Yak & Yeti Bistro

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Sometimes a name is all you need as a reason to visit a restaurant. “Yak & Yeti” are certainly as enjoyable to say as it is pleasing to the hear. Walking up to and into the bistro we didn’t know what to expect. Though with seasonal lights still hung up against the awning and more strung up along the railing that boxed in the patio, there was no chance of missing our destination. Their off beige sign posted high in line with the roof, had in small white print, “modern Himalayan street food”. Though visible it wasn’t something that immediately caught your eye. So this and having no other signs at eye level indicating the cuisine, had us walking in without an opinion. And once inside, looking around the room certainly didn’t offer any additional clues.

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The space was heavy on the wood with highlights of brick. Hard wood floors, tables, booths, and chairs. All nice, but nothing note worthy. Each table was pre-set with cutlery and red useable napkins. The napkins gave things a fancier touch, a little too much for the casual setting. There wasn’t much else in terms of decor. A poster of a beer here and picture framed there. Nothing that really spoke to their theme or cuisine. Similar to the menu, we just didn’t get it. We wanted something that represented their food, and nothing made mention to their name. Not a picture of a yeti or a yak in sight. I understand they were going for a modern translation, but with the setting and the bluesy music it felt more like a Louisiana BBQ house. And as I always make note of, we pay for the whole experience. The setting in which you eat in is almost as important as the food you have when dining out.

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The only thing that stood out was the wicker made curtains separating door ways. A series of loops strung together in over 15 strands. Each hung from the door frame to the bottom and held the similar function of a beaded curtain. They created contrast and led attention away from anything that may not have been the most visually appealing behind. This may have been the only decoration that was authentically Himalayan. I failed to ask.

We did ask our server for clarification on the bistro’s name. And after a stumbled answer about it being a commonly used term in Nepal just outside Katmandu, and her not being able to explain the food other than it taking traditional flavours from Nepal and Tibet; we were eventually told today was her first day. In hind sight this might have been obvious, as she went along with my accidental use of the term “Nepal-ian” when speaking of the cuisine. It should be “Himalayan”. After this, majority of our staff interactions now came straight from one of the owners in tonight. After seeing me snap pictures and us asking numerous questions, he introduced himself and made every attempt at giving us the full experience of his restaurant.

The menu was a condensed list of appetizers and entrees. Nothing seemed familiar and with this being the first exposure to the cuisine, nothing immediately jumped out. Having said that out loud I would have liked more personalization from our server, a suggestion for beginners, a recommendation of her favourite? Though maybe being this new she has yet to be given a chance to try the menu, to find out what she does and doesn’t like. Something that should be a part of all restaurant on boarding before new staff start work, a training that often gets forgotten. In the end the one suggestion we got from the owner turned out to be the best dish of the night.

Disappointingly, the word “Cocktails” were on their drinks menu, but none were listed on the limited sheet. And with no other list we were forced to rattle off drinks we wanted. All this just to only find out that there was nothing but baileys on shelf. A disappointment that could have been easily avoided by fact checking the menu before presenting it.

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“Parallel 49 Old Boy Classic Ale”. Rich malt flavours of caramel, toffee, and light chocolate. Surprisingly an easy to drink brew, despite is intimidating dark complexion. Subtle enough to pair well with the heavily seasoned meal ahead.

Majority of our dishes came like nothing we imagined. Their names gave no clarity and their descriptions offered no further understanding.

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“Duck fried with ginger”. Locally raised duck meat fried with ginger and herbs. The meat was shredded to a pulp and cooked to a coal-like black. Though despite its charred look the duck was tender. The herbs were rich, sadly they effectively masked all and any taste of duck. I would have preferred it served as full cuts of duck breast. The dish needed a better base than a spoon of puff rice. Having the meat shredded like this, you expect it to include a floor tortilla or some bread to be eaten off of. By itself it was almost too salty and too greasy.

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“Chatpate”, a spicy sour tasting mix of chickpeas, puffed rice, potatoes and herbs. Like the dish before we didn’t predict this. Reading its name I don’t know why, but I immediately expected it to come like a pate. This was more like a salad, the perfect cold side for a hot slab of meat. The curried potatoes stood out with their larger chunks and really defined the taste. The salad as a whole was very lemony with heavy vinegar used, the temperature and texture reminded me of a picnic potato salad. It was a refreshing zesty starter, one the owner commented as being a good compliment to beer.

We were most intrigued with the “Malekhu Maachha”, a bone in smelt fish fried with spices. Though after placing the order and having several minutes elapse, we were graciously informed that they were out of fish for the night. This was curious as there were only three other groups seated, and it was 7pm on a Friday night. Though the situation was salvaged with the owner recommended “mono” in its place.

