12 April, 2008

Wild Yak

350 High St, Northcote; 03 9486 2733

Time to try a new cuisine: Tibetan. Wild Yak in Northcote is a laminex-tabled, plastic-chaired, faded-postered kind of restaurant, run by an effusive native who works the floor with enthusiasm. The food is extremely well-priced, the restaurant is BYO, the atmosphere is simple. It's fundamental international suburban dining.

But what to eat? A bit of research reveals that Tibetan cuisine is based around barley, the flour from which is used to make noodles and dumplings (are we the only country in the world without a national dumpling?). Yak, goat and mutton meat also feature. Wild Yak is no doubt true to the spices and cooking style of Tibetan cuisine, but serves no eponymous meat. Choice instead runs to beef, chicken and, bizarrely, calamari. The menu is broken down in the traditional way of Asian restaurants: entree, soup, then repeated dishes featuring the different meats or a vegie or tofu option.

Momo, the Tibetan steamed dumpling, features first up. It's available as a main (at $9.50 I'd rate it as one of High St's best bargains) but we choose the beef variety as entree (fried and vegetable are also available).My, they were good. The dough was so pliant, but held its shape, even if the lightly-spiced but beautifully cooked meat fell out while one was utilising the dipping sauces. The ying is a soy-style sauce, while the yang was a notably piquant mixture, masquerading behind the appearance of satay.

I had some difficulty choosing a main and enlisted the help of our host. He steered me from the sha gogpa (lean beef with rich garlic sauce) to the sha nyamo-kyurmo (tender beef cooked with lemon, honey, tomatoes and herbs). His recommendation was spot-on. Here we had something that little bit different and very striking. The sauce was rich, perhaps a little runnier than tomato soup, and the balance of tomato with the sweet and sour of honey and lemon was exact. The meat had been treated gently and was indeed 'tender'. The beans and red capsicum were fresh and crisp and I was thoroughly pleased.

Just as well, since I'd been pipped in my first choice by my dining partner, that dish being thukpa: a Tibetan soup with noodles (egg, not barley in this case), beef, chicken, vegetables and 'fungus' (luckily she's a scientist, so is adept at assessing fungal risk and decided to give this one the go-ahead!) in a rich soup.The broth was hearty and not too salty. The dish featured an excellent distribution of meat, veg and noodles to liquid. Maybe a little excessive on the fungus side of things (though not in a health-inspector-concerning way) but that earthy, warming flavour and effect was a big winner.

Two mains, a starter, rice and corkage was $35. I'll be back - those dumplings are calling.


  1. The veggie options at Wild Yak steal the show. I used to eat at their sister restaurant in Collingwood a fair bit (now closed), the vegetarian banquet rocks.

  2. The banquets looked like great value. I'd love to settle in there for the night with some friends, a couple of bottles of wine and all that food and value!

  3. Where indeed is the national dumpling?

    Momos and thukpa - two of my favourite things. On a recent trip to a Nepali-Tibetan fusion joint, I was flabbergasted with glee at the spectacle of a lengthy chutney/pickle menu.

  4. Fantastic! I'm just looking at that bowl of thukpa and thinking how much I'd like that to be my lunch today...

    Hey, Epicure in 'The Age' had an article last month mentioning no less than four Ethiopian restaurants, all in the Footscray area I believe.

  5. This is a great find, very friendly service, food fantastic (freshest vegies in asian food I've had in a while!) and exceptional value. Will be back!

  6. Glad to hear you enjoyed it! We were back a couple of weekends ago for one of the banquets - extraordinary value. They start at $21 a head and there's no shortage of food.