Friday, January 29, 2010

Yeti of Hieizan Japanese and Nepalese Cuisine

What to say about dinner tonight? David and I met in Elmhurst and walked all the way down to Sunnyside in the snow, and the wind, stopping for a pair of socks for my cold and sockless brother along the way. I was excited. I've never had food from Nepal, or been to a Japanese-Nepalese restaurant in Queens, or a place called Yeti, so it was a first on all levels. As soon as we opened the door, it was another world. Warm, wood paneled, with intimate booths decorated in a strange (or not so strange, considering the name) mix of woven mats from Nepal and Japanese prints on the wall. I had done all kinds of research this morning, looking for advice, dishes, posting on chowhound with little luck, except a warning to stay away from the sushi. Easy enough, the Japanese half of the menu was not what I was looking for. So armed with a few names of dishes that I looked up online, I began to order. First off, samaya bajee, an appetizer sampler, listed on the menu as choila, bhutun, bhatmas, chiura and achar. We didn't know what to expect, but it came out in a bento box looking like this:

Here is the wikipedia definition of choila:
Choila is a typical Newari dish that consists of grilled water buffalo. It is considered a necessary part of the diet among the Newari people along with several other ingredients.
That isn't very helpful, is it? We did not get water buffalo, but we did have beef, cold chunks of it, marinated and spiced with red chili.
Chiura, as far as I can tell, is beaten rice, or rice flakes, "a dehusked rice which is flattened into flat light dry flakes". They are meant to be mixed into things, like the following dishes.
Bhatmas according to Yeti are stir fried dried soybeans/peanuts
They were definitely soybeans, toasted and crunchy, stir fried with a little oil, hot green chilies, garlic, and onions. It was addictive and would make a great bar snack.
Bhutun, say Yeti, are sauteed stomake, intestine, liver, with garlic, onion and nepali herbs. Of which animal? I would have to say mutton. Apparently, 2 of the 3 Markel children like to eat stomake (I'll have to ask my older brother how he feels about it). The pieces of various innards were chewy and crunchy, especially with the beaten rice mixed in.
Achar I'd had before, it was the one familiar thing on the plate, a nice pickle.

Next up, a Nepali Thali. Our guide for the night, our very pleasant waiter, advised us to get a thali if we wanted something authentic. He recommended the beef thali, but then he recommended beef for everything. The man really likes beef. So we got mutton for a little variety.
A pile of rice, potato and string bean curry, sauteed mustard spinach, dal, the mutton, more pickle, and rice pudding. All for $11.95. I particularly liked the spicy greens, David enjoyed the potatoes,and we both were surprised by the very gingery dal, after having been warned that Nepali dal is sometimes lacking in flavor.

A close up of the mutton
The mutton did have a lamb-y taste, but not quite as strong as we were expecting. Lots of bones. We both agreed that we liked it, but the sauce was very rich (butter, I presume), and as it grew colder, got thicker and even richer.
Pickle close up.

We wanted to try all sorts of different things, so we kept ordering.
Out came the soup:
Also endorsed by our waiter friend, who told us that their soups were special since the noodles were all handmade, was the thinduk. We couldn't resist ordering a large bowl full. The noodles were flat and wide, and had a nice texture to them. There were slices of radish, chopped scallions, and more of the greens, plus bits of mutton floating throughout in a mild broth that smelled just like brisket cooking on Passover (and David backed me up on that one).

Lastly, the momo. By the time these came out, the manager had dimmed the lights so much that I couldn't get a good shot. We got the mixed order, although if it were up to our waiter they would have been all beef. He really likes beef. He told us. There were veg, pork, chicken, and of course beef. There was some confusion as to which was which, but with so many sauces to dip them into, it didn't really matter.
David and I were both so happy to be eating something that was slightly familiar but at the same time completely new. With each dish brought to the table, we looked at each other, smiling but hesitant. We had nothing to compare it to, but it was fun. Should we like it, did we like it? The only way to answer that is to embark on a food tour of Nepal. Or maybe Jackson Heights.

Yeti of Hieizan
43-16 Queens Blvd


  1. looks good. You did great with ordering. I am especially piqued by the 4 dipping sauces of the momos.

  2. Hi, JO! Well, the sauces were delicious, and I was kind of disappointed there wasn't more opportunity to use them - since this was my first time eating Nepalese, I didn't want to mask flavors of the dishes we'd ordered.

    Starting clockwise from the green sauce:

    The green sauce was yoghurt-based with cilantro - my first impression was that it was raita without the cucumbers.

    The light orange chile(i?) paste was smokey with just a hint of heat and strong cumin and garlic flavor. This is VERY similar to Mark Bittman's chile paste recipe posted on the New York Times website last year. It's quite easy to make at home.

    The darker red sauce was similar to Sriracha.

    And the last sauce seriously reminded me of Steak and Shake. Not sure if you've ever been to one (it's an Ohio thing) but, along with the ketchup, there's a bottle of tiny hot peppers immersed in vinegar at every table. That's what this was – straight up spicy vinegar.


  3. JO, meet my brother, David.
    I want to go to a Steak and Shake.
    Thanks for the sauce descriptions, they're great!
    I'd like to add that the darker red sauce was more like a ground chile(i?) paste, and was the spiciest of the bunch, if I remember correctly.
    Love comments!

  4. Trying to recreate the soup we had! Will let you know how it comes out...forgot to buy bok choy, and had to sub lasagna for the noodles...maybe I should make my own?