Temple Street is known for its always-busy tourist-trap market stalls and slightly-too-expensive dai pai dongs, but it is also home to some truly great hidden gems. Still on Temple Street but away from the market in a much quieter part of the area sits The Jungle. Just across the road from popular third-wave coffee shop Studio Caffeine is where you’ll find this tiki-style, Nepalese fusion restaurant.
We were unsure what to expect when we stepped inside the nature- and neon-themed spot. The bar is fully stocked, with fresh fruit on the counter indicating the fresh, island-style cocktails on offer. The food menu is extensive, featuring Western, international and Nepalese dishes. We usually find menus like this to be a little overwhelming and confusing. Shorter menus with a clear focus generally fare better, but there are always exceptions to the rule. With most, if not all, of the friendly restaurant team hailing from Nepal, we thought it best to stick to the Nepalese dishes.
The restaurant was very busy when we visited on a Thursday evening, and from what we could tell, the crowd was pretty diverse. The service, although incredibly warm, was a little slow because of the packed nature of the place. While The Jungle may not be particularly well known, they certainly have a loyal following.
Starting off with a very necessary cocktail, we tried Welcome to the Jungle ($90) and the Elderflower Paloma ($90). A lot of thought has clearly gone into these well-priced, creative cocktails, and they are certainly some of the main draws of the restaurant. The cocktails are beautiful, bright and refreshing, with strong citrusy flavours.
The prettiest (in our opinion) cocktail on the menu is Wild One ($90), made with mexcal, pineapple, fresh lime and homemade spiced osmanthus syrup. A colourful butterfly sits atop the foamy drink, which definitely looks better than it tastes – it reminded us of those printed kids’ birthday cake decorations. However, the cocktail itself is lovely. Served with black salt and chilli (a popular way to eat pineapple in Nepal), we recommend adding just a little to the cocktail. Black salt is pungent and sulphurous – fun to try, but only a pinch is necessary.
Moving on to the food, we started with the aloo dum ($68), crisp potatoes flavoured with plenty of herbs and spices – a very moreish starter or side dish.
By far our favourite dish of the evening, the sargemba ($88) are homemade sausages stuffed with minced pork, pork blood and Himalayan spices that are wrapped in pork intestines. Rich in flavour and crumbly without being dry, we gobbled up these superior-to-black-pudding sausages in no time.
We saw many momos come out of the kitchen throughout the evening, and once we sunk our teeth into these delicately cased dumplings, we could see why. We tried the steamed chicken momos ($88) and pork momos ($88), both of which were very generously portioned and deliciously juicy.
We were fortunate enough to try the special Daishan set (no longer available) to commemorate the Nepali festival of Daishan, which celebrates a new moon. The beautifully presented set included a fried rice flour doughnut, rice flakes, cucumber chutney, potatoes, buffalo meat and yoghurt. The doughnut was very tough – perhaps it was just not a texture we were used to, but we definitely would have preferred if it had been softer or if we had been given something warm to dip it into. We enjoyed the crunchy rice flakes (the waiter described rice flakes as a slow-releasing carbohydrate, almost like oats), especially when mixed with the yoghurt. The buffalo meat was on the tougher side yet well flavoured, while the cucumber chutney was surprisingly spicy.
New to the menu is the Kirati set ($118), an enticing mix of colours and flavours featuring turmeric rice, pickled vegetables, pork and mustard greens, dried buffalo meat and fermented soybean chutney. We particularly enjoyed the rice, which was elevated with the addition of turmeric, but again, we found the meat to be too tough. The soybean chutney had a creamy texture with a light spice, while the spice level of the pickled vegetables was through the roof. It’s a good thing the waiter had warned us!
We were very full by the time dessert arrived in the form of a cheesecake ($58). While the (very cold) cheesecake was pleasant after a rather heavy and spicy meal, it was not made in-house and tasted a little frozen. We would have loved to have seen some Nepalese desserts and hope that these will grace the new menu coming soon.
The Jungle is a very affordable, friendly and fun spot with a team that clearly put a lot of heart and passion into their food and drink offerings. We loved trying the new dishes, many of which are not easily found in Hong Kong and some of which we had never even heard of before. There are a few kinks to be worked out, which we think could be fixed with a more focused menu that would give the team more time to perfect their unique Nepalese dishes. We look forward to seeing what’s next for The Jungle – they’re in the process of releasing a new menu and seeking to open a second venue soon.
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.
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