IN THE KITCHEN Chef Yasmine Zakhary opened her first restaurant — Yaz’s Table in Abington — in March of 2018, after years of opening restaurants around the area for high-profile chefs, including Lydia Shire. Zakhary’s unconventional plan was to serve New American cuisine for breakfast, brunch, and lunch, but “yazzed” up with the flavors of her native Egypt and other Mediterranean countries. “I could have opened in Cambridge or in the Seaport, but I wanted to do it in my hometown,” she said. “I really wanted to bring something exotic and fun to the South Shore. I knew people wanted this; they just didn’t know it.”
Zakhary originally planned to join the FBI, but waitressing while in college made her realize she loved the restaurant business — and the chance it gave her to feed people and make them happy. She learned to cook from her mother, Maggy — who comes into Yaz’s Table to make her special falafel, humous, and tabbouleh — and refined her palette working with Shire and Chandra Gouldrup of The Farmer’s Daughter in Easton. The goal is to make diners feel as though they are in a friend’s home — assuming the friend is an adventurous and adept chef.
THE LOCALE Yaz’s Table shares a building on busy Route 18 with Cream, a seasonal ice cream shop, occupying the space that once housed Cream Etc., a breakfast place. The cozy 45-seat restaurant has wooden walls and floors and a decorative tin ceiling, and is decorated with items that Zakhary has collected over the years — many from her native country. There are beautiful handmade Egyptian plates on the wall, and portraits of King Tut and Nefertiti that had been hanging over her bed. The tables are close together and the energy lively and noisy.
ON THE MENU The menu is designed to accommodate almost any dietary restriction — a nod to the gluten-free, pescatarians, and vegetarians in Zakhary’s family — with lots of meat-free options mixed in with the short ribs and the sriracha maple-glazed bacon. Practically everything is made from scratch — including the hot sauce that Zakhary makes herself, guarding the secret of its eight ingredients that produce what she calls “Egypt in a bottle.”
Best sellers on the menu include the Nutella-stuffed banana foster French toast, served with a crème anglaise ($15) and the chicken and waffles served with the sriracha maple-glazed bacon and honey sriracha maple syrup ($15). The Benedicts also are popular, whether the traditional poached egg variety with an Egyptian flavor twist ($13) or the surf and turf combo with lobster and short ribs. The doughnut holes — enormous orbs of cakey deliciousness that come in different flavors on different days accompanied by various frostings and whipped creams ($9) — are another crowd pleaser.
The birthday cake waffle ($11) is topped with Fruity Pebbles cereal and whipped cream — a treat her mother made her every birthday into her 20s — and reflects Zakhary’s belief that food should be fun.
She put together the 12-bean blend coffee and nine-bean decaf coffee, which are supplied by a small coffee roasting company under the label “Yaz’s Table Houseblend.” “I was serving breakfast and I refused to have subpar coffee,” she said. Yaz’s Table also serves wine and beer, and some beautiful cocktails — including a salted chocolate bacon Manhattan and Egyptian rose petal mimosa.
In the spirit of encouraging people to experiment with new flavors, the restaurant has a “two-bite, two-sips” rule: If you take two bites of a dish and don’t like it, you can send it back to the kitchen and order something new. Ditto for the drinks. “Ninety-eight percent of the time, they love it,” Zakhary said. “For the other two percent, I respect that they tried.”
Yaz’s Table, 1209 Bedford St., Abington; 781-421-6118; www.yazstable.com .
Johanna Seltz can be reached at email@example.com.