One more Nepalese restaurant in the South Loop and we can start calling it Little Kathmandu | Bleader

One more Nepalese restaurant in the South Loop and we can start calling it Little Kathmandu

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momo, Nepal House
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."

bhatmas, Nepal House

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 and kurkhura 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.

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