With a shared love of food, Danielle and Carlo Berdahn jumped at the opportunity to open a second location of their beloved Mediterranean restaurant, Yella (a common Arabic expression meaning “Let’s go”), this time with views of Gloucester Harbor.
Yella on the Water opened late summer with a spacious deck with views of Gloucester Harbor. While the menu draws heavily on favorites from the original Andover restaurant, the fishermen hauling in their catch less than five minutes up the road have brought some new influences to the menu. Carlo, who grew up in Lebanon, oversees the kitchen and has added more fish options while keeping the Middle Eastern inflection that has made the restaurant’s reputation.
The basil & mint crab cakes are a perfect example of the new combinations. The crab cakes, which are a staple in Andover, now feature Jonah crab—a locally sourced cousin to Dungeness crab—whenever available. Typically bycatch from lobster traps, Jonah crab is sweet and tender. The bright, light crab cake, served with a pickled fennel and orange salad, is elevated by a yogurt-based dipping sauce flavored with lemony sumac and garlic. The resulting dish is quite different from the classic, in the best possible way.
The couple is devoted to offering scratch-made and local fare wherever possible. The yogurt for that dipping sauce is made in-house, as is just about every other condiment, right down to the ketchup. Mint for most of the dishes at both locations comes from the Berdahns’ own substantial garden, and spices that aren’t available here are imported directly from Lebanon; the couple travels over to select the herbs themselves.
Unique takes on classic dishes abound on the menu—take the chicken wings a la Provençal. Crispy, meaty little drumettes and wingettes (the parts you get when you cut apart a chicken wing) are bathed in a bright blend of lemon juice, garlic, tomato, and cilantro, rather than a more traditional sweet or spicy sauce, making the dish light and fresh.
Similarly, fresh-shucked local scallops take a vacation to the Mediterranean in an entrée that will be familiar to fans of the Andover location. Crusted with imported spices, the shellfish takes on a slightly peppery heat, balancing its natural sweetness. Served with sautéed brussels sprouts, toasted nuts, and a wild mushroom coulis, the dish is a terrific bridge from summer to fall.
Chef Carlo gets a text every day from the local fishermen, letting him know the day’s haul. To take advantage of this timely information, Yella runs specials most nights, and has also added the Fisherman’s Catch of the Day, a changing selection of fish rubbed with Za’atar—a blend of sesame seeds, sumac, thyme, and other aromatic spices.
Looking for something heartier? Many of the favorites from the Andover location have traveled east, including the butcher’s choice grilled steak and the braised lamb shank, served with couscous, roasted vegetables, and a tart-sweet pomegranate molasses glaze. Or, if you like some heat, check out the new house burger, flavored with harissa, a chili paste popular in the Middle East and northern Africa. Topped with cooling avocado aioli, raw cabbage slaw, and an egg, it’s a bit messy but totally worth it.
Save room for dessert; the sweets are all made in-house and show the same exotic influences as the rest of the menu. The Vanilla Crème Fraiche Panna Cotta is light and delicately spiced, with subtle hints of citrus. The bread pudding will change with the seasons.
The drinks menu includes cocktails featuring local spirits and fresh-pressed juices. Wines are selected by Danielle, who has the connections to bring in everything from small production wines from Lebanon to Aqua di Cedro, a limited allocation floral-citrus liqueur from Italy made. It’s a perfect nightcap to enjoy on the deck, watching the waves.
25 Western Ave., Gloucester, 978-491-5334, yellagrille.com