Sherpa Not Included – Katmandu Kitchen

katmandu kitchen nepalese food, los angeles
On the last line of my resumé (which is, of course, no longer in circulation as it was, but if you’re interested in paying me to eat out and then wax poetic about it, let’s talk ;) ) I list a few of my personal interests. In the very few interviews I’ve had over the years, these interests have always been the topic of most of the conversation. “So throwing dinner parties is a hobby, huh?” *smiling* I even write a formal project plan if it’s going to be more than 8 people. “And you like to bake?” *shaking head* Uh, actually, I try to bake. “And you like to explore exotic and ethnic cuisines?” *enthusiastically nodding head* New cuisines, yes! But I don’t eat weird stuff like bugs or animal organs, in any cuisine. Then, the conversation turns toward the regions of Mexico, Korean barbecue, northern versus southern Indian, and why I don’t particularly like southeast Asian.

You’re hired!

But then I started to worry because if ever I get fired from this place for, oh, I don’t know, excessive use of work time and resources for personal blogification, I will have to send my resumé out again. But not in its current version – I will have to make an edit to that last line because I’m starting to run out of new cuisines to explore. In LA. Or at least within driving distance. I can’t fly. Maybe the new version will have to read “Exploring the same half-dozen-or-so cuisines that are represented in southern California, over and over again.” And then interviews might actually be about *gasp!* my work (in)experience!

Thank goodness, though, for a recent list of the top 25 cheap eats published by Los Angeles magazine. It seems that in these parts, cheap is often very closely associated with ethnic. I added this mini-list to my growing master-list of to-dine projects, but made a mental footnote that this project could still be signed, sealed and delivered even if I only make it to the listed restaurants on the Westside, about ¼ of the list. And what luck that the first one on the Westside is Katmandu Kitchen. Off the cheap eats list, and I had never tried Nepalese food before. That’s what I call a win-win situation.

katmandu kitchen front patio
need a sherpa to find your way to this tibetan hideaway

If you’re going to Katmandu Kitchen, take a sherpa, because if you rely on normal navigational techniques to get a taste of the Himalayas, you’ll get lost. The map on their website is backwards (hopefully it’s fixed by now since we let the manager know when we got there), and it’s hard to distinguish Katmandu’s simple sign from all the other tiny, colorful, ethno-sounding restaurants along this strip of Venice Boulevard. Oh yeah, and saddle up your yak, because there’s no parking lot and street parking is a pain in the hassle. We almost decided to sit under the thatched roof patio out front simply to watch for parking patrol since we were halfway in the red zone.

The restaurant inside is dark and small, but brightened with Nepali accents here and there. There are only about ten tables, draped with colorful woven table cloths to make it “nice,” but covered with a thin sheet of glass to make it easy to clean up. At midweek lunch time, there were only a pair of granola guys in the corner, a lone woman reading and eating against the wall, and halfway through our meal, another lone woman took a seat on the patio. Except for the one manager/host/server, no one appeared to be Nepali. Or Tibetan? Wait, are they Himalayan?

Here is where my miserable ignorance of the culturo-socio-geography of that region of Asia will become grossly apparent. The restaurants namesake is Katmandu, the capital city of Nepal, a fairly small country landlocked between India and China. However, this region of China that directly borders Nepal is also known as Tibet, the setting for lots of adventure movies and where the Dalai Lama is supposed to live. The natural border between Nepal and Tibet is formed by the Himalayas, a mountain range that also includes the snowy summit of Mount Everest. So what does all this – Katmandu, Nepal, China, Tibet, and the Himalayas – mean to me? It means one thing: yak. LOL!

More on yak later, but for now, Nepalese food represents its culinary geography. It is sort of an earthier, less spicy in terms of heat, but just as interesting version of Indian food with many of the same flavors. Chinese influences are more subtle in taste, and more obvious in techniques. There’s also a fairly pronounced emphasis on vegetables, likely in keeping with many associated religious traditions from Tibetan China and India.

