When is “I didn’t hate it” praise rather than a thinly-veiled insult? Well, here it is praise. I fully expected to dislike Yak & Yeti, or at least expect it to not live up to my low expectations for it. This is because Yak & Yeti is part of the dreaded Landry’s restaurant group. Not that every restaurant in the Landry’s portfolio is awful (far from it), but it seems Landry’s has a habit of buying out successful independent restaurants, and…to keep this succinct…let’s just describe it as reducing their quality. Suffice to say, I’m not a fan of Landry’s.
“That restaurant got a lot better after Landry’s took over” is one of those ‘said no one ever’ type of quotes. Some Landry’s restaurants, like Rainforest Cafe, succeed with their interesting premise, but often fail when it comes to cuisine. Other Landry’s restaurants are former fine dining locales that still offer good food, but have dumbed down their menus to offer something less sophisticated or of lower quality than it was previously.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with Yak & Yeti, but I wasn’t expecting much. My expectations were exceeded as soon as a I walked inside to find an incredibly detailed restaurant…
The restaurant is a bit eclectic in terms of design, and is filled with gorgeous artifacts and ornate fixtures. In keeping true to Animal Kingdom, there’s an unnecessarily elaborate backstory to explain all of this.
The exact backstory is found on the back of the menu, but essentially it can be boiled down to the restaurant actually being a boutique hotel that the once-wealthy proprietor opened as a stop for the rich on their way up the Himalayans. Finds from his travels are displayed throughout the hotel, which is also his residence, which is also a restaurant.
The restaurant is stunning, and this is the type of hodgepodge restaurant you might actually stumble into in a quaint area of Asia (albeit without quite this nice of stuff), so the backstory isn’t really necessary. In fairness, it’s not like this backstory is ridiculous like the ones over in Dinorama, it’s just slightly excessive.
There are two levels to the restaurant with multiple areas on each story, each of which has its own richness and unique character. I was really impressed with the quality of everything. From the craftsmanship of the figures to the texture of just about everything, this restaurant is a treasure trove of detail. Just look at the right side of the photo above!
We were seated on the second level of the restaurant, which featured a number of little rooms to explore, each with their own styles and bric-a-brac.
Despite so many of the details being ornate and lavish, they whole thing comes together in a way that feels quaint and intimate. It doesn’t feel over the top or self-indulgent, it feels like a nice little mom and pop establishment. Make no mistake about it, Yak & Yeti is one of the best themed restaurants at Walt Disney World. The details are great and the ambiance is perfect. Even before we get to the food, this is a restaurant I would recommend based solely on the atmosphere.
In terms of cuisine, Yak & Yeti really impressed, and I found it to have taken more cues from the higher end Landry’s restaurants than it does from a “restaurant” like Rainforest Cafe.
We started out with the Pork Pot Stickers. This wasn’t my choice, and I’d honestly never order pot stickers at a table service restaurant. I like pot stickers, but I think there’s very little deviation in their quality no matter where you go. (Perhaps I’ve been having them at the wrong places?) In any case, these pot stickers were a good, safe choice–exactly what I expected of pot stickers–but nothing that I’d go out of my way to order.
We also got the Seared Ahi Tuna. This appetizer was excellent, with the tuna being perfectly seared, fresh, and flavorful. It was served chilled, and sesame-crusted with wasabi aioli and sweet chili slaw. The garnishing and accompaniments went with the tuna really well, so it wasn’t just an ordinary plate of seared tuna.
For her main course, Sarah ordered the Chicken Tikka Masala. It may be difficult to tell from the photo, but the portion on this was huge. It was served with rice and naan, and it was quite possibly enough for two people to eat. The tikka masala sauce was rich and creamy, with a slight kick to it. The naan was also really good and perfect for dipping in the tikka masala. I don’t know if there’s such a thing as Asian comfort food, but if so, this is pretty much it. Sarah could only finish half of this dish (it was a bit too creamy for her), so I generously offered to eat the rest. It was my favorite part of the meal.
I ordered the Malayasian Seafood Curry. Again, another large dish, and it was basically the ‘kitchen sink’ of seafood. It contained Mahi Mahi, scallops, little neck clams, mussels, shrimp, zucchini, roma tomatoes, red curry coconut broth, and jasmine rice, almost all of which was delicious. Normally, I think restaurants use dishes like this to dispose of their ‘lesser’ seafood, and while no individual piece of seafood was a particular standout, collectively, the dish was great.
Again, it was a dish with a slight kick, but nothing all that intense. The broth brought the dish together and gave it an interesting (good interesting) flavor. This curry was a close second to the Chicken Tikka Masala. I could see 3 people ordering these 2 dishes and and appetizer or 2, splitting it all, and having a great meal.
A friend who joined us ordered the Kobe Beef Burger. I about cringed when he ordered a burger at an Asian restaurant, but after tasting this, I really couldn’t blame him. If you’ve got a really picky eater in your group, this is basically the safety net option. A sizable burger that was a great cut of meat, topped with some shiitake mushrooms. At nearly $20, this was a pricey burger, but considering that it was Kobe beef, it wasn’t too excessive. Easily one of the best (if not the best) burgers at Walt Disney World.
We were all stuffed by the time dessert rolled around, but our waitress highly recommended the Fried Wontons, so we got an order to split. This is one of those desserts that looks interesting on paper, but often amounts to too much of a good thing. With pineapple, cream cheese wontons, vanilla ice cream, and honey vanilla drizzle this seemed like it could just end up being a mess. It absolutely was…one delicious, delicious decadent mess!
Overall, I was very surprised by Yak & Yeti. I would call it a hidden gem here, if it’s possible for at restaurant to hide in plain sight in one of the world’s most popular theme parks. At the very least, it’s underrated and under-hyped. I described one of the dishes as Asian comfort food above, and I think that’s probably an apt description for the restaurant as a whole. The presentation on every dish is great, but this isn’t exactly a fine dining restaurant about nuance or subtle flavors. It’s a go in hungry, go home happy type of place with large portions and rich flavors. That is absolutely in no way a knock at Yak & Yeti. I loved just about everything about the meal, and I was fully expecting disappointment.
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Have you dined at Yak and Yeti Restaurant? Did you find it bad, meh, or great? What did you order? What about the ambiance? Share your thoughts in the comments!