I can't fathom the logic the folks behind the South Loop's Chicago Curry House
employed in opening another Nepalese restaurant less than half a mile south—especially since the mother ship Curry Hut
got its start in faraway Highwood, Lake County. OK, Nepal House has a much more trafficked location, but I can think of a dozen other neighborhoods that could use, and would support, a reliable source for momo, gundruk ko takari
, or goat chhoela
. What did the South Loop do to deserve two restaurants with nearly identical menus?
I'm not sure there's much more I can say about Nepal House that I haven't already said about Chicago Curry House, which is a more-than-decent option for the mildly spicy food of the Himalayas. Nepalese restaurants in these parts tend to be duplicative in the sense that they always feature a small selection of actual Nepalese food headlining a large menu of the same northern and southern Indian dishes (but not Italian!) you see everywhere. So while I'd like to see a broader representation (yak-butter tea, anyone?), there are plenty of other options for eaters who just can't stomach "chicken chow mein Nepali style."
Like Chicago Curry House, Nepal House features a one-page menu of Nepalese standards and eight pages of typical northern Indian stuff. You and a partner can pretty much cover the bases on the former by ordering a couple thalis. These are circular sampler trays dominated by a large pile of fluffy basmati rice, which is surrounded by small aluminum bowls filled with yogurt, dal, and your choice of three vegetables and curries. Khasi
are particularly good, bone-in goat and chicken, respectively, in a mildly spiced gravy. Apart from those, aaluko achar
is an uncommon dish of crunchy vegetables that have been lightly fermented in sesame-lemon paste and have a slightly and not unpleasantly bitter flavor from fenugreek and turmeric. This goes great with the "beaten" flat rice known as chiura
, which is also good for adding texture to the stewier dishes. Another snacky option is bhatmas
, crunchy dry-roasted soybeans tossed with raw red onions, chiles, and a squirt of lemon juice.
And of course you're going to order the momo, plump chicken or vegetable dumplings wrapped so tight you can bounce them, served with a little tub of gingery tomato-based dipping sauce.
But be forewarned if you're looking for bolder-tasting stuff on the lopsided Indian list: lamb vindaloo, typically a blazing hot dish, is prepared only moderately spicy, which doesn't bode well for the rest of the menu if you're looking for chile heat.
Obligatory cooking content: here's a great site full of Nepalese recipes.
Nepal House, 1301 S. Michigan, 312-922-0601, nepalhouseonline.com
Mike Sula writes about cooking every Monday.