? The strips of meat are crispy and garlicky, tender and tasty. Once we dig in, there’s complete silence except for the occasional “wow.”
The tzatziki is thick and creamy, with a good cucumber flavor and yogurty texture. If you’re a fan of tzatziki, be sure to ask for extra — it’s perfect for dunking the garlic fries.
The gyro is the most popular order, but the souvlaki ($12) is a close second. Choose between chicken, lamb ($13) or fish ($13), all marinated with lemon, olive oil and fresh herbs and served on warm pita bread. The hummus and pita are both made in-house, and the side is a generous serving. The chicken comes topped with the same tzatziki sauce as the gyro, and the flavors are outstanding — I taste the olive oil, garlic and herbs in each bite. It's hard to describe the flavor explosion. You just need to go experience it yourself.
Whatever you end up ordering, save room for dessert. Pecan baklava is the signature dessert, but there's also locally made cheesecakes (lilikoi, PB&J, coconut mac and white chocolate), a blondie, gelato (spumoni, cookies and cream, and rum raisin) and sorbetto.
I’m tempted by the cheesecakes, but then I remember: How often can I get housemade baklava?
The delicately flaky, crispy layers of phyllo dough. The nuttiness of the pecans and the fragrant cinnamon. The lusciously smooth vanilla ice cream. The medley of textures and flavors works so perfectly that all I can do is close my eyes and eat. The best part of the baklava is at the bottom, where there’s a pool of honey drizzle. If you order this, mix it all together so you get all the flavors in each bite. If you’re a purist, you can order the plain baklava for $5.
Takeout is more popular at lunch, but the restaurant is busy during dinner. It's BYOB and Yamas has a rotating selection of dinner-only specials.
… As if I need an excuse to go back.
Yama’s Mediterranean Cuisine
1020 Keolu Dr.
Daily 11 a.m.-9 p.m.