Mar 30, 2017
by Houston Porter
After nearly a decade at its Glen Ellen location, Yeti Restaurant has established a reputation for excellent Indian and Nepalese cuisine, as well as attentive service, an extensive wine and beer list, and a classy yet comfortable ambiance. It comes as no surprise that Yeti was voted Best Indian Restaurant in 2016 by the Bohemian and is listed in the Michelin Guide as “recommended.” However, after just two years at its second location, Yeti Santa Rosa is forged a name for itself. This is no diamond in the rough though, instead being a fully polished, yet undiscovered gem.
At the corner of Farmers Lane and 4th Street, Yeti sits in the shadow of the historic Flamingo Hotel sign. Other than the generous parking lot, no one would that a Lyon’s restaurant used to occupy this space, because chef/owner Narayan Somname has done a masterful job of transforming what could have been a boring run of the mill restaurant into something warm, inviting, and unique.
Clearly, Somname has an eye for detail, not only in his food preparation and presentation, but also in how he lays out his restaurants. Yeti offers several seating areas without ever feeling disjointed or chaotic, no matter how crowded it gets. The décor is attractive and comfortable and fits the space well. Yellow cloth napkins add a nice accent to the dark wood tables, deep maroon booths, and tapestry upholstered chairs.
Even though it is only steps from the hustle and bustle of passing traffic, Yeti maintains an air of calmness. The entire dining room is set for service, so the staff is never scrambling to set tables as the room fills with diners. And due to the décor, furnishings, and the very professional staff, Yeti exudes a sense of class. At the same time, even a shorts and flip-flop wearing vacationer or jeans and t-shirt local will feel right at home dining at Yeti because it never comes across as pretentious. Yeti is warm and inviting and although fancy enough to reserve for a special occasion, like an engagement party or professional luncheon, it is also relaxed enough for someone looking to just grab a beer and bite while watching a game at the bar.
Yeti has an impressive menu and we have enjoyed their great weekend buffet on several occasions. However, we drove up from Petaluma to scope out the happy hour menu for a possible rendezvous with Santa Rosa friends, so we headed straight to the bar. Unique among local Indian restaurants, Yeti has a beautiful wood-carved bar, which is comfortable, well stocked, and expertly attended.
To start, Yeti has a notably diverse selection of beers. Ironically, IPA stands for India Pale Ale, however, Somname understands that overloading the menu with IPA’s can be a turnoff for many beer drinkers. Of course, Yeti offers a Lagunitas IPA, but also taps a Red Ale from San Franciso (Prohibition), a Wheat Ale from Colorado (Blue Moon), a Pale Lager from Belgium (Stella Artois), a Pale Lager from India (Kingfisher), and a house-brewed NPA, which I will explain in a moment. To round out their selection, Yeti offers Guinness, Newcastle, and Heineken in the bottle.
If you know beer, and love IPA’s, by all means order yourself one. But, if you simply default to IPAs because that is what everyone else orders, I urge you to try something different. IPAs are at the hoppy end of the beer flavor scale, and are often so bitter that they detract from the flavors of the food you are eating. Because of this, while dining, I prefer something with a bit more malt and Kingfisher certainly fits that bill. This all-day-drinker, imported from India, has a mildly sweet flavor, which pairs well with Yeti’s Indian and Nepalese dishes.
Although easy to overlook, Yeti’s sign does includes the phrase “& Brew Pub.” An oddity at any restaurant, let alone an Indian restaurant, Yeti actually brews their own beer. Brewed in the IPA style, Somname calls his beer Yeti “NPA”, for “Nepal Pale Ale” and it is unlike anything I have tasted before. Brewed with Nepalese herbs and spices, this beer is one-of-a-kind, and makes for a nice departure from the ordinary.
Paying homage to the wine country in which both Yeti restaurants reside, the wine list is deep and diverse with plenty of well-known wines available by the glass at reasonable prices. The Yeti bar tenders also know their way around a cocktail menu. Although colonialism is a thing of the past, Somname reminds me that India was a former British colony so it has cocktails and mixed drinks in its blood. Another telltale sign of a British heritage are the bottles of Madeira and Port wines behind the bar. And true to the Commonwealth, patrons might even see a televised rugby, polo, or cricket match while visiting the bar, supplementing baseball, basketball, hockey, and football, of course.
Yeti’s happy hour runs from 4 – 6 PM on weekdays and offers an exciting array of food items. Priced from $5 - $7, there is something for everyone, from vegetarian to diehard meat eater, and even for those that might not have picked Indian as their first choice. And like Yeti’s regular lunch and dinner menu, nothing on the happy hour menu is heavy or over-spiced.
Because we were on an exploratory mission, we ordered all seven items on the happy hour menu. We started with Samosas, which are triangular pastries stuffed with potatoes, green peas, and bell peppers. Next up were the Momos, which are flour-wrapped dumplings and are available in both chicken and veggie. The Prawn Pakoras are dipped in a lightly spiced batter of garbanzo flour and are definitely unique among the deep fried shrimp we have tasted. The Chicken Sekawa consists of fillets of chicken, spiced with cumin, ginger, and yogurt and are cooked in a tandoor oven. Maintaining extremely high temperatures, this clay oven cooks quickly, while allowing the food to remain moist and tender on the inside.
Everything was excellent but the two standout items were the Meatballs and the Onion Bhajis. A mixture of beef, lamb, and Himalayan spices, these meatballs easily hold their own against anything the Greeks, Swedes, or Italians produce.
Deep-fried until golden brown, the Onion Bhaji is a mixture of Himalayan spiced garlic, ginger, onion slices, and garbanzo batter. Basically, these are like an inverted, shredded onion ring, only better. And the Tamarind, Mint Chutney, and Hot dipping sauces that comes with the happy hour menu items are not to be missed because each one has the ability to change the flavor profile of whatever you ordered.
A trip to Yeti is not complete without at least one order of Naan. A staple of Indian dining, Naan is normally used to scoop other goodies into your gullet, but Yeti’s stands on its own. Choices include Plain, Garlic, Garlic Cilantro, Olive Basil, Pudhina Paratha (sprinkled with mint and lightly spiced), Mazala Kulcha (stuffed with potatoes, peas, and Himalayan garam masala), and the pièce de résistance, Honey Butter Naan. I tend to avoid unnecessary carbs, but make an exception for Yeti’s Naan, because it is a necessity. In fact, if push came to shove, I would be perfectly happy with just an order or two of Yeti’s Naan and a nice glass of Kingfisher or Yeti’s NPA.
With all the great restaurant options in Petaluma, we rarely find reason to travel out of town just to dine out. Yet, we are so impressed with Yeti’s food, drinks, service, and ambiance that we have visited more than once since first discovering them. And as far as finding a great place to host a happy hour, Yeti offers a unique and delicious experience, unlike any other in Santa Rosa.
Yeti Restaurant, 190 Farmers Lane Santa Rosa 707-521-9608
Yeti Restaurant, 14301 Arnold Dr. #19. Glen Ellen 707-996-9930
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