If you remember, there was a Lyons restaurant at the north end of Farmers Lane in Santa Rosa, one of a chain of Denny’s-like places strewn across northern California like oases of culinary mediocrity.
The chain tanked in 2012, but the building was excellent. The large dining room has a low ceiling and soft lighting for intimacy, and the 10-stool bar’s back-bar mirror lets you check out the other imbibers without being obvious about it.
Narayan Somname, owner and chef of the popular Yeti Nepalese restaurant in Jack London Village in Glen Ellen, spied this empty space and decided that Santa Rosa needed its own Yeti. Now open for lunch and dinner, it’s is a friendly, comfy place to have some very well made Nepalese and Indian food.
It especially affords hard-working Santa Rosans a lunch venue that’s a little out of the ordinary, with its spicy curries and decent prices.
Saag paneer over rice with a side salad, and chicken curry over rice with a side salad, are $11 each. Or fuel yourself with a large lunch that for $15.99 includes rice, naan, salad, tandoori chicken, dal (lentils), vegetable curry, papadum and yogurt with fruit.
The wine list carries local favorites in the $30-$50 range, but beer always seems a better choice with Nepali or Indian food. House-brewed Yeti Pale Ale is a lightly hopped and delicious choice. The full bar serves the usual suspects among cocktails: margarita, cosmo, bloody mary, manhattan, vodka collins and a misconceived gimlet made with fresh lime juice instead of Rose’s Lime Juice. Cocktails are mostly $10 each.
The dinner menu has some interesting choices. Onion Bhajji ($7.99 ★★★ ) is a kind of fritter and also one of India’s top cricket stars, a man named Harbajan whose nickname is Bhajji. Garlic, ginger, onions and Himalayan spices like cardamom and coriander are mixed in a ground chickpea batter and deep fried. You get six pieces with a side of saffron bulghur and three dipping sauces: spicy hot chili that comes on slow but builds to a fiery climax; tamarind; and mint-cilantro. The fritters entice you with their aroma and drench your tastebuds with flavor.
Of all the dishes at the dinner, the six pieces of Chicken Momo ($8.99 ★★★★ ) hit several pleasure buttons at once. First, they’re delightful to see. They are made in the style of the Newari people of Kathmandu in Nepal, which so recently was struck by a devastating earthquake. Each momo looks like a tiny, fluted cap of slick and shiny steamed flour dough. Inside each is chicken minced with Himalayan spices, and they’re served with a cool mint sauce. Vegetarians and vegans don’t have to miss out, because vegetable momo also are available.
Chicken Sekuwa ($9.99 ★★ ) is a classic Nepalese dish, usually served on skewers like Thai satay but quite different in flavor, although here the skewers are dispensed with. Seven cubes of white meat are spiced with cumin, ginger and yogurt, which give them a little gingery bite. Then they’re cooked in the tandoor, some chunks emerging still juicy but others dry and toughened. The house mint-cilantro sauce is drizzled over the top.
At this point, the waiter made sure there were clean utensils and plates on the table for the balance of the meal. Attentive service is such a pleasure.
Where: 190 Farmers Lane, Santa Rosa
When: Daily from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch and from 5 to 9:30 p.m. for dinner
Reservations: Call 521-9608
Price range: Moderate to expensive with entrees from $13.95 to $27.99
Wine list: ★★
★...Not Very Good