Himalayan Hunger

How does Yak & Yeti stack up to big city competition?

By Lingbo Li

Between the massive nations of India and China is a tiny, landlocked crescent called Nepal, a diverse home to 30 million residents whose cuisine is beginning to take hold in the Boston area.

Himalayan Hunger

It’s not hard to see why. Nepalese food holds similarities to the cuisine of its two famous neighbors, borrowing spices and flavors from both. You could mistake some dishes as a milder Indian curry without the cream, while others weave in the ginger and garlic inflections of a Chinese stir fry. You’ll find noodles and dumplings, rice and curries. With the Himalayan Mountains guarding the Chinese border, the food you’ll encounter is closer to Indian, happily residing on the same menu as chicken tikka masala.
Yak & Yeti (; 719 Broadway), named after two famous Himalayan residents, opened in the middle of last year with a dual Nepalese/Indian menu. But in typical Scout go-getter fashion, we’re not merely satisfied with trying out Somerville’s entry in the race. We’re doing a dual review, lining up Himalayan Bistro (; 1735 Centre St) in West Roxbury as a competitor.
And since we don’t expect you to forgo the pleasures of your nightly saag paneer, we’re going to compare each restaurant’s Nepalese offerings with the Indian dishes you’re already familiar with. Who will come out on top?

If you like samosas…

… or especially dumplings, you’ll love Nepalese momos. These dumplings are filled with anything from yak to veggies, and served with a tomato-based sauce. Yak & Yeti’s platter of vegetarian momos had thin, pliant skins with slivered cabbage and carrot inside – a mild, almost bland appetizer. Himalayan Bistro, on the other hand, swung to the spicy, pickled side of the spectrum with hits of turmeric, ginger and garlic. Both were served with a thin tomato chutney.
If you’re sticking to your beloved samosas, Yak & Yeti trounces Himalayan Bistro. In fact, Yak & Yeti has one of the best samosas this writer has eaten – golden dough encasing a well seasoned filling of peas and potatoes. The competition wasn’t bad, but samosas at Yak & Yeti were standout. If it consoles Himalayan Bistro, their attentive service trumped the competition’s.
Winner: A tie on the momos – but honorable mention to Yak & Yeti for excellent samosas.

If you’re a fiend for chicken tikka masala…

… you’re out of luck, sort of. Nepalese dishes don’t use cream, so that popular tomato-based cream curry stays firmly on the Indian side of the menu. But don’t hesitate to explore the other side, which features both the savory gravy and tender dark meat chicken of Yak & Yeti’s Kukhurako Tarkari or the spicy, fragrant broth of Himalayan Bistro’s Kukhura ko Masu. You’ll find ginger and garlic in the flavorings, adding welcome variety to your entrees. The best dish we sampled was the hauntingly tasty grilled goat – Khasi Ko Sekuwa – at Yak & Yeti. “I’d like to eat my way out of a pile of this,” my friend commented as we jockeyed for the last, orphaned scrap.
Planning on getting your dose of tikka anyway? Yak & Yeti racks up more points for tandoori chicken bathed in intensely rich, sweet, and tomatoey sauce, a chicken tikka masala to dream about – and we’ve had quite a few. It would be wise to order naan to mop up leftovers. Himalayan Bistro has a fine rendition of the classic, but it pales in comparison.
Or you can do what the gluttonous do: Get both the chicken tikka masala and a Nepalese entree. You’re welcome.
Winner: Yak & Yeti.

If you’re craving saag paneer…

… you’ll find vegetarian dishes to satisfy you. Nepal has a history of intertwined Buddhist and Hindu traditions, meaning plenty of meatless options. The most traditional Nepali meal is a trio of dishes called Dal bhat tarkari: a spiced lentil soup, boiled rice, and a spicy vegetable curry called vegetable tarkari. Yak & Yeti lists this as a set meal ($17.95) while Himalayan Bistro offers the dishes a la carte.
We asked the attentive waiter at Himalayan Bistro for the best vegetarian dish. He pointed to Bhanta ko Tarkari, described as diced eggplant pan-roasted with tomatoes, onions, peppers, and of course, ginger and garlic. It’s an unassuming description for a firecracker of a dish that packs in the creamy, smoky notes of roasted eggplant with vegetable crunch and chili-laden heat. Is it like saag paneer? No. Worth a try? Definitely.
If you’re set on something milder, the spinach and tofu of Tofu Ra Palung at Yak & Yeti does the trick. Along with momos at the same restaurant, it pointed to the eerie flavor resemblance between Chinese and Nepalese cuisine – it could have flown under the radar on a Chinatown menu as another soft tofu dish.
Indian food fans will find that the palak and saag paneer at both restaurants are comparable: comforting, like your favorite winter sweater.
Winner: Himalayan Bistro.

And a few bonus tips

If you’re a fan of sweet and sour chicken in Chinese restaurants, try Nepalese Chili Chicken, which tastes like a spicier, less gloppy version of its American-Chinese brethren.
Don’t skip dessert at Yak &Yeti. Their kheer badami, a creamy rice pudding, was scraped clean even after eating a gut-busting meal.

Overall Winner

Yak & Yeti, for bolstering their Nepalese offerings with equally strong Indian offerings. This way, you can have the best of every cuisine, no matter what mood you’re in, or what countries you’re in between.

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