Yanni’s Mediterranean Bar & Grill – Albuquerque, New Mexico

No Yanni come lately is Albuquerque's best Greek restaurant.

No Yanni come lately is Albuquerque’s best Greek restaurant.

The now defunct Albuquerque Monthly magazine titled a May, 1995 article “Yanni Come Lately,” heralding the arrival of a new Greek restaurant on Nob Hill.  More than a decade has elapsed since that article and Yanni’s Mediterranean continues to more than live up to the lofty accolades it has earned over the years. Yanni’s has been recognized by other national, regional and local publications for its outstanding cuisine.  It has also earned the unwavering devotion of teeming masses who patronize the city’s best Mediterranean restaurant.

In 1998, Gourmet magazine named Yanni’s a restaurant of distinction in the Southwest.  Southwest Airline’s Spirit magazine has also proclaimed it a great restaurant for Greek food.  More recently, readers of the Alibi voted Yanni’s as the best Greek restaurant in Albuquerque as well as the city’s very best restaurant overall in 2009.  Considering the vast improvements in the city’s restaurant landscape since Yanni’s launch a decade and a half ago as well as Albuquerque’s propensity for embracing the newest kids in the block, that’s a tremendous accomplishment for what is becoming one of the city’s venerable institutions.

Deep Mediterranean Blues Throughout the Dining Room

Deep Mediterranean Blues Throughout the Dining Room

In that time, more than Yanni’s reputation has grown.  The restaurant now occupies much of a city block.  Immediately adjacent to the restaurant is a swanky 75-seat Lemoni Lounge in which the most popular libations are available for every occasion.  Live music is provided every weekend.   A commodious banquet room with comfortable and private seating for up to 100 guests provides state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment as well as a special banquet menu.

Yanni’s Mediterranean is the brainchild of Nick Kapnison and his wife Chris Kapnison, veteran restaurateurs and successful entrepreneurs who have a keen grasp of what their dining patrons want–hearty portions of reasonably priced cuisine served in a pleasant milieu by an attentive wait staff.  Their restaurant delivers!

Warm, fresh bread from Fano Bakery in every meal.

Warm, fresh bread from Fano Bakery in every meal.

The south-facing Yanni’s is at the heart of Nob Hill on Central Avenue.  Its interior is awash in hues of azure, the shades and colors of the Aegean Sea.  Sculpted plaster busts and verdant plants sit atop truncated Corinthian columns.  The restaurant’s windows provide a panoramic view of the Nob Hill traffic and of the interesting shops that make this one of the city’s most diverse and interesting shopping districts.

Interestingly (and I’m certainly not complaining), the ratio of women to men always seems very high–or at least it has during the times we’ve visited.  Feminine pulchritude may account, in part, for consistently pleasant dining experiences at Yanni’s, but it’s degustation of outstanding cuisine that brings us back.  If you’d like to avoid crowds, Sundays are a good day to visit for when Popejoy is hosting a matinee event.  Once the event lets out, however, Albuquerque’s cultured crowd loves Yanni’s.

Spanakopita--there is none better in the Duke City!

Spanakopita–there is none better in the Duke City!

While you’re pondering the expansive menu, Yanni’s starts you off with some of the best baked bread in town (courtesy of Fano’s Bakery, a local institution).  It encapsulates all that is wonderful about the staff of life–a hard-crust surrounding a soft, yeasty bread.  When dipped into mixture of virgin olive oil and herbs (including chile pequin seeds), the character of the bread really stands out.  If you’re not careful, however, you can easily fill up on bread and still call it a great meal.

The mezathakia (appetizer) options are a veritable pantheon of prandial perfection (forgive the alliteration).  The challenge is in deciding which appetizer(s) with which to start.  If you favor simplicity instead of sophistication and sweet breath be damned, you can start off with Greek olives and feta cheese served with a generous amount of pita wedges.  The fetid feta spreads easily on the warm pita which tempers the acrid and salty fromage.  The olives are rich and briny.   You won’t find any better in the city.

Feta Psiti: Baked Feta with peppers, tomato & olive oil; Served with pita wedges

Feta Psiti: Baked Feta with peppers, tomato & olive oil; Served with pita wedges

A more complex flavor-rich starter features goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and roasted garlic served with pita wedges, a tasty triumvirate which spreads easily on the warm pita.  The soft, easily spread goat cheese and its strong and pungent, but very pleasant flavor is an excellent foil for the sweet acidity of the sun-dried tomatoes and the eye-watering garlic.   The resultant mix is absolutely delicious.

