As I walked down Westminster Street one day in May, I did a double take. Since I last passed the historical Tilden Thurber building, once an appointment-only antique furniture showroom, it had undergone a stunning transformation into Yoleni’s, a gourmet Greek market, deli, and restaurant.
Yoleni’s may have taken Providence by surprise, but the company already operates a thriving online food store as well as a large culinary center in Athens. Providence’s location is their first American outpost. Any Greek market in downtown Providence would be exciting enough, but Yoleni’s goes a step above, showcasing traditional and regional products by smaller producers.
The market and deli are open daily from morning through evening, and the dinner menu (Topos) is offered six days a week. Yoleni’s space is open and sunny, with the deli counter on one side, ample seating to the other, a neatly arranged market in the rear, and a central staircase leading to a mezzanine with extra tables.
On my first visit during opening week, I tried a pita from the deli. In this case, pita refers not to bread, but to a filled pie similar to a small calzone. Happy with my experience, I was eager to try the Topos menu.
A dinner experience at Yoleni’s starts with warm flatbread pieces served with olive oil and herbs. Our bread did double duty with our Mixed Spread Variety sampler, which included taramosalata, a creamy fish roe spread; Kopanisti, red pepper and goat cheese; and tzatziki, a garlicky yogurt dip. We enjoyed all three but especially the tzatziki, which showcased the luscious Greek yogurt also available at the market and deli.
We made quick work of the Marinated Octopus appetizer, impressed by the tenderness of the octopus slices. Our Choriatiki Salad was a summer rainbow of cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, olives, capers, and feta. The salad was a large portion, even for two.
At the time of our visit, there were eight entrees on the menu and I would have been happy to order any one of them. If you made a Venn diagram of traditional, creative, and healthy, these would fall in the intersection. I chose Sea Bass with Beetroots and Seasonal Greens. I’m not sure if this is typical, but my portion of sea bass was enormous, easily half a pound. I loved the contrasts in this dish – crispy fried skin with smooth white fish, room temperature jewel-like beets with warm, wilted greens. It was such a vibrant and healthy dish. My husband had Papoutsakia, eggplant halves stuffed with ground meat and bechamel sauce. The dish’s name means “little shoes” in Greek (halved eggplants look a bit like shoes, right?)
We both requested the recommended wine pairings with our entrees. Mine was a mineraly white made from vidiano grapes, an ancient grape from the island of Crete. My husband’s red came from Nemea, arguably Greece’s most important red wine region. True to the restaurant’s mission, all wines, beers, and spirits on the menu are from Greece.
For dessert, we enjoyed the Chocolate Mosaic Cake. A similar dessert in Germany and Italy is known as “chocolate salami,” which should give you a clue about its appearance. A cylinder of dense, fudgy chocolate cake studded with crumbled biscuits is sliced into salami-like rounds. We were so enthused I had to Google a recipe on the drive home.
If you enjoyed the menu, you can shop it – many of the ingredients are available for sale at the market. And the market is open until 10 or 11 pm most nights, so you can finally get some shopping done after dinner instead of on an empty stomach.
292 Westminster Street • 500-1127