For a village with fewer than a thousand residents, it?s amazing to think you can eat at a different restaurant in Glen Ellen every night for a week.
You might start at the north end of town with Saffron, the cozy little place that serves California cuisine, and work your way through the village, ending at Yeti in Jack London Village at the south end. And if you love big, bold flavors, goodly portions, and exotic cooking, you might find the best was saved for last.
Yeti is the creation of Narayan Somname, the owner-chef, who comes to Glen Ellen by way of restaurants in Mountain View, Japan and Nepal. He stays true to the cuisine of the Himalayas, but ? like any good chef working with a basic cuisine ? he isn?t afraid to tweak the classics to his satisfaction.
You can watch him being creative because Yeti has its kitchen up front, behind a long counter, where chef Somname has installed his tandoor, the tall, cylindrical clay oven used from the Balkans all the way to the Himalayas. Temperatures in a tandoor can reach 900 F., which flash-cooks meats so they have a light char on the outside yet retain their juices inside.
A fine example of this is the Lamb Booti Kabob ($18.99 ****). Chunks of lamb are encrusted with fragrant and tongue-tingling Indian spices, skewered and plunged into the inferno of the tandoor, emerging moments later as wonderfully tender and juicy, slightly smoky morsels of meat. These are pulled off the skewer onto a hot iron plate, where they sizzle merrily along with sliced onions and green peppers. A lime wedge is provided and much appreciated, as it adds yet another layer of flavor to the dish.
?Next time,? the waitress confided, ?try the lamb shank curry ? it?s the best.?
Yeti occupies one of the premier spots along Sonoma Creek in Glen Ellen, with a large outside patio set with six glass-topped tables holding umbrellas, and a view down to the creek and to the Bluegrass Bar and Grill next door. Besides the full-on dinner menu, Yeti is a great place for a light lunch of an appetizer like the steamed Momo ($7.99 ***) ? ground chicken and fresh Himalayan herbs wrapped in pot-sticker dough and served with cooling mint sauce and a wedge of lime ? washed down with one of the 15 bottled beers on the menu. Of course, there is the traditional yogurt-based beverage called lassi available, and 22 wines, 14 by the glass. Well chosen and nicely priced wines, too, like the Kunde Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon for $26, the J Pinot Gris for $28, and a bottle of Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs for $26.
Inside the restaurant, six small tables can seat about 12 to 15 people easily, and there?s a long counter with nine stools. Eleven Nepalese square paper lanterns hang from the ceiling to deliver light. You?ll see chef Somname with a tall toque, and the floor painted milk chocolate brown with yeti (the Abominable Snowman) footprints painted on in white. Tables are set with bud vases holding multicolored dianthus. Indian music plays softly on the sound system. The service is excellent and delivered with warm smiles.
Indian and Nepalese appetizers make fine snacks. Mixed Vegetable Pakoras ($5.99 ***), for instance, double as fast street food in the U.K. These amorphously shaped morsels contain potatoes, cauliflower, spinach, eggplant and onion, chopped and mixed together and dipped in a chickpea flour batter, then deep fried. An order is served with a spicy-sweet tamarind chutney and a cool mint sauce.