4 May 2014: If a cheese can embody a nation, it should be said that Feta is the flavor of Greece.  Feta is slightly pungent, delightfully soft and crumbly.  It’s also surprisingly versatile as Feta Psiti demonstrates.  Feta Psiti is baked feta with red and green peppers, tomato and olive oil served with pita wedges.  Baked feta isn’t quite as sharp or pungent as in its natural state, but it marries very well with red and green peppers. A single grilled tomato topped with the same seasonings used on the bread provides acidity and contrast.

Another wonderful pasta dish at Yanni's: Penne pasta with poached salmon in a Cayenne cream sauce.

Another wonderful pasta dish at Yanni’s: Penne pasta with poached salmon in a Cayenne cream sauce.

Not surprisingly, Yanni’s serves the very best dolmathes (wonderfully seasoned beef and rice stuffed grape leaves) in town.  Four of these wonderful treasures are served warm and drizzled with the whisper-thin tartness of Avgolemono sauce made with lemons.  You can also opt for dolmathes served cold and vegetarian style.

10 March 2007: Yanni’s saganaki, a dish of flaming Green Kaseri cheese is almost as much fun to see prepared tableside as it is to eat it.  Alit courtesy of a common lighter and incendiary rum, the flames ascend toward the heavens, leaving blue and orange plume trails in their aromatic wake.  Your well-trained attendant turns the cheese over with but a steak knife, manipulating the flames so they lick the cheese, imparting high heat through and through and with an evenness that ensures every bit of the cheese is flame-kissed.

Lamb Chops Marinated in Greek Oregano, Lemon and Garlic, Grilled to Perfection

Pork Chop Marinated in Greek Oregano, Lemon and Garlic, Grilled to Perfection

Yanni’s appetizers are better than entrees at many other restaurants and you can easily make a meal of two or three of them, but you’ll want to partake of incomparably prepared main courses.  The menu categorizes them into traditional Greek dinners; vegetarian entrees; steaks, chops and seafood; pastas; calzone and pizza.  The specials of the day might fall into any one of these categories and are generally terrific.

The pastas are primo good!  In fact, a daily special of Greek meatballs and fettuccine with marinara constitutes the very best spaghetti dish I’ve had in New Mexico.  The meatballs were heavenly spiced and of divine texture, wholly unlike the sawdust meatballs served at many local Italian restaurants.  It’s the entree I look for every time we visit Yanni’s, an entree which truly earns the sobriquet “special.”  Perhaps that’s why the restaurant features it as a “special of the day” and not as a daily offering.

Greek style chicken

Greek style chicken

Another pasta entree, appropriately named Mediterranean Linguini, is a gem of a dish which includes Kalamata olives, fresh Roma tomatoes, artichoke hearts, capers, sweet basil, virgin olive oil and marinara.  Talk about taste contrasts blending together to form something unbelievably wonderful.  The linguini, a wider noodle than spaghetti, is prepared at a bit more than al dente while the other ingredients are fresh and delicious, all perfectly prepared.

10 March 2007: Still another pasta entree that came from the daily specials list to capture my heart is a penne pasta dish with poached salmon, spinach and sun-dried tomatoes in a Cayenne cream sauce.  The piquant creaminess of the Cayenne sauce and well-seasoned salmon tastes play well on each other’s contrasts.  Salmon can be difficult to flavor and bad salmon is prone to “fishiness.”  Not so under the skilled skillet of Yanni’s chef where the salmon has a fresh taste, almost as if caught in the wild.   It is an absolutely perfect pasta dish!

Avgolemono, a chicken rice soup with lemon and egg.

Avgolemono, a chicken rice soup with lemon and egg.

10 March 2007: A departure from pasta dishes to meat based entrees is like departing Paris for Rome.  Both are wonderful in their own right and each is done very well at Yanni’s.  The Greek style chicken entree is, like many entrees at Yanni’s, prolific enough for two people to share.  It is comprised of a breast, leg, thigh and wing, all slow-roasted and flavored with lemon and flecked with garlic and oregano.  The skin is crispy while the chicken is moist and delicious.

27 March 2010: Partaking of Yanni’s bone-in pork chops is reminiscent of dining at a big city Chophouse where prime cuts of beef and pork are presented with pulchritudinous pork and beauteous beef clinging to a Flintstone sized bone.  At Yanni’s, the pork chops are marinated in Greek oregano, lemon and garlic then grilled to perfection.  These chops are moist and tender and at nearly an inch-thick, each and every morsel extricated easily from the bone is very satisfying.  Accompanied by roasted red potatoes potatoes resplendent in olive oil and Greek seasonings and deliciously bitter spinach, this is a terrific entree.

