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Immerse yourself in Indian cuisine at the Tibetan Yak in Jackson Heights

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TIBETAN YAK

72-20 Roosevelt Ave. Jackson Heights

779-1119

A Tibetan restaurant was the obvious choice. She had just received a grant to do an art survey of three Tibetan Buddhist temples in Ladack. I was eager for another dining adventure in Queens.

The No. 7 line, the International Express, brought us there from opposite directions (she, Queens Plaza - me, Flushing) to the 74th Street Broadway station in Jackson Heights. Walk down stairs and you're on Roosevelt Avenue. Tibetan Yak is two blocks away under the elevated train. "Little India" on 74th Street, the block north of Roosevelt, is a fitting prologue. A stroll down that block offers immersion into that area of Asia. The Yak, as you might have presumed, is the national animal of Tibet. A pictorial rendition on the restaurant's wall is the focal point of Tibetan Yak's side wall. Well scrubbed, monk-like, rectangular wooden tables complete the decor. (Select one away from the windows for ease of conversation, since the No. 7 rumbles by overhead.) It was in Dsarnsala, the home of the Dhali Lama, where Chonphel, one of the three owners of the Tibetan Yak, had his first restaurant.

There's a little shrine dedicated to the Dhali Lama in the rear. With a chef from India and one from Nepal presiding, the dinner begins with hot tea served in a tall goblet along with the menu, and you're asked, "Would you like bocha, the lightly buttered, salted Tibetan tea?" By all means! When I was in Katmandu, a native Tibetan begged to us to buy a butter tea maker. I possess the two foot long wooden pipe, covered at both ends in which tea, butter and salt are shaken. But this was my first actual sip. Delicious. I loved the hint of saltiness and the touch of butteriness. Blindfolded, I would guess "homemade chicken soup.""

Tibetan cuisine is similar to Chinese and Indian cuisine, but not quite the same. We were both impressed with the variety and extent of the menu. From Tibetan dining experiences in Manhattan over the years, she remembered it as largely vegetarian with small amounts of meat; it certainly was not the spartan fare I remembered. Twin cold, molded, bean jelly patties centered with a sprinkle of chopped chili peppers sat, side by side, in a vinegar, garlic sauce. It made a fascinating, unexpected salad-appetizer. Four soups including egg drop and chicken corn are on the menu. Several diners sitting in the rear were having bamboo steamer baskets delivered to their table in numbers. So did we. Our chicken tsel memo were eight dumplings with exquisitely pleated taps. (And our rho-joe- tsel was an order of mini dumplings filled with minced beef in a delicious soup with peas and spinach.)

They have a wonderful vegetarian version. There are bean thread and hand-pulled pasta as well as tofu and fried rice. Himalayan bhaleb bread, shaped like a steamed hole-less bagel, has a chewy bagel-like texture, a lot like a Chinese pork bun. Very bland on first bite, it becomes more interesting bite by bite. Tinge, a Tibetan steamed roll, is similarly Chinese in character.

From the Yak's special entrees we selected pork chili, slices of pork cooked in a spicy sauce. Very good. Our sliced beef tongue sauteed in garlic, ginger, green onions and green chile featured very thinly sliced beef tongue and is served with Himalayan bread.

Two desserts are offered, sweetened steamed rice mixed with blonde raisins and butter, topped with yogurt. (Mine) hand made pasta (silver dollar like rounds, rolled up in roasted barley, sugar, butter and grated cheese. Fascinating.

Tibetan Yak was certainly a dining adventure.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Nicely run Tibeten restaurant with a very varied menu of Tibetan specialties. Similar to Chinese and Indian cuisine but distinct. English speaking, accommodating service.

CHEF'S CHOICE

Tsel Thang (light clear soup with spinach)...$3.00

Dang Tsel (cabbage, carrots, tomatoes tossed in a special dressing)...$3.00

Tsel Mommo (eight dumplings, steamed or fried)...$6.75/$7.25

Shogok Khatsa (hot or cold spicy potatoes with a Himalayan bread)...$6.00

Tsel Dofu (sliced tofu-bean curd-sauced with vegetables)...$6.95

Sha Memo (eight dumplings with chicken or meat-steamed or fried)...$6.75/$7.25

Seysha (fresh mushrooms or broccoli sauteed in butter with beef or chicken)...$7.95

Shamdey (chicken or lamb curry served with rice)...$7.95

Shapia (marinated tender slices of beef, served with a Himalayan bread)...$9.95

Cuisine: Tibetan

Setting: Scrubbed, rectangular wooden tables

Service: Accommodating. English speaking.

Hours: L & D 7 days

Handicapped accessible: Yes

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