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Cheap Eats

Taste of Nepal in Somerville

(Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe)
By Kathleen Burge
Globe Staff / June 23, 2010

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It’s hard to forget what kind of food you’re eating when you dine in the small room at Yak & Yeti. Mount Everest in all its icy, sharp-peaked supremacy looms over you from three walls. In another dining room, a wallside sculpture runs the length of the room, woven like the edge of a basket.

This is not another small storefront restaurant whose space feels exactly like a hundred other small storefront restaurants. Yak & Yeti opened a month ago in Somerville’s Ball Square serving a mix of Nepali and Indian dishes. It’s a glossy expansion of Mt. Everest Kitchen in Allston, the first restaurant Amrit Thakali and his family opened in the area. Here the chairs gleam bright red, small pendant lights hang from a leaf-green ceiling, and the food is lustrous. (Despite its name, the restaurant does not serve yak.)

Both nights we visit, we start our meal with mo-mos; these tender little dumplings are so beautiful and delicate you almost want to dissect them. Vegetable mo-mos ($5.95), made by Thakali’s wife and relatives, are packed with slivers of carrot, cabbage, red onion, scallions, and specks of cilantro. We much prefer the mo-mos to their fried cousin, kothe ($5.95). The filling may be the same, but the fried dough obscures its elegant contents. Bhatmas shadheko ($4.95, pictured), soybeans roasted until crunchy and tossed with ginger, garlic and cilantro, also charms us.

So does the wait staff. One of the waitresses spends a lot of time playing with the toddler at our table, bringing crayons and paper and arranging a cloth napkin around his neck as a bib.

Ginger and garlic show up in nearly every dish on the Nepali side of the menu and yet every dish has a different taste. Much of the Nepali menu is taken up by tarkari, a dish akin to Indian curry. Bhedako tarkari ($12.95) most resembles a curry, large chunks of lamb in a creamy brown sauce. Even the squash skeptics at our table like pharsiko tarkari ($9.95), a flame-orange dish whose bite comes from timur, a peppery Nepalese herb. On the Indian side of the menu, the naan ($2.95) is served buttery and warm from the tandoor. Thakali describes Nepali food as lighter than Indian food, and the chicken Madras ($12.95), a curry rich with butter and coconut milk, underscores his point.

The Nepalese dish chicken chow chow ($9.95) resembles curried spaghetti, and when ordered mild, it works well for kids. But the chicken is overdone and the stir-fried noodles taste bland, especially compared to the symphony of flavors we’ve already experienced.

YAK & YETI 719 Broadway, Somerville, 617-284-6227. All major credit cards accepted. Wheelchair accessible.

PRICES Appetizers $2.95-$8.95, entrees $6.95-$19.95.

HOURS Mon-Fri 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sat-Sun 7 a.m.-10 a.m., 11a.m.-10 p.m.

LIQUOR None

MAY WE SUGGEST Vegetable mo-mo, bhatmas shadheko, pharsiko tarkari, bhedako tarkari.