I’m intrigued when restaurateurs open a second location. Often as not the reasons are pretty straightforward: As in “If it works here, why not there?”
However, the thinking behind Yak & Yeti Bistro (2958 West 4th. Ave., 604-428-4422) is a bit different. It’s the other half of Gurkha Kitchen—a Himalayan room we don’t get to nearly often enough—in the West End.
While Gurkha Kitchen is quiet, tucked away upstairs and more traditional, the new, Kitsilano spot is edgier (great tunes!), with more of a fusion take on Himalayan cuisine, and a nod to local ingredients, including beer and wine… They’re both worth checking out, though.
I love this style of food. Himalayan flavours are truly fresh and clean. And the staff are really friendly and knowledgable. I don’t know why Flying Tiger went down (although it wasn’t the same after Tina Fineza left). But Yak & Yeti looks like a worthy successor.
You can drop in for small plates and a drink — and take in some excellent funky tunes — or indulge in a full meal deal. Either way, you won’t leave disappointed. If you’re not familiar with this style of cuisine, it pays to take the time to listen while the accommodating staff explain.
I liked the emphasis on well-priced, decent local beers (such as Driftwood Fat Tug IPA and Russell Blood Alley Bitter) and smartly sourced B.C. wines, including Intrigue Riesling and Gray Monk Pinot Gris.
Spicing is deep and broad rather than sharp and piercing, emphasizing a purity of flavours. There’s also no shortage of vegetarian options, including a few that will seduce even the most determined of carnivores. They include the lightly spiced Himalayan specialty Aalu Achaar ($8), which raises the humble potato to new and surprising heights.
Among the wide range of small plates, the pulled local duck meat, fried with just the right amount of ginger proved to be a favourite ($9). Then again, so was the Yak Momo — a kind of Himalayan style dumpling, served with citrus and tomato based sauces ($12), as well as the tender, char-grilled and lamb kebab with fried potatoes ($10).
We found our small plates lineup surprisingly filling but did make a brief detour to the mains to check out the free-run chicken sizzler, which arrived as promised in a piping hot cast-iron platter. The meat was perfectly cooked on the outside, moist and tender inside and well-spiced, served with crunchy mixed vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower, with noodles ($15). A formidable and irresistible serving of poached spiced pears with ice cream and crunchy caramel proved to be the perfect close ($14).
Aside from a chance to further celebrate the unique style of Himalayan cuisine, the intent is to also offer a go-to neighbourhood haunt that balances a good atmosphere with a serious kitchen.
If it were my ‘hood, I’d be there at least a couple of times a week—and maybe even more!