Restaurant review

Himalayan Wild Yak Restaurant Review: It Scores Nepali Delights

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As restaurant mascots, I’d be hard-pressed to find a more eye-catching one than “Rocky,” the charm of one of Northern Virginia’s best new restaurants.

Big and furry, he’s the first thing you see when you enter the Himalayan Wild Yak in Ashburn. Tuk Gurung, co-owner of the Nepali restaurant with fellow chefs Keshar Jarga and Dip Jarga Magar, said they wanted the interior to be as distinctive as the kitchen at the Brambleton Town Center restaurant. With the help of a Pennsylvania farmer – the source of some of the yaks on the menu – and a taxidermist, there’s no overlooking the establishment, a sprawling bar and mountain-view dining room (with permission of a colorful mural, that is).

The Beast shares its stage with one beauty – the food – and a menu that avoids supply chain issues with over 30 choices. Gurung and Magar come to the very good Royal Nepal project from Alexandria, which they left in search of bigger quarters. It took me only one visit to fall in love with the place, which opened its doors in December and welcomes diners with the traditional salt roti, rounds of fried rice flour bread served with sticks of turmeric-colored radish. Cross a donut with a bagel and you’ll have an idea of ​​what to expect from the crispy and chewy festival snack.

All the other tables seem to be dressed in momos. Be sure to ask for some of these steamed dumplings, too. They appear like eight supple wonders on the rim of a bowl of roasted tomato garlic sauce, criss-crossed white triangles so thin you can see the outline of their fillings. There are five to choose from. The theme of the restaurant has me cracking up on ground yak, skillfully seasoned with coriander, cumin and garam masala so you can still enjoy the juicy texture and delicate beef flavor of mountain cattle.

Chow mein is another famous street food to explore, and a reminder that China is a neighbor to the north of landlocked Nepal. Thin yellow wheat noodles arrive with a confetti of green onions, red cabbage, carrots and other vegetables, each bite smoked from the wok and splashed with sweet-salty oyster sauce (or mushroom sauce upon request). The sublime act of balancing keeps you back to the dish even as other plates begin to fill the table.

If some of the attendants seem particularly engaged, it may be because the two chefs are prone to getting food out of the kitchen, especially when they’re down for a waiter, but whenever they’re free. “We don’t want to compromise on service,” says Gurung, who appreciates “instant reviews” from customers. (When some diners told him they liked his biryani except for the dried fruit on top, he omitted the garnish, which customers can always get if they ask for it.)

Choose a meat and you will probably find it as a starter. Succulent pieces of pork, crispy from their time in a clay oven, resonate with mustard oil, ginger and garlic. (The tongue buzz comes from the Sichuan peppercorns.) The sautéed chicken with purple onion and bell peppers is finished with a chili sauce, sweetened with ketchup, that leaves an exciting trail of heat. Appetizers average $10 but are the size of main courses. Those who don’t eat meat receive the same generous portions. The Samosa cat is big enough for a small party.

Overwhelmed by choices? Consider the Nepalese menu. For $25, you get a taste of four selections delivered on a thin wooden platter: a choice of entrée — opt for the succulent, seemingly boneless, tangy goat cheese with cilantro — and a trio of side dishes. , including a vibrant cauliflower curry and sautéed mustard greens.

Most of the food is so captivating that you find yourself oversampling. (Insert freehand.) “Very spicy,” the menu warns of pork curry, whose heat of Thai green and red chili peppers permeate every jaw-dropping morsel. But even the tamer yak stew, hot with cumin and garam masala and filled with zucchini, keeps the interest going until the end.

The owners put diners on a pedestal in every way imaginable. The approximately 90 seats inside include booths, circular tables (hello, book clubbers!) and seating for 10 by a fire pit, plus a stack of booster seats near the entrance that signals that guests of all ages are welcome. Floating near the high Himalayan ceiling, fabric panels do their best to mop up the sound of a crowd and the concrete floors below. That colorful cotton towel on your lap? Jarga’s father, a tailor, is responsible for handcrafting Dhaka.

The cocktail and wine lists look like compilations you’d find at a Washington hotspot; their author, Jarga, is a veteran of the cruise industry, where he cooked, and the Watergate Hotel, where he ran a bar. Some like it hot, and for them there’s Amilo Piro, tequila, and triple sec chilled with lime and grapefruit—only $8 at happy hour.

Himalayan Wild Yak may be young, but he behaves like an old pro.

The restaurant opened with butter chicken on its menu, but slowly added more Indian dishes when the owners noticed Indian diners were filling most of their seats. Chana masala vibrates with ginger and garlic paste, while lamb korma – one of the lightest and most succulent versions on the market – offers soft bites of meat in a dark golden sauce thickened with yogurt. and cashew paste. Blistered in the tandoor, the fluffy naan helps wipe out the last of any sauce.

If you’re looking to winnow a few choices, pass the oily fried kale, weighed down with sweet yogurt, the bland black dal included in the fixed menu, and hot chocolate cake. The last is fine, but kurauni is the more traditional Nepali ending. Among the most labor-intensive dishes in the kitchen, this involves reducing the milk over low heat for five hours or more before adding saffron, cardamom powder and a touch of sugar. Pleasantly grainy confectionery surface pops with purple pomegranate seeds.

My modus operandi is to hold myself back in the dining room enough to take the leftovers home. Trust me, chow mein and momos are a welcome sight when it’s midnight and your stomach is growling for attention.

It’s no surprise that Himalayan Wild Yak packs everything you pack in reusable biodegradable green bags. From Rocky to recycling, the restaurant puts customers first.

22885 Brambleton Plaza, Ashburn, Virginia 703-760-3710. Hours: Indoor and outdoor dining and take-out and delivery every day from noon to 9:30 p.m. Price: Appetizers $8 to $15, main courses $12 to $35 (biryani for two). Sound control: 70 decibels / Conversation is easy. Accessibility: No barriers to entry; restrooms are ADA compliant. Pandemic protocols: Staff wear masks and are vaccinated.

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