Outside Nepal Restaurant & Bar, which opens onto pulsating Staunton Street, is a bas-relief of Lajja Gauri, the Hindu goddess of abundance, fertility and sexuality. Disdaining mortal modesty, Ms Gauri beckons you in with more, much more, than open arms. You enter a handsome space adorned with Nepalese objets d’art.
You begin lunch with bhenta tareko (deep-fried aubergine) along with a troika of chutneys, tamarind, tomato and coriander-chilli, with amperage to equal its colour intensity. Coated in cornflour, the unsung hero of crisp coatings, the aubergine is sweet, spare, scrumptious, oil free.
Since you’ve arrived in Hong Kong, you’ve joyously eaten mo’ and mo’ momos, and those at Nepal Restaurant are the best you’ve had. The obvious reason is the skins, indistinguishable from great soup-dumpling wrappers, which are house-made. You can’t pinpoint why, but house-made wrappers have a satisfying heft and chew that no pre-made dumpling skin can equal. The chicken forcemeat is juicy and flavourful. The momos and the bhenta tareko are standouts.
The haas ko chhoila (spicy duck flambé with fenugreek seeds) uses duck that comes to them pre-smoked. While good, it falls short of its promise. The duck tastes somewhat processed (perhaps for shelf life), and though apparently smoked, it lacks the beguiling nose of in-house smoking that you get, for instance, with Chinese camphor-smoked duck. You would have preferred a crisp skin. You’ve read that fenugreek seeds provide the compounds for artificial maple syrup. You get no taste from them at all. But you adore their crunch.
The khasi ko sekuwa (BBQ lamb) is delicious with the blistered butter naan and perfectly cooked saffron basmati rice. You like the warm, but essentially raw, sweet onion slivers served with it, a pleasurable counterpoint to the charred meat.
The tarkari rana khandani (mixed vegetable curry) contains broccoli, string beans, mushrooms and paneer (which they make in-house) in a smooth, comforting cashew sauce. Therapeutically mild, it knits the ravelled sleeve of care.
Your wife has a mango smoothie – mango, orange juice, ice – that she likes. You drink Nepalese Mustang beer, which is refreshing, similar to Tsingtao but down a half-note, ideal for this chow.
For dessert, you have shikarni (sweetened, chilled yoghurt with aromatic spices garnished with pistachio and saffron). The snappy yoghurt is house-made, the saffron barely distinguishable, if at all. It is dulcified by lovely honey imported from India, as is a bowl of kiwi and orange.
No slouch operation, you’re pleased to see that the chef wears a pleated toque, a badge of professional pride.
Find the Hindu goddess of abundance, fertility and sexuality on Staunton Street
Nepal Restaurant is good for dates, families, pals. This is not a Black Sheep restaurant with every conceivable detail polished to the utmost. It has a homespun, family quality, as though you’re eating at a friend’s nice home. Your server is pleasant and brisk. The food, much of it in the vernacular of Indian cuisine, is not designed to dazzle but to deliciously satisfy. Nepal Restaurant is your go-to for momos. You will certainly return when you pine for Nepalese delights.
Having learned from your wife never to get sideways of a goddess, you respectfully bid farewell to Ms Gauri. You and your wife, apex goddess, amble homeward.
Rating (on a scale of 0 to 5)
Overall greatness: 3.5
Restaurants are intuitively rated within their particular realms. So Michelin restaurants, pizza places and stand-up sandwich joints are judged against like restaurants, not each other. A 5 for a high-end restaurant is not meant to be the same as a 5 for street food.
From my website, here’s how I rate food: “I believe the quality of a restaurant’s food is vastly more important than any other factor. Even if I love a restaurant’s food, I’m very conservative about giving out 4s or 5s. I reserve 4s for food that is uniformly excellent. Preponderantly excellent tends to get a lower score. 5s are for food that is uniformly stunning.”
This meal was comped.
14 Staunton Street, SoHo, Central, 2869 6212