This new curry house, featuring Nepalese and Tibetan specialities as well as the more familiar Indian dishes, is the sixth in a growing mini-chain, with locations stretching from Finsbury Park to Leigh-on-Sea. Here, they’ve taken over the site of former sub-par Madras Valley, and the step-up in quality from those previous punnets of generic, lurid-coloured fare is most welcome.
We walked in to place our order (for which there’s a decent 15% off the bill) and were met by a very affable, smartly dressed host, only too pleased to talk us through the more unusual dishes on his sprawling menu. Behind him, the chefs worked with an unusual calm in the open kitchen, while out front, despite not having the room for a proper eat-in experience, a Nepali duo were sat at the window, enthusiastically polishing off assorted dishes atop hunks of naan. Word is obviously spreading about this outpost for a cuisine that, when cooked with the kind of fresh, quality ingredients apparent here, proves unexpectedly light and fairly healthy.
Having whipped our Friday night bounty home, the first thing we noted was how little oil or ghee there was swilling around. We loved the flavours of Lahore Masala House before they left Kentish Town, but the grease levels were such that it was unfeasible to consider it a regular takeaway option, even as a treat. Yak & Yeti, with its many ghee-free vegan choices, saw us returning for more the following Friday.Highlights of our meals, so far? Try the hariyali tikka, where chicken breast has been marinated in garlic, ginger and mint, for subtle but rich skewers of tandoor-charred goodness. Alternatively the jhaneko kukhura, an ethnic Nepali treat, sees chicken (or duck) smothered in red and green peppers and heavy on the fenugreek. Recommended to us, it was definitely worth the punt. Achari gosht paired melting lamb chunks with a rich yoghurt and lime pickle-based sauce. Marked as ‘Madras hot’, it didn’t seem particularly fiery. Mysteriously, the three-chilli ‘very hot’ symbol on the menu is not actually attributed to any of the dishes. I suppose you’re expected to ask if you want the real chilli deal – worth remembering, as overall I’d have preferred a fair bit more heat.
Crispy Tibetan momo veg parcels became something special via their dipping sauce, all garlicky undertones. Papri chat, the collision of crunchy bread discs with chutney and yoghurt-bound potatoes was a decent starter, too. King prawn biryani was generous on the plump specimens and the accompanying curry was no afterthought: rich and lentil-heavy, it was sweetened by tomatoes. Talking of which, our sides of choice included vegan zimbu daal, the lentils made deliciously earthy with strands of a Himalayan leaf garlic. The chef’s special baigan bharta of minced smoked aubergine was tasty, but pipped overall by the brinjal bhaji the following week.
Finally it feels like there’s a takeaway curry splurge that doesn’t have to come with a side order of Saturday morning regret. More info. 123 Castlehaven Road NW1