Restaurant Review: Yak the Kathmandu Kitchen

New Year’s resolutions don’t need to be onerous; they can be educational, even joyful. For example, consider resolving to try new things, such as broadening your culinary horizons and sampling the cuisine of another culture. A perfect place to do this is Yak The Kathmandu Kitchen, tucked into a strip mall on Dauphin and specializing in Nepali Indian fare. (The “Yak” in the name refers to the large, long-haired Himalayan ox, which is important to that region for transportation, milk and meat.) The restaurant’s owner, Salam Singh Lama, hails from a remote village in Nepal. He came to the United States in 2006 to study business management at the University of South Alabama and opened his restaurant in August 2012.

“Nepal is a small, but culturally and geographically diversified country between China and India, ” Lama says. “So the food has influence from both of these two giant nations. Our food is cooked in traditional Nepali style with Nepali masala, which is a mixture of many herbs and spices from the Himalayan Mountains.” The menu is extensive. Perhaps the best way to venture forth is to sample from the smorgasbord of dishes available at the daily lunch buffet, including several curries ranging from the classic chicken and vegetable to the more exotic goat. There is tandoori chicken; chicken tikka masala, above; dal fry (a thick, spicy lentil soup) and more. My personal favorites are the saag paneer and vegetable korma.

For those seeking the more familiar, other options include vegetable fried rice, chow mein and the chicken chille (akin to Chinese sweet and sour chicken). The Momo chicken is a Nepali specialty, and Lama says it’s a signature dish. The tender, spiced dumplings are served with flourish in weaved steamer baskets. For children, or those with timid taste buds, order the cheese naan, a Nepali version of a gooey quesadilla.

For dessert: creamy, fresh rice pudding; gulab jaman (small fried balls of dough in syrup); and homemade mango ice cream. There is no alcohol for sale, but you are welcome to bring your own or purchase from the package store next door. The decor is simple and eclectic, featuring both a disco ball and Oriental lantern lighting; however, the atmosphere takes a backseat to the excellent gastronomic adventure.

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Saag Paneer
Like a Nepali version of spinach Madeleine, this dish of lovely creamed spinach dotted with firm cubes of cheese is nicely spiced and delightfully addictive.

Vegetable Korma
An array of seasonal vegetables are bathed in thick, creamy, slightly sweet, slightly savory, slightly spicy tomato and coconut milk sauce.

Shrimp Vindaloo
Similar to a more exotic shrimp Creole with a marvelous creeping hotness, the smooth, fiery, curry-laced classic comes fully loaded with shrimp and a generous dash of cilantro.

Mango Ice Cream
Lightly creamy ice cream with the tropical flavor of pureed mango makes for a cool, fresh finale. 

 Yak The Kathmandu Kitchen • 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Tu – Su. 3210 Dauphin St. 287-0115.

Text by Sallye Irvine

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