The one restaurant recommendation that I got a lot for Delhi on social media this time was that of Yeti and after my visit there I too am part of the growing band of Yeti fans
Yeti is a two year old restaurant in New Delhi’s HKV or Hauz Khas Village. Village in italics though. This is not the village that Gandhi said India lives in. This, as I saw when I went there with my brother and sister law, is an unruly heap of concrete buildings. And, as my poor brother tried to find a parking spot, I realised it is probably the only village with a parking problem!
HKV in the south of New Delhi is more like an art commune and therefore ‘village’ more in the sense of the Greenwich Village of NYC than the villages of the heroes and heroines of Yash Chopra movies. I am not sure whether HKV is an art commune that has come up naturally or whether it is more an orchestrated concentration of commercial establishments which are ‘arty’.
(Update: An interesting comment by ‘My Unfinished Life’ on the origins of HKV: Regarding Hauz Khas being a village..it is actually a village... it was a village whose agricultural lands were acquired to make most of the neighbourhoods around it...in urban planner's term - it's a an urban village..with time the original villagers started renting and selling them to shops & richer people and made it what is is ) today :)
To get a rather biting point of view on HKV you could read Rajyasree’s post on Firstpost . I went went to HKV with no preconceived notions. What I saw was a variety of restaurants representing cuisines from various parts of the world…Italian, Persian, Japanese, French and of course the Nepalese, Tibetan and Bhutanese of Yeti. And there were a number of shops selling the funky artwork that you would find in places such as Loose Ends, Marry Me in Bandra or the new collections in Bombay Store at Fort. The sense I got in HKV was almost that of Bandra squeezed into a few unkempt building blocks and yes there was a bagel shop too!
After a week in Gurgaon with its space age glass office buildings, traffucked dusty roads and manicured highways, with its sculpted malls with faceless chain restaurants, HKV seemed more familiar…more like the world I am at home in…an unplanned, disorderly space with an apparent sense of soul and life.
While there were many restaurants there at HKV, our destination was clear…Yeti.
We went to one of the last buildings of HKV and climbed up, no fancy ass elevators here, to the second floor. As I walked in to yeti, the mood again reminded me of Bandra on a Sunday afternoon. Lazy, calm, relaxed. So different from the starched, pin striped, smart hem-lined worker bee crowd of Gurgaon on weekdays.
Hopefully Rajyasree won’t disown me if I would count myself among the village people. She and I would, after all, always have Gung. Plus she did strongly recommend Yeti to me.
Asok, the smiling steward at Yeti took our order. As the afternoon progressed and as Asok helped us navigate the menu, I got to hear a bit of Asok’s story from him. He’s been in Delhi for two years now and has come in from Nepal. He was apparently managing the restaurant that afternoon with both the Bhutanese owners of Yeti and the manager being away. Asok can answer your questions on the menu and can help you decide on your order. More importantly, he is pretty adept at using a DSLR and could click our pictures. This is a rare find.
Still a bit unsure what to order from given the extensive menu we first went for Nepali starter platter. Took a while to arrive, perhaps 15 minutes or so, but when the brass plate laden with goodies arrived it was worth the wait. We did get an alu garlicky pickle on the house as a starter while we waited.
I won't bother with the Nepali names of the platter. Asok did point out each item on the dish and gave us the names but sorry I am a bit confused on that. What I am not confused about is the food, the memory of which has still stayed back with me. Pleasant memories in case you wondered.
The weakest link was the fried chicken which tasted like chicken ‘lollipops’ served in Indian Chinese buffets here and well one doesn’t talk much about chicken in any case.
Then there was a delightful shredded ‘buff’’ (buffalo and not a Vampire Slayer) . The texture was jerky’ish and it was quite sour and almost seemed like a beef pickle. You could quite imagine the nomads on Himalayan hills moving around on yaks with saddle bags full of this.
Then there was the beaten rice or chiwra…crisp exactly the way Didu used to make for us and both my brother and I smiled in memories of the many evenings we had spent at her place when she would make this for us while Dadu would tell us stories and tell us not to fight and tease each other.
With the chiwda was a thick channa or gram dish and two combined really well. The crisp bites of chiwda or cheere with the mildly mushy, warmly spiced channa.
The last dish was my favourite. Tasted a bit like machhed tel (fried fish blubber) in consistency. Asok told us that it was fried lung of goats. Chopped into small pieces, mildly spiced with turmeric and a touch of chilli I guess, fried and served. Manna too anyone who loves their offal. Deliciously wild and silken.
(This is how the dishes were described on the menu: Yet sp Non –Veg platter – A combo platter compromising of kokra tareko, sukuti sadeko (the buff?), phokso and bhatmas ra chuira).)
Wondering what to order next I decided to go by what Marryam Reshii called and told me to try …what she called the raw Wai Wai chaat. She suggested that I do an alu momo too but I was dim summed out after Dimsum & Company the previous day.
The dish…Waiwai sadeko – uncooked waiwai noodles tossed with onions, chillies & tomatoes had a sharp acidic taste and brought back childhood memories of eating raw Maggi noodles much to our mother’s chagrin for both my brother and me.
We never expected to grow up and relive the experience in a restaurant in another city.
My brother was still hungry though my sis in law and I were satiated. I agreed to give him company. We zeroed in on Gyuma or Tibetan sausages. These are mutton sausages in a intestine casing. Deep fried and served slightly crisp. The fist taste that hits you is that of garam masala but then slowly you discover blobs of fat which add up to a very robust meaty experience. Highly recommended if you love your meat.
All mopped up tingmo or the Tibetan flour bread which is similar to the Chinese bao.
All of this seems too heavy for folks from the plains like us?
Well after a late lunch at Yeti, as the sun sets, you could stroll up to the ruins of the Hauz Khas complex which is a beautiful example of medieval Muslim architecture in India. Walking around taking sips of history and letting your eyes wander on to the parks and lakes further away is such an un-Mumbai-like experience. Special indeed. If you are lucky you might stumble onto a really gifted bearded young man sonorously belting modern Sufi love ballads from Hindi films. He was no street musician. He was just lost in the moment and in his love for music, serenading away.
Later you can walk out, check the shops, perhaps munch on a kulfi or sip a bottle of water and head to the deer park and walk down its well kept lawns. Past herds of deer and proud peacocks separated from you just by a thin fence. Past humans feeding them in disregard to the rules, walk on, walk off the calories and then walk on to the Hauz Khas lake.
Sit down. Take in your surroundings. Savour the rare chance to be one with nature. Enjoy the company of those you are with. Keep your phones aside. Live in the moment. Chances are that this is an evening you would never forget.