On a warm Thursday night, I dropped by this newish restaurant hoping to snag one of the outdoor tables. Seems like a popular idea, as every table was full and I was lucky, in fact, to get the next to the last one inside. It was good to see that Nepalese cuisine has found a following in the Wine Country!
Nearly all the parties were enjoying wine with dinner. The brief list here is well-selected to match the food, most by the glass ($5 -$6/glass). Crisp aromatic whites such as Handley Gewurztraminer from Anderson Valley and deep, luscious red wines such as Andrew Murrays Syrah are well-tuned for the spice palette of Nepal. There are also more than a handful of beers offered. I went with a glass of 2002 Frogs Leap Leapfrogmilch, $5.25/glass. This is a blend of Riesling and Chardonnay made in an off-dry style with floral aromas, pearish and green apple flavors and a good kick of acid in the clean finish.
Beef Momos (8 for $7.50) were thin-skinned and bursting with juice, so much so that I wished I had a spoon and chopsticks so that I could approach them ala xiao long bao. The dumplings had a slightly gamey taste that one would almost thing there was some lamb in the blend. The filling was savory from onion and cilantro and other elusive spices. The accompanying tomato-based dipping sauce had a bright, clean taste of yogurt and tomato and intense spicy heat of fresh ginger and chilis.
The Daal lentil soup, included with the dinner along with naan or basmati rice, was made from yellow lentils accented with toasty flavors and roasted spices. This was light textured and soup-y, instead of overly thick and pasty.
Kukhura Ra Saag (boneless chicken and spinach curry, $9.50) ordered spicy had fresh jalapeño slices in the tomato and caramelized onion sauce that boosted the heat levels. The thick chunks of dark meat cut from the thighs were juicy and succulent mingled with whole leaf spinach. This was a great combination of long-simmered flavors of the sauce infusing the chicken along with the barely cooked freshness of the spinach and the green heat of the chilis.
Naan was the airy, poofy style and nicely charred with the essential taste of a well-seasoned tandoor. Brushed with ghee for extra richness, while it could be chewier, the naan was fine. The basmati rice lacked aroma and was overcooked, swollen and clumped together. A mango lassi for dessert was made from thick, flavorful yogurt but was light on mango.
Drawing a comparison to the recent chow dinner at Little Nepal in San Francisco, Id have to say that the momos and the tomato condiment were tastier here. The curries arent directly comparable, but chicken meat in Little Nepals were dried out versus the carefully modulated cooking here. Where Little Nepal excelled was in making better naan, delicate and fragrant rice, and more intense mango lassi. I like both places.
Taste of the Himalayas
464 First Street East
(in the Place de Pyrenees courtyard)