Like many of it’s Indian cousins, Katmandu Kitchen serves a lunch buffet (as of this posting, $5.99). One quick pass through the buffet and most of the items looked familiar – roast chicken and various vegetarian curries and stews. No yak, no goat, and none of
the signature Nepali dumplings, momos. The server tells us that yak is never on the buffet because the exotic meat is way too expensive. My dining companion was a little disappointed, but not me. I was excited about the buffet, and was perfectly happy ordering momos from the kitchen on the side. Goat? I like to explore, but I’m not that adventurous. Yes, I realize that goat is not that exotic, but something about bleating kid goats and such…I don’t love lamb either.

My trek through Himalayan cuisine started with black magic soup, a mysterious grayish beige broth with very suspicious looking black, spidery things that looked like rosemary’s evil cousin floating on top. Black magic, huh? I may not eat goat, but I never pass up the potential for a good high! I didn’t feel any magic and there weren’t any hallucinations, but after tasting the broth and some of the black lentils that sunk to the bottom, I felt appetized. The black herbs, no name given, are specific to Nepal. An herb whose name we cannot know or speak of? *raises eyebrows*

So I probably wouldn’t eat goat on my own, and I don’t love lamb, but I did venture a taste of the thakali lamb, bone-in pieces of lamb cooked in a spicy sauce in the style of the Nepali tribe, Thakali. It basically looked like any other Indian curry, with less of the curry. The sauce was spicy-flavorful, though not hot, and unfortunately, the lamb meat was difficult to remove from the bone, was a bit tough and dry, and smelled and tasted very distinctly of lamb, so I didn’t enjoy it as much as others might.

However, I very much enjoyed the chicken, which didn’t have a tag on the sneeze guard with a more distinctive name other than “roast chicken.” Like the lamb, chicken pieces still had the bones attached, but the tender, juicy meat separated quite easily. Like items from an Indian tandoor, the roast chicken wasn’t in any sort of gravy or curry, just spiced. There was nothing extraordinary about the flavoring other than that it tasted pretty good.

Many of the vegetable curries have names that sound very similar to their Indian counterparts, but on a menu, sometimes they are spelled slightly differently. Though it wasn’t on the buffet, alu bhyanta is a Nepali eggplant and potato curry, which I would recognize as aloo bhartha. Katmandu’s buffet had a bamboo curry with little beans which was good but could have used a chili pepper. Or maybe ten, and was a little too thin and liquidy for my taste. I thought it was a mild vegetable soup. However, the bamboo curry is a typical Nepalese dish that is made from a base of potato soup. No wonder.

Alu gobi and chana are also vegetable dishes familiar to me from my culinary tours of India via local LA restaurants. Alu gobi was delicious, though slightly different in flavor and appearance from other gobi aloos. It actually looked less aggressively spiced because it wasn’t as bright in color as others, but tasted stronger, though I am not sure what herbs and spices go into gobi aloo to begin with. I also tasted the chana, chickpea curry. Like the bamboo curry, somewhat thin and liquidy for my taste, but not bad to eat at all.

The highlight of the meal was actually nothing from the buffet, but our order of steamed momos. Momos can also be pan-fried, and be made vegetarian, called brahmachari, though I am not sure whether this is the official name of vegetable momos, or a menu name given by the restaurant. Everest momos are made with chicken or yak, though ordering yak more than doubles the $6 price to $15 for 10 pieces. Yak momos for high-rollers only.

Momos are where Chinese influence of technique comes in. The small, round dumplings look very much like plumped up version of xia-long-bao (juicy dumplings?), twirled and pinched off to a Hershey’s kiss tip. The pastry is thicker though, and the filling, though familiar in some of the ingredients, different in its subtly Indian flavor. No dip in soy sauce for the Nepalese dumpling. The momo gets a generous dollop of aachar, a mildly spicy tomato chutney. I could have used a squirt of sriracha myself *sacrilege!*, but all of it tasty nonetheless.

The buffet has rice pudding for dessert which I only wanted to taste to say I did. It was cold (it’s supposed to be, I know), the rice was hard, and it tasted too much like plain old milk. Good thing I didn’t love it, since I felt like a fat little momo after the lunch anyway.

