New Delhi, India
June 18, 2012
So, armed with almost no idea of what to expect, we went off to Yeti with a friend of ours for lunch. The restaurant overlooks the main road of Hauz Khas Village; keep an eye out for the restaurant’s black signboard, which you’ll see on your left as you approach from the main entrance to the village. From the road, it’s two flights up (no elevators here). We arrived when the lunch hour at Yeti was just starting, so we had no problems getting a table that was close enough to the window for us to have lots of light but none of the heat from the sun (I hasten to add: the air-conditioning pretty good).
Inside, Yeti is a pleasant mix of smart (white ceiling with recessed zig-zag lighting; brick walls; and minimalistic dark wood furniture) and ethnic: painted masks; wooden screens carved in auspicious patterns; prayer flags; lanterns hanging from a beam. The waiters wear tunics reminiscent of Tibetan or Bhutanese robes, buttoning on one side of the chest, and with a high collar.
Deciding what to order was a bit of a pain, because everything sounded wonderfully exotic—and yet puzzling. What, for instance, are ‘goat’s lights’? (We never did find this one out) What is ‘buff’? (beef, said the waiter, though further research seems to reveal it’s buffalo meat) What do goat’s lungs taste like? Left to ourselves, my husband and I would’ve probably have been fairly adventurous—but our friend, like non-vegetarian, doesn’t eat pork or beef (let alone ‘buff’ or the other more intriguing items on the menu). And, everything at Yeti is portioned in such a way as to be shared, not a per-person plate.
The dishes extend from Nepali to Bhutanese to Tibetan ones, and there are also a number of dishes from the North-eastern states of India. There’s pork, unusual cuts of goat, and some ingredients one doesn’t encounter in most North Indian cooking. For the sake of convenience, they also offer Nepali thalis (set meals) that offer you a cross-section of Nepali food.
Anyway, we placed our order and sat back to enjoy our drinks (fresh lemonades for all of us, even though Yeti does offer a range of other drinks, including beer, and Tibetan butter-tea, traditionally ‘seasoned’ with yak butter). The waiter also brought us a small complimentary plate to whet our appetites: boiled chickpeas (the small, dark-skinned variety), tossed with chopped raw onion, tomato, green chillies, salt and red chilli powder. With this came two bowls of sauces: a fiery-looking one made from coarsely ground red chillies—which looked too hot for any of us to attempt a taste—and a milder-looking one which turned out to be pretty potent, too.
First up was the appetiser we’d ordered, mushrooms in black bean paste, served with tingmo. Tingmo turned out to be a Tibetan steamed bread, layered like a croissant but with the soft chewiness and moisture of a Chinese bao. The button mushrooms, cooked in a nice sweet-sour sauce with a good bit of black bean sauce, was great with torn-off bits of the tingmo.
Our main course consisted of steamed rice, served with two curry dishes: kokra ko ledo (a Nepali chicken curry) and chickpeas cooked with black sesame. Also, we’d ordered chicken shabalay, a fairly large half-moon of flour pastry filled with minced chicken and deep-fried, something like an outsized fried dimsum. This, hot out of the fryer, was good, crisp on the outside and with a nice juicy filling that was mild but delicious.
The kokra ko ledo was good home style chicken curry (‘home style’ in India mostly means that it doesn’t have loads of cream, butter, nuts, raisins and other ingredients the run-of-the-mill restaurants like to add). The curry had spice, but wasn’t hot—just good, wholesome comfort food. My favourite, however, was the fantastic chickpeas with black sesame. These were small, dark chickpeas cooked in a sauce that just about coated them, a dark blackish-green sauce that wasn’t spicy at all, and was simply delicious. I couldn’t figure out what it contained: cooked chopped onions were the only ingredient I could identify. There would, of course, have been black sesame (as a paste, possibly? I couldn’t see any seeds), and the green may have been coriander leaves pounded into a paste.
Yeti’s dessert menu is brief. Very brief: a fresh fruit platter, and Häagen-Dazs ice creams. We decided to pass that up, and our bill—all taxes and service charge included—came to Rs 2,149. Not bad, for three people. Privately, my husband and I decided we’d come back soon to sample some of the more offbeat food.
Delhi Restaurants: Expat Hangouts,
The Many Flavours of Hauz Khas Village