Who knew that just a quick fixed-gear bike ride away from the hipster heartland, a Nepali community has been thriving? We made this discovery during a visit to the Nepali Indian Restaurant on Seneca Avenue in Ridgewood. There may be a more visible Nepali presence in the Jackson Heights/Woodside area, but a burgeoning number of Nepalis call Ridgewood home.
Nepal is an ethnically diverse country with differing cuisines eaten by different groups. The most striking difference is that the mostly Buddhist ethnic Tibetans, many of whom migrated to Nepal in the 1950s after the Communist takeover, eat beef, while the mostly Hindu Nepalis eat only lamb or goat. The Newari people, centered around Katmandu, practice a hybrid of Buddhism and Hinduism, and may eat either but who seem to favor, above all else, baji (beaten rice). The dominant flavors resemble the spices of India, but add into the mix a pronounced Chinese influence on many of the dishes.
The management of the aptly named Nepalese Indian Restaurant is Hindu, so the meat offerings are limited to lamb and goat (as well as chicken and a few seafood items), which isn’t really a limitation. The Indian items outnumber the Nepalese on the menu, but there are plenty of Nepalese goodies to sample.
This restaurant’s outstanding steamed chicken momo are formed into ruffled crescents filled with a mixture of chicken and a green vegetable that reminded us of Chinese chives. They are accompanied by a thick spicy sesame-based dipping sauce. They can also be had with a vegetable filling or fried instead of steamed. Samosas, that staple of Indian starters or snacks, are also quite nice here and can also be had with chicken or veggies.
A Tandoori mixed grill was brought sizzling to our table. All the meats on the platter were deliciously spiced and uncommonly juicy, but the standout was Hariyali, moist chunks of chicken marinated in yogurt/sour cream and intoxicating spices. The platter was small as mixed grills go, but at $14 the price was commensurately modest. Goat curry came in a satisfyingly spice sauce, although we admit to finding all the little bones annoying.
Bay Goon Bhortha is an eggplant dish we have not previously encountered. A whole eggplant is roasted, peeled, and pureed along with green pepper onion, tomato and spices. The result is a toothsome puree with a slippery texture. It works best either scooped up with naan or mixed with rice.
Getting back to the Nepali menu, we sought something typical to try. Chicken Thukpa (which also comes in goat or vegetable versions) is a noodle dish in a spicy, soy flavored broth. Its Chinese roots were apparent. The curry-ish flavor with the soy undertones makes for an intriguing and inexpensive comfort food.
If you love Indian food, you couldn’t possibly not enjoy Nepali food as well. Here they do an admirable job with both. The premises, unfortunately, haven’t been updated since its previous incarnation as a Chinese restaurant. The walls still sport murals of fishermen in sampans and views of the Great Wall. Still, it is spacious and cheerful, if not stylish. Come to this wallet-friendly spot if you would like to try some Nepalese specialties along with your Indian favorites.
Suzanne Parker is the TimesLedger’s restaurant critic and author of “Eating Like Queens: A Guide to Ethnic Dining in America’s Melting Pot, Queens, N.Y.” She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nepalese Indian Restaurant
907 Seneca Ave.
Ridgewood NY, 11385
Price Range: Apps: $2--$8, Entrees: $7--$14
Cuisine: Indian & Nepalese
Setting: Repurposed Chinese restaurant
Service: Friendly & Accommodating
Hours: Open seven days 11am—11pm
Credit cards: Yes
Noise level: Acceptable
Handicap accessible: Yes
©2013 Community News Group
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