Dish: Yak and Yeti
This is the first in an occasional series about eating establishments in neighborhoods near the Tufts campuses. Have a suggestion for a place for our roving diners to explore? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow Dish on Foursquare.
I confess to being a latecomer to the Nepalese-Indian eatery Yak and Yeti. A year or so old, the restaurant has already been discovered by Tufts lunch pilgrims whose midday hankerings draw them to Ball Square. Despite my tardiness in actually getting around to going, a recent inspection and sniff of their lunch buffet table while passing by one afternoon provided enough information for me to return and investigate properly.
While childishly disappointed that there were neither yaks nor yetis anywhere in evidence, I was impressed by the generous assortment of dishes on offer. The lunch buffet is priced at $7.95, or “cheaper than my salad from Pinky’s yesterday,” a co-worker participating in the tasting noted. Three of us spooned the confusingly named stuff onto our plates and a momentary hush descended as we ruminatively chowed beneath the photo mural of Mount Everest. I cannot remember who among us was the first to speak.
There seemed a large amount to accomplish if everything was to be tasted and reported on, but the escarpment demanded to be scaled. When approaching a table of buffet offerings, particularly at Indian restaurants, one is often left to translate the names of dishes by sifting through the chafing dish with a spoon to analyze the visible contents.
Granted, most of us are on a first-name basis with tandoori chicken and her soupy sister, chicken tikka, and any frequenter of Indian restos will surmise that aloo is potato. But some twists encountered in Nepali cuisine appear to be items such as the puffy square bhatura bread, a mustardy chicken achari and “broccoli,” which appeared to be simply the vegetable sautéed in ghee with garlic.
Several items stood out as notable successes, no small distinction under the circumstances of being left to fend for themselves on a steam table. The familiar vegetable pakora was given a fine rendition with a multi-textured, turmeric-gold interior, studded with bits of coriander and fennel seed. Even the ones left to soggify under the metal lid were memorably savory.
The tandoori chicken was deliciously smoky, and the chana masala was a model of its kind. I would have been very happy to eat nothing but the chana paneer, a lovely pottage of green peas and deep-fried balls of tender cheese—yum. The condiments here are uniformly outstanding. The raita was marvelously complex and for once not too salty, the onion chutney surprisingly subtle with a floral note, the tamarind chutney luxuriously plummy.
A few relative disappointments occurred where least expected. Instead of lentil dal, which can vary greatly but at its best represents a high point in Indian cuisine, there was a black-eyed pea dish called aloo bodi tama that was very similar to the chana masala but not flattered by the close comparison. The spinach dish, here called palak saag, while suitably green and gingery, was disagreeably bitter and blended to the consistency of baby food—yuck.
What’s for dessert? The Thursday we visited it was ras malai, tart cheese curds in a milky liquid flavored with rose water. Soapy, slimy and sour. I polished off an entire cake of it and proudly showed the empty dish to my lunchmates, who were both sadly too full to indulge in anything more.
Yak and Yeti, 719 Broadway, Somerville, 617-284-6227. Lunch buffet: 11 a.m.–4 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Fred Kalil can be reached at email@example.com.