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The “Yak mono” turned out to be the best dish of the night. Not surprising that this is the favourite street food of the Himalayas (as the menu pointed out). With two varieties we choose the meat based over the vegetarian, after confirming that the meat inside was indeed going to be actual yak. This would be the first time I have ever had yak. It turns out “momo” are stuffed flour dumplings. With an outer wrap similar in taste and texture to the skin of Chinese dumplings and Japanese Goyzas. The yak meat in each bundle was fall off the bone tender. Surprisingly soft given my impression of yak meat being tough. The dumplings came with two dips: a tomato chutney and a mint cilantro chutney. The tomato offered a sweeter heartier taste, and the cilantro a slightly sour burst of citrus.

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The bone in chicken soup that was also included was a nice addition, though it offered a taste that didn’t necessarily pair with the dumplings. It was a rich bodied broth with a miso soup milk-like texture. A fully developed aroma that could have only been acquired through the long process of bones simmering over low heat. Shame they didn’t use yak bones to better tie together each element of the dish.

Each entree came with a choice. We were given the option to choose our level of preferred spiciness. A system of mild, medium, and extra spicy.

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“Goat pickle”, now that is a catchy name. It is slow cooked locally raised goat, served bone in, in Himalayan spice. My guest customized this with brown rice over white and chose to have it extra spicy. Given its presentation, having the meat bone in may not be the best idea. Yes this ensures the goat is extra tender and its meat is very flavourful, but the hazards of biting down on bone are increased when they are hidden in a lumpy mix of brown. The cinnamon and nutmeg mixed in was noticeable and easily identified. And although the dish was not initially very spicy, despite the request for it to be so, the spice was present in a haunting after taste.

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“Lamb chop”. Described as being a special cut of meat marinated in red wine, yogurt and spices; before it is grilled to perfection. Hand down this was the most exciting entree. Served on a sizzling hot stone plate you could hear the meat cook and the vegetables continue to sear, as it was carefully set before my guest to avoid burns. The char on the lamb was the best part. Though not evenly done, a few edges were brunt to a blacken crisp. Not only did this meal come with a few generous cuts of lamb, it was also piled high with crisp and colourful vegetables and chewy French fries. With its familiar flavours and the distinct taste of lamb, I found this to be my favourite entree.

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“Chana tarkari”. Chickpeas mixed with seasonal vegetables, and flavourfully cooked in fresh spices. Very similar in look and taste to curry. A one note dish that wore down after the first few initial bites. A distinctive blend of spices that made it hard to match with other dishes. So strong it overwhelmed the flavours of our other dishes. The cloves present in the rice gave it a nice twist. Though being less observant could have made this a painful bite down. A dish like this and the goat pickle is best served in a round with others. A share platter of spices and stews to be eaten with individual bowls of rice. An easy way to keep the palate excited.

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“Chicken sizzler”. Free run chicken mixed with natural spices and green herbs. This too was served sizzling on a hot plate. The chicken was a tough white breast with handsome grill marks. A thick cut that could would have been better if cooked less and made juicer. The marinade failed to permeate its inner layers and lots of the thick curry hinted sauce was needed to add flavour. The lack of adequate seasoning resulted in the need for me to sprinkle on additional salt. Something that I don’t like doing at any restaurant, and something I don’t think should be done if food is prepared properly. The noodle was a welcomed base, though fairly over cooked, it was on the cusp of being too mushy. Overall I didn’t find this dish anything particularly special or unique to the restaurant. It actually reminded me of a lot of Indian tika masala.

Looking at dessert the options were between a poached pear and ice cream. And after we declined and I voiced my disappointment in both lacking authenticity, the owner reassured me the pear would be poached in the traditional Himalayan spices. Although this fact was worth something, it was not enough to have my curiosity peaked, and to have me willingly spend my money on something I am skeptical of. I would suggest a more unique dessert offering, really using the modern style of their cooking to bring in well known desserts and add a unique ethnic twist to if. Curry cheese cake. Cardamom creme burlee.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Having this as my first peak at Himalayan cuisine, I can conclude my experience was a success. It was an unusual blend of spices and ingredients, made comfortable for our North American palates. Doing so through the fusion of familiar ingredients like French fries and noodles. I was appreciative to have visited in a group of four and be given the opportunity to try a lot of different things. If I was to only have had one dish I would have found it tiresome. So recommend doing the same if you decide to try “Yak & Yeti” for yourself. As I mentioned earlier a the food would be better suited as tapas or small plates to share. Though over all the menu offered a good mix of veggies and meat for all eating types. Sizeable portions that are not offensive to palate, giving the ability to try more cultural foods for those with less exciting stomachs. Overall the food was interesting, but like the un-trying decor, nothing to gush over. And although the food was less than memorable the service from the owner is certainly worth coming back for. Not only did he salvage a night of confusing answers, but gave a warm hearted invitation to try their other restaurant located downtown Davie. Don’t deny your cravings.

YAK & YETI
2958 West 4th Ave, Vancouver BC, V6K 1R5
604-428-4422
yakyeti.ca
Yak & Yeti Bistro on Urbanspoon

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