A menu of Boris memories

Dubby Bhagat


The Chimney Room at The Yak and Yeti was packed that evening and the flickering flames of the famous Boris chimney brought back the days of the first and greatest chef of them all. “Allo, Allo, Allo, my name is Boris Lissaniavitch, it rhymes with son-of -a-ladydog.” And of course one never forgot.

The ladies loved Boris. Ingrid Bergman, the famous actress, gifted Boris a pig farm in the valley, Queen Elizabeth called him “our favorite Russian subject,” one of the most beautiful woman of his days, Lady Diana Manners, danced with him in a ballet called “The Miracle” and went on to marry the Prime Minister of Britain.

Boris hobnobbed with Prince Phillip, Lord Louis Mountbatten, Prince Charles, acted in a film with Jean Paul, “Belmondo,” asked mountaineers like Sir Edmund Hillary to get him rocks from the top of Mount Everest and symbolised early expatriate Kathmandu to the world.

“John Edwards of Tiger Tops and I used to come to the Yak & Yeti and because we didn’t have money we would order the Borscht and they would keep filling the soup bowl until we were full,” said Francis an old Nepal hand.

Boris’ Ukrainian Borscht is still served with chopped dill and onion and sour cream. It is said that there are as many versions of Borscht as there are Russians but Boris’s version has carrots, potatoes and onions in addition to the beetroot. It is as as hearty as Boris was.

There was a time when Boris took five Indian Maharajas to Hollywood to study the lesser American Starlet. He dined at The Coconut Grove with His Royal companions and some lovely ladies, and ignoring them all he sent for the chef and brought back the recipe of his famous pate.

It’s there on the menu today complete with chopped bacon a little booze (wine? brandy? port? ) and a hint of herbs flavoring the chicken livers. In true Boris tradition it’s served with finely sliced melba toast with lashings of butter. To this day it still carries Boris’s trademark single mushroom slice.

Boris was born in Odessa in Russia and his father supplied horses for the Tsar. On one trip he took Boris, who was then dancing in Diaghlev’s , Ballet Russe , to the court where a Chicken Stroganoff was served.He copied it years later and it became a part his menu with its cream, wine and mushrooms that are delicately balanced. In the old days Boris, after sampling of Stroganoff would yell “Skoll” and throw his vodka glass into the chimney.

Inevitably, all good Russians must have a chicken kiev on their restaurant’s menu, Boris’ interpretation has parsley in the chicken encased butter, and a touch of rosemary instead of the traditional Russian tarragon. I am pleased to report that the butter still gushes fountain-like as you begin to eat. The heart specialist Christian Bernard got herbed butter all over his shirt when he dined at the Yak & Yeti.

When Boris ran The Three Hundred Club in Calcutta (which included His Majesty the Late King Tribhuvan as a member) he got to love the easily available Bekti fish and concocted a dish that became an instant hit in both Calcutta and Kathmandu, his famous Smoked Bekti. It was served in a specially made iron dish and was flavored with a powder imported from the Netherlands (his beautiful wife Igner was imported from nearby Denmark) but today is replicated with a pine flavored ingredient that is just as good. What the fish doesn’t soak up the accompanying butter sauce does. It was a favourite of the British model turned Princess Gina Cooch Behar who would then go to one of Kathmandu’s discotheques to work off smidgens of imagined weight.

The Yeti’s delight from Boris’s old menu is once more being served at the Chimney Room. In the old days it was a crepe stuffed with fruit and smothered with Kahula-laced cream. I think Boris would approve of the addition of a hot chocolate sauce and the chopped nuts that are added today.

What you miss and I ask the Yak & Yeti to introduce is the small cucumbers pickled in brine, viginar, dill and pepper that Boris used to make and serve with the richest mayonnaise in the country. You also miss Boris’ presence and that memorable greeting, “Allo, Allo, Allo my name is Boris.” But the team at the Yak & Yeti have paid their dues to the maestro by introducing a menu that is timeless as the memory of Boris.