• Review website (Yasmen doesn’t seem to have a site)
  • Location: Beaverton
  • Price to fill up (and I mean fill up) two people: $60

I chatted idly with the Yasmen employees while I waited for Robyn to arrive. “It’s only 7:00 so I guess we’re kind of early?” I asked, gesturing at all the empty tables. Most of my Middle Eastern and Mediterranean friends recoil in horror at the thought of dinner before 9:00 PM, so I figured that our early arrival explained the lack of patrons.

But they shrugged. “You come here on a weekend and this place will be so packed you can’t get near it,” one smiled, “But during the week? This is pretty typical, any time of day. Nobody here.”

Yasmen is way the heck out on the Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway in Beaverton (next to the Tillicum Lounge, which I’ve never quite had the courage to visit). They serve Lebanese food in a large old restaurant filled with comfortable divans and pillows under great big tables. There’s a bandstand in the lounge area, lots of casbah decorating, and on weekends I’m told that there’s belly dancing. They offer hookahs in four or five fruit flavors for $16; a refill is only $10.

We sat near an electric fireplace loaded with camel figurines and inlaid wooden boxes spread out like an offering. Wall-mounted LCDs played the latest Arab pop videos (since I’m a big fan of rai, I was happy to see a couple of those thrown in), and the people at the only other occupied table told (apparently) hilarious jokes in Arabic.

I usually make a beeline for the appetizer page in a middle eastern restaurant; that’s usually where you’ll find the most variety and the best bargains. We ordered a couple of salads and a platter of hummus, baba ghanouj, falafel, stuffed grape leaves, i.e., the typical middle eastern combo, along with a baked chicken and sumac dish.

Overall impression: Not bad if a tad overpriced. Didn’t make my tastebuds leap to attention, but it was definitely worth eating. There were a couple of lowlights: The falafel was overcooked and the baba ghanouj was salty (well, actually, the chef could tone down the salt overall). But the chicken was very good and they used fresh mint leaves in the tabbouleh, which brought them up a notch in my estimation.

‘Long about 9:00, a well-dressed man mounted the lounge stage, powered up his keyboards and started to play. He was joined after awhile by a second man who began softly crooning in Arabic. Very nice voice but not conducive to a quiet chat with your cousin, so Robyn and I took our leave.

I don’t know that I’d travel far for the food at Yasmen–it doesn’t hold a candle to places like Nicholas–but it’s more fun.