I’m showing my age, but I can’t think of the word Kathmandu without hearing Bob Seger’s lyrics in my head: “K-k-k-k-Kathmandu, I think that’s where I’m going to. If I ever get out of here, I’m going to Kathmandu!” I wish I could—go to Kathmandu, that is. But, the reality is, the closest I’m ever likely to get to Nepal is Kathmandu restaurant.
That’s not all bad. Sure, I’d love to see the Himalayas in person. But at least I can get a taste of Nepalese cooking right here in Utah. We have a handful of excellent restaurants serving up Nepali cuisine, along with Indian, including the newest, Kathmandu. Maybe that’s why Apa Sherpa—the Nepalese Sherpa who has reached the summit of Mount Everest more times than any other person—decided to make Utah his home. At least he can enjoy some of the flavors of his homeland here, if not quite the lofty peaks of Everest.
Kathmandu was opened in February by the previous owners of Himalayan Kitchen, which itself recently found new digs. Kathmandu took over the space previously occupied by Bangkok Thai Talay, which has since been remodeled. High ceilings make the restaurant seem even larger and more sprawling than it already is, and, although dimly lit, the interior is warm. There’s a large table at one end of the dining room loaded with musical instruments and other artifacts from Nepal and India. Two flat-screen TVs in opposite corners of the eatery offer diners a continuous slideshow combining urban and rural scenes of Nepal.
Although very friendly, service at Kathmandu has been a bit sketchy on my visits. I’ve never been quite sure who my server was, exactly, and there always seemed to be a bit of confusion. That’s especially true if you get into the small wine list, but I won’t dwell on that. I didn’t go to Kathmandu expecting Ruth’s Chris-class wine service. At dinnertime though, the dishes can be a long time coming, and you may begin to feel like you’re on an Everest-type trek yourself.
It’s worth the wait, however. The food at Kathmandu is made-to-order, from scratch mostly, and so—excepting the steam table, lunchtime buffet—dishes take time to prepare. The Kathmandu Combo Platter ($10.95) took forever; we’d arrived hungry and ordered it straight away thinking we’d have some food in front of us pronto. When it finally arrived, we were impressed; the massive combo could have easily sufficed as dinner for two. There were a couple of lean lamb boti kababs, lightly seasoned and delicious, pieces of tandoori chicken and chicken tikka, paneer pakora (chickpea flour-coated deep-fried soft cheese), fried potato fritters called aloo tikki, a sami kabob (grilled minced lamb with black lentils and chickpea flour), along with fried broccoli and cauliflower. With the combo platter comes a trio of dipping sauces: coconut curry, mint and tangy tamarind.
Another good place to begin at Kathmandu and, a favorite of customers there, is with momos. They are Nepali-style potstickers—pasta dumplings stuffed with either minced ground chicken, cilantro and spices ($10.95) or the veggie version made with potato, green peas, cabbage, cilantro and onions ($9.95). Each serving is about 10 dumplings and comes with a delicious sesame seed dipping sauce and also a less interesting tomato-based sauce.
As mentioned, a good way to sample an array of the Indian and Nepali dishes available from the extensive Kathmandu menu is to drop in at lunchtime for the ($9.65) buffet, which sports more than a dozen different dishes, plus sides and desserts, which vary daily. As also mentioned however, at dinnertime everything is made-to-order, and so the food quality is even better.
Chicken Chilli ($13.95), spelled with two l’s on the menu, is one of the Nepalese specialties of the house. It’s a generous serving of boneless chicken breast morsels, first marinated in yogurt and spices, then battered with chickpea and corn flour, deep-fried and served with tomato, peppers and a smattering of fresh cilantro. Unfortunately, I couldn’t detect any chili in my Chicken Chilli. But, that’s my bad, because on each visit I’ve initially ordered certain dishes “hot” (versus mild or medium) only to be talked down to medium by my servers, who seem to fear for my ability to eat seriously spicy food. Each time, I’ve been given a small side serving of hot sauce, which sort of makes me wonder why Kathmandu offers the “hot” option for dishes in the first place. Anyway, I’ve learned my lesson: No more backing down from the heat for me. Just do it.
The side serving of hot sauce was invaluable in kicking up the heat on another Nepali specialty: prawn curry ($15.95). Kathmandu offers four versions of methi curry, which is Nepalese-style curry flavored with methi, which you may know as fenugreek. Shelled pieces of shrimp are bathed in a lovely, red rock-colored curry of tomato, onion, spices (including fresh cilantro) and lots of methi, which lends the curry a slightly fragrant and bitter flavor. It’s a delectable dish, and yet, I still prefer the classic, creamy, tikka masala curry at Kathmandu, for which the delightful tandoor-cooked breads—paratha, naan, roti, poori and bhatura—seem to be made, for soaking up all of that wonderful curry.
Kind, generous service from workers like Gopal, Rabi and Santa might be on the slow side at Kathmandu. But then, what’s the rush? Just be sure to set your watch to Nepali time before you visit. Me? I’ll be going back to K-k-k-k-Kathmandu.
3142 S. Highland Drive
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