Today, guest blogger Shayne Newell, author of Shayne’s Project 365, has kindly contributed a great review and some gorgeous photos from Animal Kingdom’s Yak and Yeti Restaurant! Take it away, Shayne!
Background and Restaurant Atmosphere
Yak & Yeti is one of only two full service restaurants completely within the gates of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. My husband and I recently returned from a trip to Walt Disney World (without our kids!). In my research leading up to the trip, I had heard a number of good things about Yak & Yeti, but also saw a few not-so-favorable reviews. As we started to plan our vacation and realized that we would be spending one morning at Animal Kingdom, with our main goal being to ride Expedition Everest a couple of times, Yak & Yeti seemed like a natural choice. We actually ended up eating there twice during our vacation and so were able to try a variety of dishes.
The restaurant is located in the Anandapur Village in the Asia section of Animal Kingdom. It sits at the crossroad between the path that leads to Kali River Rapids and the path that leads to Expedition Everest. Next door to the table service restaurant is the Yak & Yeti counter service restaurant that serves a smaller selection of menu items from the sit-down eatery.
We had an early ADR for lunch at 11:00 and arrived a bit early. We looked around a small courtyard area until the doors opened and we walked into the waiting area. The décor is a mixture of Asian-style artifacts.
Our hostess led us up a staircase in the center of the restaurant to our table. (An elevator is available for those who have difficulty with stairs.) The restaurant is a series of smaller rooms situated around a central open area. I have read that the restaurant seats 250, but I never would have guessed it. The smaller rooms give a more cozy feel and really make you feel as if you’ve stepped into a restaurant in an Asian village. It’s easy to forget that bustling crowds of Disney guests are just outside the doors.
We took a look at the menu, the back of which shares the story of the Yak & Yeti restaurant. The premise is that a merchant named Arjun has fallen on hard times, and has turned part of his home into the Yak & Yeti hotel. The restaurant sits at the center of the hotel and welcomes travelers seeking respite from the bustling streets of Anandapur; one can find local street cafes and shops nearby, including the Yak & Yeti counter service restaurant and the Bhaktapur market next to the restaurant. I loved this little tale and thought it just added that much more to very thorough theming of the restaurant.
Now, let’s talk about the food! The menu at Yak & Yeti is best described as Pan-Asian, incorporating predominantly Chinese flavors, but also some elements of Japanese and Vietnamese cooking.
The menu features several appetizers ranging from seared ahi tuna to the more familiar pot stickers and pork egg rolls. During our first experience at Yak & Yeti, my husband and I opted for the dim sum basket for two. The food was presented in a steamer basket and contained 3 pork pot stickers, 3 pork siu mai (a type of steamed dumpling), 3 shrimp siu mai and 2 char siu bao (buns filled with Chinese BBQ pork). A side of soy lime dipping sauce accompanied the basket. Unfortunately, we ate almost all of it before I remembered to take a picture, but here is what it looked like:
On our second trip, we had the pan seared pork pot stickers, which were also delicious. They were not too doughy, but probably could have been seared just a bit longer to give the outside of the dumpling a bit more crispiness.
The entree choices are almost overwhelming! The menu is divided into different sections: Soups & Salads, Sides, Specialties, Noodles, Woks, Grilled Items and Desserts. During our two meals, we sampled items from several sections of the menu. We discovered that there were a couple of new items that were added to the menu in December — a Malaysian seafood curry dish and a Kobe beef burger.
I tried two of the three soup and salad offerings — the wonton soup and mandarin chicken salad. A house salad is also available. The soup came with those yummy fried wonton strips to add on top. The salad was enormous and had lots of chunks of chicken and mandarin orange slices. It was topped with crunchy rice noodles and a plum dressing (but I ordered mine on the side). It was a filling choice that wasn’t too heavy. This would be great on a hot Florida day. But at $13.99, it’s a bit pricey for a salad if you’re not on the Disney Dining Plan.
The side dishes include pork egg rolls, stir-fried veggies, chicken fried rice and wok-fried green beans. The only one we tried was the pork egg rolls, which were flavorful and not too greasy.
The noodle options are Vietnamese pho and a Chinese-style lo mein dish. Other than the new Malaysian curry dish, the menu’s “specialty” items all have a Japanese flair. The choices include a seared miso salmon, a panko-breaded mahi-mahi, duck with a wasabi orange glaze, and tempura shrimp.
The wok options are crispy honey chicken, sweet and sour chicken or pork, and stir-fried beef and broccoli. On our waiter’s recommendation, I tried the beef and broccoli wok on our second visit. The meat was tender and the broccoli nice and crisp. You can order it with jasmine (white) or brown rice. I’m a fan of brown rice and was glad to have this option.
My husband tried two different dishes from the grilled items section of the menu. The first was the new Kobe beef burger. It came with a choice of Asian slaw or sauteed mushrooms, which is what he chose. The burger was thick and flavorful and came with a side of mayo flavored with soy, sesame and other flavors, as well as a hearty portion of french fries.
He also tried the baby back ribs. I know it doesn’t sound very Asian, but the ribs were coated in a hoisin BBQ sauce and served with chicken fried rice and an Asian slaw. The ribs are prepared using some variety of slow cooking method, and the meat was literally falling off the bone. The flavor of the hoisin BBQ sauce was pleasing without being overpowering and, when combined with the tenderness of the meat, this dish was a definite hit! Thankfully they provided some moist towelettes with the meal, because it was impossible to be neat while eating these ribs!
Other grilled items include a maple tamarind chicken and a Chinese-flavored steak and shrimp dish.
Yak & Yeti’s drink menu also has something for everyone. In addition to the usual coffee, iced tea, sodas and water, there is a selection of hot teas and unique alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
Because it was so cold during our visit, I had the Monk’s Blend hot tea. It was a delicious black tea with a vanilla flavor that was not too heavy or sweet.
We also ordered one of the storied Yak Attack alcoholic beverages — a mango daquiri made with rum. Delicious!
In talking with our waiter, we discovered that Yak & Yeti is operated by Landry’s Restaurants, the same company that runs the Rainforest Cafe and the T-Rex restaurant in Downtown Disney. Luckily, Yak & Yeti does accept the Disney Dining Plan. Each of our two meals (not including alcoholic beverages) came to over $50 for two people for lunch. So, for those not on the dining plan, the prices at Yak & Yeti might be a bit high. However, even though we were out of table service credits on our dining plan when we ate our second meal at Yak & Yeti, we so enjoyed the atmosphere, service and food that we did not hesitate to pay out of pocket for our meal.
On both of our visits to Yak & Yeti, we were too full for dessert. Options include sorbet, mango pie, a chocolate brownie sundae for 2, and fried wontons, which is described as “skewers of fresh pineapple and cream cheese wontons with vanilla ice cream and honey vanilla drizzle.” I’ll definitely need to save room for dessert on our next trip.