The greater Baltimore area now has more Nepalese restaurants than you can count on one hand! One of the latest entries in what soon could be called Baltimore’s version of Little Kathmandu is a new restaurant named, aptly enough, Nepal House. On the site of the former Mughal Gardens, the new owners took a few months to remodel before opening. What they managed to create is some Nepalese comfort food. Since we were too late for the lunch buffet, we instead ordered off the menu which provided many different choices which you can collectively mull over while chomping on the Indian equivalent of salsa and chips – papadum and a trio of condiments.
Appetizers ranged from pakoras (veggie, chicken, and shrimp $4-$10), to other traditional items like samosas ($4), and chat papri ($5), to the omnipresent chicken wings (?!? $8). We opted for the two platters (veggie $8 and non-veggie $10) and 3 entrees. Even though there were three of us (including at least two who never met an appetizer they didn’t like…), these two platters proved to be very filling and a wiser strategy would have been to order the platters first and then re-evaluate dinner choices later.
The veggie platter arrived filled with pakoras and a single samosa which presented the usual dilemma of how do you share a single samosa amongst multiple people without turning it into a mashed potato mess?
The non-veggie platter had some very tasty chicken tikka, some very scarce tandoori shrimp, and a seekh kabob. This platter was a big hit and promptly disappeared with the attendant tamarind sauce and coriander and delicious onion chutney being generously applied to almost anything that did not move.
The breadth of the menu covered any base you would want – biryanis ($13-$18), seafood ($18), chicken ($15), lamb ($16), tandoor ($14-$20), vegetarian ($12-13), and Nepalese ($9-$20), with the usual vindaloo, masala, saag, and curry variations. The Nepalese specialties included momo (think dumpling), kathmandu sekuwa (skewered lamb or chicken), and 2 entrees made from a variety of individual items. One specialty was called Newari khaja (flattened rice+ curried beans + potato curry + gundruk (fermented mustard leaves) + choyela (a cold stewed meat)). The other was called Thakali Thali and was a Nepalese version of a Japanese bento box (or its closer cousin from the sub-continent, a tiffin). It comes with rice, meat or veggie curry, lentils, saag (spinach), and radish pickle, vegetables, and yogurt.
Since dinner was a fait accompli and was ordered with the appetizers, when we finished the platters we settled in until the Main Events arrived. There was certainly no rush in getting food out and things took their own pace so conversations were not hampered, though if you are a schedule, it might be worth mentioning. After a bit we were greeted to a sizzling Sekuwa (which smelled wonderful), an oval plate of many momo (and I guess what could be termed a momo sauce), and a copper fixture that housed a sterno flame for some lamb vindaloo.
The pile of lamb and onions that was the Sekuwa tasted good though some of the pieces of lamb were drier than the others. No sauce accompanied what was essentially a plate of flavored grilled meat and onions.
The vindaloo had a slow kick that once it set in, was also equally as slow to finish. The vindaloo was nicely tangy which initially misled you into thinking it was harmless. Two minutes later you thought differently. The momo were dense and hot, and the ground chicken filling was distinct but much milder than I expected. Wonder if there is such a thing as a chicken/lamb vindaloo stuffed momo in the nouvelle cuisine of Nepal? That would be a killer combo for lunch.
And speaking of lunch, there is a daily lunch buffet from 11:30-2:30 if you want to graze your way through the menu.
The ambiance of the new restaurant was airy and open and a little too bright for the leisurely pace of the service during the evening. This would be the right kind of meal to go over minute details of torrid affairs, reflect on certain aspects of dashed dreams, or reveal Brave New Big Plans, but with such bright lighting that accentuates an open space, what could be an intimate meal could just easily morph into a business lunch.
But that is life in the Kathmandu Corridor, is it not? Is it an intimate spot or a quick in-and-out kind of place? Hinduism maintains the idea of Maya, or the Illusion that can stem from living in the material word. With yet another Nepalese restaurant in the area to try, are such culinary treats fleeting in nature and just a flash in the tandoor, so to speak? Let’s hope not!
Facts: Nepal House, 921 N. Charles, B’more, 21201, 410-547-0001. Full bar; vegetarian options. Open 6 days a week (closed Tuesdays) from 11:30 am -2:00 pm and 5:00-9:00 pm. Parking on Charles is always tight, so good luck. http://nepalhousebaltimore.com/