International treasure at Nepali Kitchen
I am usually the one in my friend group to try all the new things, especially food. I will try anything twice. This is how I maintain my beach body, if the beach has an all-you-can-eat buffet. No matter where I go, I will go out of my way to find the local eatery that does NOT cater to the usual tourist if need be. Friends warn me that this is how you get robbed, but so far the worst that has happened is that I got indigestion from fermented soy beans. I usually just get a quick lesson in the local language or a fun game of charades as I try to match a Kanji character with the model food displayed in the window of a noodle shop. The cost of traveling is a bit steep, though. So imagine my joy when I found out I don’t have to go to all the way Nepal to try Nepali cuisine; I can just head to West Henrietta Road.
Bhutanese native Jagat Gurung brought his family to the United States six years ago, after they spent about 23 years in a Nepal refugee camp. Since living stateside, he worked hard to get the capital to open his restaurant, and in March, Nepali Kitchen opened its doors. The whole family helps him run the shop, including extended family. His son Parmin says they plan to expand to the space adjacent to the restaurant, to open a Nepali market as well. Rochester’s growing Bhutanese-Nepali community will likely appreciate his growth and success.
I know little about Nepal and Bhutan beyond their locations in the Himalayas, the fact that Mt. Everest is there, and that Nepal has the most uniquely shaped national flag. Food-wise, I wondered what they would have to offer. Since Nepal is sandwiched between China to the north and India to the south, would there be any influence of either regions? With Bangladesh on its eastern border, would I get a little bit of extra spice in my meal? Would it have its own style, dense and hearty, given its location in such a cold region of the world?
The answer to all of these questions is yes. Nepali Kitchen’s food is rich and filling. It marries cooking styles of China with flavor portfolios from India, and vice versa. Despite the hints of other regions I could detect, all the food stood out on its own to make this a unique dining experience.
Many restaurants have so much packed into their menus that it’s overwhelming to run through it. If I wanted to read a novel before my meal, I would go to the Cheesecake Factory. The menu at Nepali Kitchen is two pages, yet still full of a myriad of options that reflect the culinary staples of the region.
The first thing that jumped out at me was the momo ($7), which are vegetable, pork, or chicken dumplings. I’ve had a version of them in Indian and Chinese restaurants, and this style was just as delicious. The vegetable momo have a balanced, sweet-savory taste. The Aloo paratha ($5), which is flatbread stuffed with seasoned potatoes, was a new dish for me, but it combines two things I love, and is like a pocket of joy.
And the Sel roti ($5) is a lightly sweet, rice flour fried dough ring, kind of like a large doughnut, but not as heavy. The ring is served with sabji, a dipping sauce full of onions, chickpeas, and spices. It is hard to put them down once picked up, but I did need to save some space for the main course.
At the top of the menu are Nepali Thali sets. A Thali set is a traditionally Indian manner of serving food: A large, round platter is filled with a series small dishes, each with a specific food item in it. Unless you’re ravenous, this is a sharing dish. Nepali Kitchen offers all-vegetable ($10.99), chicken ($11.99), and mutton ($12.99) versions of the Thali Sets. They are all served with white rice and an assortment of stewed, steamed, and fried vegetables. Alternately, the dhindo set ($10.99) includes all of the components of the Thali set, except instead of rice you get dhindo, a Nepali dish made by bringing water to a boil and constantly mixing in the flours of maize and other grains until it is a smooth, thick consistency.
No matter what you get at Nepali Kitchen, be sure you bring a friend or two. Just as the restaurant is successful thanks to the help of the whole family, you will have a much more enjoyable experience bringing friends to share in this culinary experience. The price is right, too; $25 kept my party of three full for hours.
Published on 4 June 2019