Katmandu Kitchen was a good introduction to Nepalese cuisine. It isn’t much different from Indian, but it’s not as spicy in terms of heat. Don’t they want to keep warm with hot foods up there in the Himalayas? *shrugs* I suspect I may need to determine which dishes and condiments are aggressively spiced with chili peppers and I’d still like learn more about its subtle nuances in flavor and technique. Since I’m going continue exploring for more Nepalese restaurants, I can still leave that last line on my resumé as is. Besides, I’ve never tried…West African ;)

Katmandu Kitchen

10855½ Venice Boulevard (@ Midvale)
Los Angeles, CA 90034
310.836.9696
www.katmandukitchen.com

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Xericx August 3, 2005 at 11:35 pm

No pics of the cuisine!

Yikes! I wanna try this place.

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2 sarah August 3, 2005 at 11:41 pm

i know! *sigh* i wish i had pictures, too! what was i thinking?!?!

but the food was good :) you really should try it! i miss heat in most of the things, but then again, even thai and indian places don’t ever give me enough heat!

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3 Xericx August 4, 2005 at 1:49 am

Hmmm….and here I am complaining that she didn’t take pics of the food…… :)

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4 Videos by Professor Howdy August 4, 2005 at 2:14 am

We work like a horse.
We eat like a pig.
We like to play chicken.
You can get someone’s goat.
We can be as slippery as a snake.
We get dog tired.
We can be as quiet as a mouse.
We can be as quick as a cat.
Some of us are as strong as an ox.
People try to buffalo others.
Some are as ugly as a toad.
We can be as gentle as a lamb.
Sometimes we are as happy as a lark.
Some of us drink like a fish.
We can be as proud as a peacock.
A few of us are as hairy as a gorilla.
You can get a frog in your throat.
We can be a lone wolf.
But I’m having a whale of a time!

You have a riveting web log
and undoubtedly must have
atypical & quiescent potential
for your intended readership.
May I suggest that you do
everything in your power to
honor your encyclopedic/omniscient
Designer/Architect as well
as your revering audience.

Please remember to never
restrict anyone’s opportunities
for ascertaining uninterrupted
existence for their quintessence.

There is a time for everything,
a season for every activity
under heaven. A time to be
born and a time to die. A
time to plant and a time to
harvest. A time to kill and
a time to heal. A time to
tear down and a time to
rebuild. A time to cry and
a time to laugh. A time to
grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones
and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a
time to turn away. A time to
search and a time to lose. A
time to keep and a time to
throw away. A time to tear
and a time to mend. A time
to be quiet and a time to
speak up. A time to love
and a time to hate. A time
for war and a time for peace.

Best wishes for continued ascendancy,
Howdy
Editor
http://ilovehowdy.blogspot.com/

P.S. One thing of which I am sure is
that the common culture of my youth
is gone for good. It was hollowed out
by the rise of ethnic “identity politics,”
then splintered beyond hope of repair
by the emergence of the web-based
technologies that so maximized and
facilitated cultural choice as to make
the broad-based offerings of the old
mass media look bland and unchallenging
by comparison.”

‘Thought & Humor’ by Howdy
http://ilovehowdy.blogspot.com/
http://howdyhumor.blogspot.com/
http://enewspaper.blogspot.com/
CyberHumor, CyberThought
CyberRiddles for your divertissement!!!

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5 LACheesemonger August 4, 2005 at 2:32 am

Lol, xericx…I’m always nice to DS, I never complain about lack of pictures ;)

But this buggy Eblog software drives me nuts.

Trying to get the hotlinks working, you have to use the “back browser” button or keyboard shortcut of same to get back to comments after clicking on each link, “target” element is not enabled, at least not for unregistered users. So I can’t force an new window to pop open, for which you could just close and be back to the comments window. Sucky/buggy IYAM. BTW, why does this appear in the preview window, but only the time when it’s posted?
August 03, 2005 7:30 PM

Oh well, here’s the hotlink versions (with corrected link for the last one in my prior post).
LOL, I just now see a new post under yours xericx; DL is getting more spam on a daily basis :(
===============

“But I don’t eat weird stuff like bugs or animal organs, in any cuisine. Then, the conversation turns toward the regions of Mexico , Korean barbecue ,northern versus southern Indian , and why I don’t particularly like southeast Asian . You’re hired!” {what kind of ‘organs’ does that entail—including ‘member’, as in male?}

