Yak and Yeti is an important restaurant in Disney's ever-growing Animal Kingdom. There are currently only three and a half table-service restaurants to choose from in-park.Tiffins
, while being amazingly good, is also an equally expensive "signature" dining location. Tusker House
is a character dining buffet experience and no matter what you think about the food… you're not always in the mood for the craziness that comes with character dining, or the constant up and down of buffet dining.Rainforest Café
is my half-location… because it's half in the park, and half out. Yes, it's technically an Animal Kingdom restaurant, but with it being so far away from the action (near the front entrance/exit area) it's more of a standalone dining location than a themed part of Animal Kingdom.
Yak and Yeti (a third party vendor location that's operated by Landry's, the same group that runs Rainforest Café) is the only non-character, sit down and relax for a second, won't cost you two dining credits, kind of place in all of Animal Kingdom.
How do I think it stacks up? Pretty well actually. From a design standpoint, there is a richness to this place that many of the newer Disney operated dining locations can't match. Everywhere you look there are Asian and Indonesian design cues (hence the rather large number of interior photos in our gallery). Each grouping of four or five tables seem to be situated in a different "room" with totally different spaces to look at.
There are two floors of dining in this rather large restaurant so even if you think the park is incredibly busy, (and you don't have a reservation) you may want to check with Yak & Yeti to see if you can get a table. I have always found that they will do their very best to work with walk-up guests seeking refuge from the park.
It's not exactly what I would call quiet and romantic, so if you're looking for that… Tiffins is probably a better choice. Yak and Yeti is a family-friendly atmosphere (think "character dining", but without the characters).
The authenticity of the environment doesn't always translate to the food though. That's not saying this is a bad place to eat… on the contrary actually. The food here has been quite good. It is… American cuisine though… and not truly Pan-Asian. Where some dining locations (I'm thinking about you Epcot and Disney Springs) try to get a bit closer to authentic… Yak and Yeti takes a very, very safe approach with only slight culinary nods here and there to ethnic cuisine. That's not bad or wrong… the semi-large menu is going to appeal to a very large number of people, so based on the size of the restaurant, it's the right way to go. Even picky eaters will likely find something on the menu to enjoy.
On a recent visit I tried one of the items on their "Small Plates" menu (technically an appetizer I suppose)… the Firecracker Shrimp. There were about 20 small shrimp on the plate (more than I thought there would be), served warm (i.e. could have been hotter, but not so bad where I would send it back), and resting on top of a bed of Asian Slaw.
The shrimp were so perfectly uniformly sized and coated with just the right amount of sauce, that the food here makes me think more about "product" than made-to-order culinary (again… one of the casualties of a large, high-volume restaurant). All in all, this was a great dish that I really enjoyed. Yes, it could have had a "hotter" spice note. This was one of the more mild interpretations of "Firecracker" sauce that I've had. The menu does say "creamy, spicy sauce" and not "spicy, creamy sauce"… and I would agree.
The Slaw that the shrimp were sitting on, was pretty basic, but provided a nice contrast to the shrimp. The waitress seemed surprised I did anything with the provided lime slice, but it did give a few of the spicy shrimp a more complex profile.
Next up, a new item for Yak and Yeti… the visually stunning Korean Fried Chicken and Waffle featuring Hand Battered Chicken (slices, these were boneless cutlets), on a Buttermilk Waffle with Gochujang Maple Syrup and Kimchi Slaw.
I love seeing stuff come out of the kitchen plated on something other than white china! They get points from me for simply making this one of the best entrée presentations that I've seen in months! (I'm so over those faux looking Melamine dishes).
Served on a cutting board with an actual knife (with teeth) just the spectacle of the thing drew gasps from nearby tables. From a flavor standpoint, this was again, very American... with just the slightest amount of Korean cuisine tossed in. But is was really, really good… and served much warmer than the shrimp. (Although I have not done enough research here to say for sure, but consistency in getting the food out as soon as it's ready, may be an issue here… so your experience may be kind of hit and miss.)
No, it's not going to win an iron cage battle with Chef Art Smith's Chicken and Waffles, but nothing could quite frankly. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the all white meat chicken cutlets that were used in this entree… there was only a small portion that I had to cut away… but I even like that. It tells me that these were cutlets and not repressed nuggets. The batter was mildly spiced with pepper and a few other spices I'm sure… it was not as "hot" as the Firecracker Shrimp.
The buttermilk waffle was light and fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside. It was not robust enough to hold up the full weight of all the chicken though… as one side was slightly deflated. The chicken and waffle was topped with a few julianned vegetables and a sprig of green leafy something (probably large leaf parsley).
There were two side dishes with this entree, one little bowl contained an ample amount of Gochujang Maple Syrup with a few disced chives tossed in for good measure. This is where I was hoping to get a little more "Korean" flavor. Gochujang is a red chili paste that when mixed with maple syrup gives you Gochujang Maple Syrup. Honestly though, the Maple Syrup could have just had a bit of food coloring in it for all I know… the red chili paste profile was so far back in the mix that it wasn't noticeable. This basically tasted like less sweet maple syrup.
Again, not bad or wrong… it's probably what most guests are expecting here. If they did have a proper Gochujang Maple Syrup, you'd get more complaints and requests for "normal" Maple Syrup than what it's worth.
The Kimchi Slaw was also very mild (for a Kimchi) but was actually quite good. This is a different slaw than what was used under the Firecracker Shirmp, and I liked it quite a bit. The fermenting of the vegetables was more "fresh and green" than over the top "hot". It was a really nice contrast to everything else that was going on.
I did intend to get a dessert here… but the sheer volume of shrimp on the appetizer and chicken on the entree was plenty for me and so I had to pass on dessert.
As long as you're not expecting authentic, exotic flavor-packed, Pan-Asian fare… Yak and Yeti is a great choice for American, quick causal, table service dining. Service, can be a bit inconsistent (i.e. with the warm food vs hot food issue and occasional long gaps between seeing a server), but the environment is extremely detailed and immersive. It offers a great escape from the heat and humidity of a typical day at Animal Kingdom... and the menu is large enough that everyone should be able to find something to enjoy.