When it comes to food, Jackson Heights is one of my favorite neighborhoods in the city. In twenty minutes at Patel Brothers, I efficiently restock my pantry with rice, lentils and spices for the next several months. I pick up breakfast for the week at the Colombian bakeries on Roosevelt Avenue and dessert for the week at Al Naimat, which sells fantastic galub jamun and other Indian sweets. Often I’ll stop for a spicy Indian dinner at the Jackson Diner.
On my last visit, I took a small detour in search of Himalayan Yak Restaurant. It has an unassuming façade, situated under the subway tracks on Roosevelt Avenue next to a laundromat. Once inside, though, the interior is quite elegant, with exposed brick, Himalayan art and flags, gold Buddhas, and various other shiny artifacts. Large parties appear to be regulars. A stage is set up for live music.
The menu is divided into Nepali, Tibetan, and Indian sections. To my untrained eye, the style of cooking seems to reflect the geography. Nepali cuisine is closer to Indian, making ample use of chilies and spices. The Tibetan section looks more like a good Chinese menu, with homemade dumplings, hand-pulled noodles, and lots of garlic and ginger. As the restaurant’s name suggests, yak is served when it is in season, and the menu also features preparations of goat and buffalo.
We couldn’t resist an order of momo, doughy handmade vegetable dumplings that arrived hot in a wooden steamer basket. They were filled with shiitake mushrooms and cabbage, which I think of as typical Chinese dumpling ingredients, but also with mashed potatoes and spices, evoking an Indian samosa. They were served with a trio of creamy pink, green, and red sauces, ranging from mild to hot. So good. For the more carnivorously-inclined, the momo can be prepared with anything from chicken to buffalo or yak.
Venturing to the Nepali side of the menu, we went for the daal bhat tarkari (pictured at top), which was billed as a traditional combination platter. We were rewarded with a large silver tray with a mound of rice in the middle, surrounded by a dish of spiced lentils, various kinds of vegetables, pickles, and a dish of coconut rice pudding for desert. The vegetables were flavor-packed and spicy, and the pickles were sharp and tangy. It was great variety for our rice and a fantastic way for the uninitiated to get acquainted with Nepali cuisine.
Little Noah (now almost eight months) devoured most of the lentils, leaving little for us, while the restaurant staff smiled and cooed at him. The service was patient and friendly, making us feel right at home as if we dined there frequently.
The highlight of our meal was a bowl of thenthuk, a Tibetan dish of hand pulled noodles in soup. The noodles were nice and springy, shaped into rustic squares and folded over so that they fit nicely on a spoon. The broth was a good homemade chicken soup, and there were garnishes of spinach, radishes, and a few tomatoes. On my return visit, I won’t be able to resist ordering it again.
72-20 Roosevelt Ave
Jackson Heights, NY 11372
Tel. (718) 779-1119
Recommended dishes: Daal Bhat Tarkari ($10.95-$12.95); Tse-momo ($7.95); Thaethuk ($7.95-8.95).