A fresh and delicious Greek salad

A fresh and delicious Greek salad

Several lamb based entrees are prepared in traditional Greek style and all exemplify all that is great about lamb.  Very little (if any) gaminess is ever found on Yanni’s lamb entrees, whether it be the lamb ragout, lamb chops or lamb shank.  Greek “fast food” in the form of Yanni’s gyros is an absolutely delicious, perfectly seasoned amalgam of lamb and beef swimming in tzadziki sauce and stuffed into a warm pita bread pocket.  There may be no better gyros anywhere in New Mexico.

10 March 2007: Entrees are accompanied by your choice of soup or salad.  For me, it’s a no-brainer.  The Avgolemono, a chicken rice soup with lemon and egg is the very best I’ve had anywhere.  Wholly unlike the sweet and sour soup you might find at a Chinese restaurant, it’s only mildly tart and blends tart and savory tastes in seemingly equal proportions.  27 March 2007: The Greek salad is certainly no consolation prize.  Artistically constructed of Romaine lettuce, red onion, cucumber slices, tomato wedges and lots of fetid feta, it’s as good and fresh a Greek salad as you’ll find anywhere.

Barcelona Pizza: Marinara, chicken breast, mozzarella, cilantro, prosciutto & red onions

Barcelona Pizza: Marinara, chicken breast, mozzarella, cilantro, prosciutto & red onions

4 May 2014: The menu lists six pizzas, each named for a European port of call.  Every pizza can be made into a calzone and you’re free to craft your own by selecting the ingredients of your choosing.  Baked whisper-thin on the restaurant’s pizza oven, the pizza has a nice char around the edges with bubbling cheese sharing canvas space with other ingredients.  The Barcelona (chicken breast, mozzarella, cilantro, prosciutto and red onions) is a very good pizza which would be made even better sans chicken (which tends to dessicate in an oven) and with the addition of whole garlic cloves.  It’s a personal-sized pizza cut into eight slices, several of which you’ll take home for lunch the following day.

4 May 2014: Not counting salads, there are four vegetarian entrees on the menu.  Contrary to what some believe, vegetarian is not synonymous with boring or tasteless.  There are few examples that prove this point as well as the stuffed acorn squash, a partially hollowed out acorn squash gourd stuffed with sauteed spinach, fennel, cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts, asparagus and mushrooms served with a dill cream sauce and garlic mashed potatoes.  Leave the dill cream sauce for the garlic mashed potatoes (which are rather dry) and partake of the vegetables alone.  The squash is prepared with brown sugar and butter, imbuing it with a slightly sweet flavor profile that blends well with the crisp, perfectly prepared and absolutely delicious vegetables.

Stuffed Acorn Squash: Spinach, fennel, cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts, asparagus & mushrooms served with garlic mashed potatoes & topped with dill cream-sauce

Stuffed Acorn Squash:
Spinach, fennel, cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts, asparagus & mushrooms served with garlic mashed potatoes & topped with dill cream-sauce

10 March 2007: A wealth of dessert options (if you have room) will satiate the sweetest of teeth.  From the traditional baklava to an inspired baklava sundae, Yanni’s has a dessert line-up with which no other Mediterranean restaurant can compete.  Our recent favorite is Galaktoboureko, a traditional Greek dessert made with a lemon-kissed custard in a crispy phyllo pastry shell.  The custard is (gasp, forgive the blasphemy) as good (if not better) as the very best natillas we’ve had in New Mexico while the light pastry shell cuts into the richness just enough so you’re not overwhelmed.  It is one of the best dessert options available in the city.

Galaktoboureko, a traditional Greek dessert made with a lemon-kissed custard in a crispy phyllo pastry shell.

Galaktoboureko, a traditional Greek dessert made with a lemon-kissed custard in a crispy phyllo pastry shell.

There are many reasons Yanni’s Mediterranean separates itself from the rest.  Quite simply, it provides one of the Duke City’s very best dining experiences.