G*d Damn woman, 1971 words for lunch! LOL. I have this friend who constantly insults when pressed for reasons for self-inadequacies…”I don’t have time” (they always can and do when they need to), & “ I work for a living!” (annoyingly self-absorbed/arrogant). Where as Sarah, plays (hooky) for a living, as a wanna be restaurant critic! I know you don’t eat at high-end restaurants every week, but even with inexpensive restaurants at the rate you eat out, which is almost every meal of the week; you must be in financial debt by now! Think, if you make&perfect your at-home-Korean-cooking; you can take ‘brown bag’ lunches for a few months, and then with money saved eat at Urwasawa or any high-end restaurant of your liking; without having to rely on your charm, brains, irresistible personality (:P and sexy tanktops) to entice/cause the guys to be so enamored with you such that they want to pay for date after date. Then again, being a world-class tease has it’s benefits ;-)

Better yet, with money saved by bag lunch, set your sites for getting up early in the morning, drive up I-5 to SF for lunch, check into hotel, hit bay area expanse for dinner, get up early in the morning (no hangovers, ok) then drive down to Monterey for lunch, Central Coast/Santa Barbara for dinner, and then long drive home before falling asleep at midnight. There, you have the metabolism for that, just need a maniacal partner in crime.. Do same for next few weekends until you go crazy!

Ok enough small talk here, let’s see if we can help DS loose some weight for the wedding…by suppressing her appetite, lol.

I don’t much care for curry of any-kind? But since I haven’t read through all 5,000 pages of DL’s entries, maybe Sarah could point me to the entries that explain the aversion to SE Asian food? You know, goat’s head soup is a traditional Caribbean delicacy, and if you want it spicy; they typically put Habanero chilies into that. Like curries, I don’t care much for Indian or Laotian/N. Thai food—Issan style; with the fermented fish stock…ewww! Nasty stuff that like Guiness stout, is an acquired taste. However, an former friend of mine, was recently married to a Thai immigrant, who grew up in the ‘burbs’ of Bangkok. Their preferred Thai restaurant (this was more than a decade ago, was Jitlata, because it more correctly served food like what she was brought up on. The catfish entree, with lots of bitter roasted red Thai peppers will leave you with your nose running, and forehead covered with perspiration…it’s hot! ‘real Thai food’. Warning, Jitlata is a dive in less than great neighborhood, don’t take a fancy auto there. I agree with this single commentaries’ analysis, some like it hot!
Jitlada review

So goat’s head soup is out then? Awww, well then how about a traditional (remember what I said about ‘traditional being time/history dependent?) S. Korean specialty then…(hehe). Tiger penis soup!

Discover Channel’s ‘the Sex files’ food link (and do click on the link at the righthand, for a test quiz to get to the question for Clinton, Montanas Prairie oyster festival, YUMMY)

Make sure you’ve digested dinner before reading this link, you have been warned ;)
Chinese cooking: Heaven and hell in China

Bush senior had boar’s penis soup in China
Clinton moose lips in Russia
Come Abroad to See the World

Still hungry? I think I’ll stop now ;)

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6 Anonymous August 4, 2005 at 4:15 pm

Hi Sarah,

We tried Katmandu Kitchen too, and the momos are a must. (Even my kids ate them!) I thought the dipping sauce had a nice subtle kick to it. Also had the chicken with mustard greens, which was good and bitter (must have a taste for the greens). Green beans were on the mushy side, but still had an interesting flavor. Thakali chicken was very dark and I couldn’t pinpoint the flavors. When I asked the waitress about the spices, she said it was Nepali garam masala. We didn’t love it, and it was very greasy. Like you said, “earthy”. Maybe you can try the Nepalese restaurant in Pasadena to compare.

Really enjoy your blog…keep it up!

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7 sarah August 4, 2005 at 7:05 pm

sorry, LACheesemonger – i really try not to fiddle with comments, but deleted that first post since it was basically doubled up – like to keep the blog and comments clean :) – thanks for changing the hot links.

anonymous – i think the nepalese restaurant in pasadena is on my list, but it sure will take me a lot to drive over there. still have SO MUCH to try on the westside, and besides, i hate the l.a. freeways – LOL! ;)

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8 Anonymous November 22, 2006 at 7:05 am

nepali food is deee bessttt….so much flavor unlike bland american food….

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