72-20 Roosevelt Ave, Jackson Heights NY 11372 (map); 718-779-1119; himalayanyakrestaurant.com
Kids' Amenities: High chairs
Best Dishes for Kids: Momos
Cost: Appetizers $4.99-6.99; entrees $7.99-$12.99; desserts $2.99-$3.99
Jackson Heights boasts the most amazing variety of "ethnic" cuisines in New York: it is where South Americans meet East Asians meet South Asians, with Mexicans making themselves heard loud and clear in the many taco shops along Roosevelt Avenue. Such cultural co-existence is also present in Himalayan Yak's menu, which features not two, but three cuisines—Nepali, Tibetan, and Indian. The restaurant is located at the at the very heart of the neighborhood, at the intersection of Roosevelt Avenue, Broadway and 74th Street, and getting there should be no issue as no fewer than five subway lines (7, E, F, M, R) are within two blocks' distance.
We went to the Himalayan Yak in the hopes of introducing ourselves and our daughter to yak meat, but contrary to popular belief and their own website, the restaurant doesn't offer yak meat all the time—only for a short period during the summer, yet to be determined. I was informed also that it's "not really yak meat" but some Colorado-raised substitute.
The Himalayan Yak had been highly recommended to us for its Tibetan and Nepali dishes, so we picked from those sections of the extensive menu. We started with a Cheura Tareko ($4.99), described as beaten rice with peanuts, potato chips and spices. When I read "beaten rice," I thought of Japanese mochi; I was a bit surprised to get a rice flake mix (like India's chuda), and not with peanuts, but with soy beans. Despite the prominently displayed chiles, the dish was less spicy than salty, which of course just kept us eating it (and drinking water) until every last bit was gone.
The Himalayan Yak is well known for its momos, pictured at top, which are a great treat for kids. Momos are Himalayan-style dumplings, filled with meat or vegetables (pork in our case), and steamed over broth (check out Sara's guide to momos in Queens).
What's special about momos, or at least the sha momos ($7.99) we had at Himalayan Yak, is that they are brothy on the inside too, making it both fun and a royal mess to eat. Our waiter directed us to tilt our heads to the side in order to capture the broth as we bit our momos. My daughter was obviously delighted at the messy, textural experience, and the momos themselves tasted great—even more so when enhanced by the chili sauces served alongside.
The chicken Sekuwa ($4.99) featured tender and flavorful pieces of chicken breast, but was too spicy for my daughter. Although the menu says it's sauteed in butter, these looked like they were grilled, kebab-style, to me.
From the Nepali menu we had the vegetarian thali ($8.99), which featured dal (lentils), aloo kauli ko tarkari (potatoes and cauliflower), aloo tama (bamboo shoots, potatoes and black eyed peas), saag (mustard greens) and yoghurt, as well as pickles, rice, and a papad cracker bread. The thali offered us the opportunity to sample a variety of dishes, but the lentils in particular were fought over by the three of us.
At the end of the meal we were still in the mood for something different and so we opted for the bhaktcha markhu ($3.99), described on the menu as "hand made pasta lightly rolled in roasted barley, sugar, butter & grated sauce". The pieces of pasta dough were indeed enveloped in sugar and butter, and I suspect there was a hint of cinnamon in the dish. My daughter probably enjoyed it more than me or her father. The pasta was a little too chewy and not terribly flavorful to me.
The Himalayan Yak's staff was very attentive to my daughter and smilingly guided us through the long menu. The restaurant is large and comfortable (they also have live music Friday through Monday) and a good place to introduce kids to Himalayan fare at very reasonable prices (the highest priced item on the menu are prawns at $12.99). I could actually see a whole meal of momos, in their different preparations and fillings, entertaining a party of parents and children in search of something new.