Yanni’s Mediterranean
3109 E. Central
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 268-9250
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 4 May 2014
# OF VISITS: 9
RATING: 22
COST: $$$
BEST BET: Souvlaki, Greek Chicken, Mediterranean Pasta, Galaktoboureko, Gyros, Pizza, Pork Chops, Lamb Chops, Stuffed Acorn Squash, Feta Psiti

Yanni's Mediterranean Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

11 comments

  • Mara van der PaS

    This is in response to Gil’s “Sabor de Juarez” review. I wasn’t allowed to leave my posting there. I just took Gil’s Thrilling food blog off my favorites list. I won’t be reading it any more. Anyone who thinks that green chile is a perfect food by itself doesn’t have the gustatory acumen that I want to emulate. ‘Bye Gil.

    • Mara

      As you’re no longer reading Gil’s Thrilling…this response won’t incur your ire as other responses and reviews apparently have.

      As the sole moderator of this blog, it would be easy for me to delete any comments with which I disagree. Over the years, some readers who take umbrage with my opinions have disparaged my character, called me names and prevaricated about my integrity (i.e., the ridiculous claim that I “eat free almost everywhere I go.”) For the most part I don’t respond to these as they tend to reflect more on the person who writes them than on me.

      In fact, I’m responding to your allegation that you weren’t “allowed to leave your posting” on the review of Sabor De Juarez solely to clarify that I don’t censor comments unless they exceed societal bounds of decency. Unlike some ideologues, I don’t espouse the type of freedom of speech in which you can say anything they agree with, but anything with which they don’t agree is divisive and mean-spirited.

      My previous response to you does not stipulate that “green chile is a perfect food by itself.” It says “chile is one of nature’s absolutely perfect foods. It needs no amelioration.” Alas, while chile may be perfect, some chefs and cooks are not, ergo chile dishes that are far from perfect.

      I wish you good health, happiness and lots of cumin on your chile.

      Gil

      Green chile

    • Suzie Queue

      The chili on der wenershnizer has cumin and lots of it. I should know since I am expert on chili. There chili cheese frys are the bomb! LOL. Mara is right Gil you are a ranter. LOL. But I’m keepin you on my favorites list.

  • Suzie Queue

    I went last year and had there gyro. I relly like there gyro. I ate to of them they were so good. LOL

  • Jim Millington

    Wow! I am stunned to see that the last comment on Yanni’s was mine from just 1-1/2 years ago. The Child Bride and I went by tonight for probably the first time since then (don’t ask me to explain why it had been so long). At 7pm on Friday it was nearly empty where it once was packed. That did not stop the “maître d” from showing us to the most remote and generally crummy undesirable table in the place. When I rudely balked we were allowed to pick whatever we wanted. The Child Bride ordered some sort of combination Greek plate as she is wont to do. I ordered a Yellow Fin Sole, parmesan crusted, which I had never heard of but I thought it might remind me of the parmesan crusted Flounder I used to get. It was much better. Everything except the effort to hide us was better but the place never got half full-not like I remenber. Her leftovers will give us at least two breakfasts though.

  • Jim Millington

    We just made our 26th visit to Yanni’s but it was our first in over 3-1/2 years. We had just got tired of it and I had never found it very exiting. Last night it was as though we were stepping into a brand new restaurant. I had one of the daily specials, Baked Stuffed Flounder with Roasted Potatoes and Lentil Soup. I’m not sure how Greek the actual fish preparation was but I loved it. The Child Bride had her usual half order of Chicken Souvlaki and after stuffing herself she brought half home for breakfast. Her friend, the Italian Lady, was happy with half of her sole.

    I am unsure if my impression was because we hadn’t been there in so long or preparation was much improved but we had never enjoyed Yanni’s that much before.

  • Elise

    Their avgolemono soup is superb. I could easily eat it every day!!

  • Peggy Schmidt

    Correction to the review: Nick Kapnison and his wife Chris Kapnison
    The specials are outstanding and change with the season!

  • rpl

    While I have enjoyed every meal I have eaten at Yanni’s, I think the best entree item on the regular menu is the grilled parmesan-encrusted yellowfin sole. The crust is a crispy-cheesy treat and the moist fish inside is always sweet and fresh tasting.

  • lobo59

    In addition to all the good things Gil has written, this wonderful restaurant has great pastitsio. The vegetarian dolmathes are the best I have ever had and I have not had any better baklava anywhere in NM. We have eaten here many times and never been disappointed. As a bonus, the prices are very reasonable for the quality and the service is always excellent.

  • Randy

    I have to absolutely disagree on the Gyros at this place. Pre sliced gyro meat is something I can find at the grocery store. Bad gyro. If you dont have an Gyro spit you shouldnt even be a Greek restaurant. The Gyros at Olympia are far superior.

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