I mentioned that I ate at a good Nepali restaurant in New York recently, so I thought I would write a little bit about Nepali restaurants and have the comment section be a place where others could suggest Nepali restaurants around the country or abroad.
If anyone has been to New York City with a South Asian friend or significant other then you are probably familiar with Jackson Heights, Queens. As Wikipedia notes, “Stores and restaurants on and near 74th street tend to cater towards the large South Asian population in the neighborhood, with sari and jewelry stores, Bengali and Hindi music and movie retailers and many restaurants.” There are even billboard advertisements featuring Bollywood stars like Abhishek Bachchan.
Although there are a few Nepali places in New York, I hear one of the best (most “authentic”?) is Himalayan Yak on Roosevelt Ave. I’ve been there twice now, and enjoyed it both times. It’s menu is divided into three sections—Tibetan, Nepali and Indian, and the atmosphere definitely has a Nepali/Tibetan feel—with Nepali wood panel art, Buddhist prayer wheels, paintings of mountain scenery (and of course, yaks), and tv screens airing muted and subtitled documentaries about Nepal and Tibet ( the first time I was there they were playing a documentary on the salt caravans in the high mountains). The food is quite tasty, serving crowd pleasing favorites like bhatmas ra chiura (spiced soybeans with beaten rice), gundruk (dry green vegetable very particular to Nepal), aloo tama (potato and bamboo shoot curry), kusi ko masu (goat meat), and of course momo.
In the evening the restaurant is usually packed with a Nepali/Tibetan crowd, who come not only for the food but to hear the live Nepali bands that play Friday-Monday. Inside the restaurant, it’s easy enough to pretend you are sitting in a café in the KTM valley tourist district of Thamel, rather than Queens.
Nepali band playing at the Himalayan Yak Restaurant
The restaurant was even in an episode of the American tv series “Ugly Betty” (Season 3 episode 14 near the middle of the episode). They made it look much more Tibetan for the show than it usually looks (the waiters don’t actually wear Tibetan costumes, although I have seen patrons wearing Tibetan chupas before).
To learn more about the restaurant you can read an interview done by the New York Times with the manager (my favorite question: “Is there seafood in Himalayan cuisine?”—answer: “We don’t have sea in Nepal. Nepal is a landlocked country. We don’t have sushi also over there.”).
So if in town, and looking for a place to try Nepali cuisine, check in to Himalayan Yak.
Living close to Boston one would think I’d have better recommendations for the city. There are several in town, and I’ve eaten the food at two—Kathmandu Spice in Arlington and the Yak and Yeti in Somerville.
I used to work at Tufts which is close to Somerville/Arlington, so one night after work P and I tried out Katmandu Spice. To be honest I don’t remember anything particularly outstanding– it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t very memorable either. It has Nepali specialties as well—kwatti (9 bean soup), thukpa (Tibetan noodle soup), goat sekuwa (barbequed goat meat), aloo tama, momo. I think I remember P saying the food seemed more Indian inspired, and they had quite a few dishes with fish and shrimp (see Himalayan Yak manger quote above– but in their defense they might be catering to the seafood loving New England palate). It was okay, but I’m not chomping on the bit to go back.
Inside Kathmandu Spice
Yak and Yeti is a new restaurant in the city. They catered our friend’s wedding this summer, and the food was pretty good. Our friends ordered big trays of pakora (which were really tasty), chicken, goat, cauli aloo, daal, and another dish or two (to be honest, I filled up on the tasty pakora so I can’t really remember what else I ate), topped off with a big tray of kheer (rice pudding). The food was good, relatively cheap for a big crowd (they had about seventy people), and worked well in a large quantity. I haven’t eaten at their restaurant in Boston yet, but based on the wedding food they made for AS and N, I’ll keep them in mind for a certain ceremony coming up in July.
Inside Yak and Yeti
So now dear readers, do you have Nepali restaurant recommendations? Feel free to comment below! Here is another list (from Desi Grub) to get you thinking…