Thursday, April 9, 2009

Yak and Yeti

Yak and Yeti is a funky little slice of the Himalayas right in the heart of Anchorage. Located on Spenard Road (characterized by the famous saying "What happens in Spenard, stays in Spenard!"), it seems to be part of a cluster of eateries from more exotic climes. However, we had been hearing about this place since shortly after we got to Anchorage. Everyone we spoke to had liked it, but been a little hesitant to recommend, as in "I don't know how you feel about Tibetan food...?" We like Indian food, we like food from many of the other countries around Tibet, so we took a chance. Also, the notion was so bizarre we had to go. And eat!
In all seriousness, I was a little bit hoping it would be weirder than it was. I looked in vain for yak butter tea, but what was there was delicious. Also, they have goat curry for lunch on Mondays, so I plan to go back for that at some point!
Y&Y is a smallish family-run business, short on table space but long on charm and great food. Following the link at left will take you to their website, where you can read their story, which is quite interesting, and also get a look at the menu and the hours. Be aware that they are only open for dinner certain days of the week - plan accordingly!
We started with an appetizer of Aloo Tikka, which is basically crispy fried potato cakes, served with a couple of chutneys. They had a great texture and a good, lightly spiced flavor. One of the chutneys, a creamy green one, was so good we finished it off with spoons. For our entrees, Mr EA had Kalimpong Shapta, which is stir-fried pork. The pork was tender and wonderfully flavorful. Subtle but flavorful spicing enhanced the taste of the meat, but did not hide it. This came with two delicate steamed buns. I had Mutar Paneer, which was also delicious. This dish consists of cubes of paneer (fresh, mild cheese) and peas in a rich tomatoey sauce. It came with rice, which I used to mop up all the sauce I hadn't managed to eat with the paneer and peas. I looooooooove sauce!
My entree choice was partly tactical. My parents will be coming up to visit us in about a month and a half or so, so I am on the lookout for places I can take them. My mom is a vegetarian, so I try to keep an eye out for places where she will be able to find good choices! She gets tired of just having sides, or spaghetti with no meatballs, or a salad. I am happy to report that vegetarians will have a really good variety of clearly labelled dishes to choose from. And if our meal was anything to judge by, it is all delicious!
We finished off with Gajar Ki Halwa, shredded carrot cooked in sweetened milk. It is light and mildly sweet and better than it sounds like it would be. Mr EA intended to have just a spoonful of it just to try it. He wound up having around half!
So I won't be tentative. You'll like Tibetan food. You'll like Yak and Yeti. Go there - you'll be glad you did!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Everybody Loves Ray's Vietnamese

Ray's is possibly the one place that no one - really literally no one - in Anchorage seems to have a bad word for. Tell people you are going to almost anyplace in town, and you will get at least one "Really?" or "Why?". But not Ray's. And in spite of all that love, it took us only 10 months to get there. But better late than never! Now, I will say right up front that I have no way of knowing how authentic Ray's is. And when push comes to shove, I don't really care. What I do care about is that they have delicious food.
We got an appetizer of fried egg rolls, Mr EA got Beef and Broccoli, and I got Spicy Tofu with Tamarind. Fans of Asian food in general will find a lot on the menu that looks awfully familiar, but when it arrives it will be different than what you might expect. The decor gives you a lot to enjoy while you are waiting for your food. There are wildly elaborate, prism-encrusted chandeliers, lots of plants, oriental-style paintings, and western-style paintings of Vietnamese subjects. When the food does arrive, you are in for a treat.
The eggrolls are more delicate than their Chinese counterparts, and contained ground pork, those thin transparent noodles, and some light vegetables. My Spicy Tofu with Tamarind was delicious. The tofu came in crispy chunks, accompanied by a variety of vegetables in a light sauce (really almost a broth) that managed to be spicy and lightly sour without overpowering the flavors of the main ingredients. Mr EA had Beef and Broccoli, which was basically a drier and crisper version of the Chinese dish of the same name, which was also distinguished by its healthy infusion of cilantro. In his words, it was "absolutely wonderful!" We both felt that in general, the Vietnamese dishes we ate were lighter and fresher-tasting than Chinese, which tend to be a bit denser and have thicker sauces. Both can be incapacitatingly delicious, don't get me wrong. They are just different styles, and it's good to be aware of that.
We spent so much time deliberating over our choices that I know we will need to go back soon - there are some interesting looking soups and duck dishes that we are going to need to try. (We'll let you know!) So if you are the mood for fresh, flavorful food, try Ray's. You'll be glad you did!