Himalayan that won’t make you yak.

On a recent, relatively dry evening, my girlfriend and I took another trip to Jackson Heights, with our target being the Himalayan Yak restaurant that I saw on our way back from Zabb on our last visit.  Himalayan food, you say?  The menu I grabbed declared it a Nepali (or is it Nepalese? – menu has both words, frustratingly), Tibetan, and Indian restaurant, which I suppose makes sense given that the two countries and Chinese territory more or less encompass the entire range of mountains (where’s the Bhutanese food…um, seriously?).

Sietsema had mentioned the place in his 2002 list of top Asian restaurants, but at the time, it was apparently called “Tibetan Yak.”  Would the addition of the advertised Nepali food knock the quality down a notch (the Indian that you and I are familiar with is really not in evidence)?  I wouldn’t know either way, given that this would be my first visit, and I don’t exactly have a lot of experience with Tibetan or Nepali food, with one Tibetan dinner in EV many moons ago, another in Berlin still further eons in the past and zippo Nepali food, to my knowledge.  Nonetheless, dearest readers, I was (and, indeed, always am) prepared to take on new cuisines of nearly any variety, without regard to my safety, and report the results to you (for example: durian – my recent sampling of bean cakes featuring that stinky “King of Fruit” reminded me that a sometimes-overefficient olfactory gland and food that smells like arse may frequently get along poorly).

So, my girlfriend and I claimed at table at Himalayan Yak (we were starving, by the way) and ordered up a storm.  For starters, we ordered La Phing, a cold spicy bean jelly with a garlic, vinegar, and soy sauce, from what I suppose is the Tibetan menu (unmarked) and the combination platter titled “Samayabajee” from the Nepali menu.  The La Phing ($4) was much like the almond tofu described yesterday in texture – more gelatinous than what we typically think of as tofu, despite its soybean origins.  (Quickly: when you read bean jelly, what bean did you think of?  If it was green beans, you’re on the same page as me – no matter how many bizarre implementations of soybeans I eat, my free-association for beans will always be green.  Thanks, mom.)  The garlic, vinegar and soy sauce made a delicious topping for what otherwise would have been a bland dish (the spicy was oversold, I think).  Sietsema liked it, but it’s probably not worth $4, in my estimation.

We were happy, though, to have something to cool us down when the Samayabajee ($6) arrived.  An excellent way to try several different Nepali appetizers, Samayabajee consists of chhwela (roast spicy morsels of what I think was lamb), achar (a diced potato, radish, and cucumber salad, with a spicy sauce), bhatmas (flattened dry rice), and the singularly titled “O,” which was a still-more-spicy lentil dish.  These were my favorite dishes of the night, despite the weird, parchment-paper-like texture of the bhatmas, and I would order them again in a heartbeat – they’re available separately, so I may be ordering two of the individual dishes next time.  But, again – save for the bhatmas, they’re all pretty spicy, so a mango lassi may be in order, if you can spare the $3.

Our mains were shapta ($11), a beef stir fry with garlic, ginger, green onions and chilis, and paytsel ($8), which was bok choy greens stir fried with beef.  Of the two, the paytsel was the clear winner – simultaneously spicier and more flavorful, the cabbage and beef went together nicely.  The shapta wasn’t bad, but it more or less seemed to me reminiscent and not particularly more unique than the Guangxi stir fry of several weeks prior.  A redder and spicier sauce, to be sure, but it didn’t contain a particularly unique flavoring.  It did come with one tingmo (Tibetan steamed roll, much like a Chinese steamed bun sans pork) instead of the advertised flatbread, which I thought was delicious and would certainly order again (a la carte, this is $1).

I’m sure many of you would like to know about the momo (Tibetan dumplings), but we didn’t order any and regretted it while watching nearly every other table receive their round, wooden steamer (is there a word for this?)  The problem is that they’re really expensive!  At $7 for steamed and $8 for fried for eight dumplings, I would certainly hope they’re really good.  Even without dumplings, the dinner we had was a bit on the expensive side for my taste, but it didn’t necessarily have to be (I blame the shapta).  My strategy for this restaurant will next time be thus: get a couple of the individual dishes from the Samayabajee platter, get the paytsel, and, if I’m dining with more than one other person, try some kind of dinner entrée from the Nepali menu.  If there’s a sauce to be sopped, I’ll get a tingmo or two.  I think you could keep the check near $10 a person this way, and at that price point, Himalayan Yak would be a delicious deal.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Himalayan that won’t make you yak.

  1. Anonymous

    Tibetan Yak and Himalayan Yak are different restaurants. Both still exist, to my knowledge. And Himalayan Yak is owned/staffed/patronized by Nepalis (many who are of Tibetian descent). So to say that the existence of Nepali food on the menu might bring down the quality is a bit puzzling. I would pick the Indian dishes as the ones to not fit. But who knows their rationale.Bhatmas means soybean in Nepali. The flattened dried rice was probably chhewla (or chiura as is usually called). You can find it sold in big bags at the Indian stores, though I can’t recall what they call it.Nepalis use the term “Nepali” in their native tongue, Nepali, when referring to aspects of their culture. “Nepalese” is an AngloSaxonization of “Nepali.” I’ve heard that one form refers to the people, and the other to the culture. Either way, it’s a bastardization. One would be fine just using “Nepali” as the universal adjective/noun. Unfortunately, many Nepalis seem to have gained confusion upon translation, as exemplified by the menu. Nice review. I’ll need to go get some momos soon.

  2. Sietsema just reviewed this restaurant this week, and apparently Himalayan Yak replaced Tibetan Yak.

  3. ilovegoodfood

    I must say that himalayan yak has the best nepali/tibetan food in nyc…i have been to other nepali restaurants in ny but nothing is comparable to YAK. The food is excellent..i tried the chicken momo, nepali daal bhat with curry(my mouth is watering), and chicken sekuwa(appetizer), and not to forget ALOO DUM (nepali potato dish). The food ranges from mild to spicy. I prefer spicy but you can always request mild or medium(make sure to do so). The staff were very friendly and hospitable. I loved the interior design…it was reminescent of old nepal!! They also have live music nepali/hindi/tibetan and a bar..so its fun even on a weekend nite!!! i will def go back again and again.

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