Monday, November 26, 2012

Tasty momos at Gurkha Himalayan Kitchen

Gurkha Himalayan Kitchen on Urbanspoon This past weekend's eats took us to the weird little restaurant, Gurkha Himalayan Kitchen on Friday night. If you're not looking for it, you may very well miss it because it doesn't have a storefront per se. Instead, it looks like a house next to a parking lot. At the porch, there are little prayer wheels. Inside, the decor bits are reminiscent of various cultures and curious to see.

I had asked for a set menu for our dining group, and basically left it up to the restaurant. They came back with a $27 dinner that was to include 3 types of appetizers, 2 meat dishes, 1 vegetarian dish, 1 "daal type item", a Nepalese style rice pudding for dessert, and chai tea. What we got was still $27, but very different. Somehow there was a communication breakdown and they weren't sure we were coming, and the servers had no clue about the set menu.
Eventually things got straightened out, but our meal was mostly appetizers, a thali with our "main course", and a white dessert that I'm pretty sure wasn't rice pudding since I didn't see anything rice-like in it. Appetizers came out quickly, but shortly after six pm the restaurant was swamped, with a short lineup an people sitting at the bar. The two servers were overwhelmed, and probably the kitchen too, because our thali took a very long time to appear. At the end of dinner, we were informed that, to ensure freshness, everything was cooked from scratch at the time of ordering, and pretty much the only prep work done before was marinating meat.
In any case, we were 10 people and there for three hours and peckishness was making some people politely hangry and when the thalis came we didn't really ask what each item was.

The appetizers were really ace and the best part of the meal. The one dessert we had was also very interesting. The thali we got, however, was something awful, although with that, because it looks so much like an Indian meal, the tendency is to compare it with what you might get at an Indian restaurant, even though this is supposed to be authentic Tibetan. My advice here is to skip the Indian-like curry-and-rice style dishes here and just go to an Indian restaurant for it. Instead, assemble your meal from the appetizers and the momos from the entrées.

Here's what we got to try:
  • Bhatmaas Saandeko: Roasted soybean mixed with Himalayan herbs and mustard oil
    • This reminded me of Crispy Ceci at Campagnolo. "Roasted soybean" doesn't sound particularly tasty, but it's the seasoning that makes the dish. These roasted soybeans were really quite good.
  • Aalu Achaar: Potato salad garnished with lemon juice, mustard oil and mixed with Himalayan herbs
  • Taas: Special Nepali snack prepared with grilled lean lamb meat, cucumber and spices. Served with puffed and beaten rice mix.
    • This seemed a bit oily. But other than that, it was quite tasty, with a bit of spicy kick from the seasoning.
  • Chatpate: Lip smacking, tongue-tickling spicy-sour chickpeas and potato mix
    • This was also tasty, but not so crazy-tasty as the description makes it out to be. I suppose you'll have to personally judge for yourself.
  • Dalai Lama Momo: Vegetable (potato, cabbage, spinach and tofu) based steamed dumpling.
    • We had the fried version cooked in a "special sauce". There was just a bit of crispiness left  in the seam where the dumpling was folded and sealed. Otherwise, the sauce made everything soggy.
    • Something about the sauce made this really very tasty.
  • Tenzing Momo: Steamed dumpling with chicken filling.
    • These dumplings were made into little bags slightly smaller than ping pong balls. Similar sauce, but not quite as delicious as the vegetable option.
  • Nepali Roti: Fresh baked whole wheat bread
    • This was more like soft tacos. Really dreadfully boring on its own, and you shouldn't order it on its own unless you are pairing it with something or have something to dip it in or wrap in it.
  • Aalu-Kaauli: Cauliflower, potatoes, green peas and tomatoes cooked with herbs and spices (Vegetarian)
    • We weren't briefed on the contents of the thali we got, but there was a token salad, rice, two small containers of some sort of sauce (for what??), and three items to go with the rice. Curried cauliflower was one of them. A bit blah, but that could be the whole thali feeling like a considerable downer after the interesting and tasty appetizers.
  • Jhaaneko Daal: Lentils soaked and cooked with Nepali spices and tempered with onion, cumin seeds and garlic (Vegetarian)
    • Another "meh" item in our thali.
  • Himali Chicken: Spice-marinated boneless chicken cooked and simmered in rich creamy tomato sauce
    • I think this was the curry chicken like item in our thali. Trust me: Stick with appys, go Indian for your curry.
  • Dudhbari: Popular Nepali dessert with sweetened milk spheres in pistachio-flavoured cream syrup.
    • Looks like something you might get in an Indian restaurant, but with no rosewater (to which I am not partial). Can't go wrong with this dessert served refreshingly cold.
Service was overwhelmed, but generally it looked like they were trying hard. Damned if you could catch anyone's eye to get a refill of water, though. If you are a very small party (say, 2 persons), sit at the bar since the waitstaff have to go behind the bar to access the kitchen and they can't escape being flagged down. Otherwise, if on a Friday, go before 6pm or after 9pm.

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