Himalayan Char Grill, Crows Nest
I’m always game to try something new, especially when it comes to food, so when the opportunity arose to review a dining deal for Food Morning I jumped at the chance. Not just because it was the opportunity for a free feed but because the dining deal was for two courses at a Nepalese restaurant, the Himalayan Char Grill in Crows Nest. I have never eaten Nepalese cuisine before, but I have friends that not only rave about Nepalese cuisine but also rave about this restaurant in Crows Nest.
The deal is for two entrees and two main courses for $35. Whenever I go out I can’t help but drool over the menu to the internet before I go as I am notoriously indecisive, so it helps to have a few options in mind before I get there. On this occasion it didn’t really help, I was unfamiliar with the cuisine so wasn’t really sure what to expect. The only certainty was that I had to try the beef cheeks, this was a fact I had heard from many sources so could not really go against that kind of recommendation. My only dilemma was whether the beef cheeks would be included in the deal, as they were on the specials menu.
We arrived at 7pm on a Wednesday night. I almost walked straight past as the restaurant has a very simple, unassuming front in a shopping plaza food court. If I hadn’t been warned where it was I might not have found it. But don’t let that put you off. Despite being the first ones in, the place soon filled up and the take out orders were coming thick and fast. Always testament to a good place.
As we perused the menu the waiter came over to take our order. Apart from the Masala beef cheeks (which were confirmed as part of the deal) we were struggling to decide, so the waiter talked us through the Nepalese specialities. He also reassured me that Nepalese food is fragrant but mild, so there were no worries about what to choose for fear it might be too hot for my chilli intolerant palate.
In the end we settled for Momo (usually $11.90) and Chilli Scallops (usually $12.90) to start followed by the Masala Beef Cheeks (usually $22.90) and the Lamb Shanks (usually 23.90). We decided to share the meal which meant the food came out separately rather than entrees followed by mains. In addition to the dining deal we also ordered a portion of rice ($2) and a portion of roti ($3). Corkage was $1.50 per person.
As a pleasant surprise we were presented with a complimentary serve of pappadums. I LOVE pappadums. Pappadums are a constant source of disappointment for me when I go to a an Indian restaurant in Australia and I don’t automatically get a complimentary serve, which I was used to in the UK, so unwittingly the Himalayan Char Grill got off to a good start. Especially as they were not your average pappadums but were scattered with spices and served with a yoghurt dip.
The scallops were served next. I’ve only really eaten scallops in a fine dining setting so to have them served more like a curry dish was new, and interesting. This could easily lead to overcooking, but they were just right. This was probably the dish with the most chilli, but it still wasn’t too much chilli, even for me. And I enjoyed the beans, which I think were soy beans, but I forgot to ask, so feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.
Following this were the Momo. I’m not sure what I was expecting here, as the waiter and the menu described them as a chicken dumpling but I was still shocked as they emerged from the kitchen as exactly that, like a Chinese chicken dumpling. I guess in my mind I was expecting a different kind of dumpling as English dumplings are a whole different dish to Chinese dumplings, so my imagination was conjuring up a third variation. It was not a disappointing surprise, I love dumplings, and the Nepalese make them just as well as the Chinese and now I know that I would order them again.
The beef cheeks came out next. This is the dish I had been waiting for. Would they live up to expectations? They absolutely did. The beef cheeks had clearly been cooked slowly, at a low temperature, over a long period of time. They could be pulled apart with the fork they were so tender, exactly how slow cooked meat should be. I often find in restaurants that although a dish is described as slow cooked it’s rare to find a dish that is as tender as I can achieve with a full days cooking at home. The beef cheeks however, were exactly as I imagined the dish to be if I were sat in a kitchen at the foot of Annapurna. The sauce was aromatic with a hint of chilli, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Graham is a fan of hot and spicey dishes, and I was worried that he would be disappointed with the lack of heat, but he agreed that the aromatic spices meant that the flavour out shone the need for more chilli.
With the rice an roti, this was probably enough food for me, but following the beef cheeks came the lamb shanks. I am a meat lover with the best of them, but even for me, the prospect of a plate of lamb shanks was a bit overwhelming, and in hindsight we should probably have ordered something that contained a few more vegetables to compliment all the meat. The lamb was also very tender and fell off the bone as you would expect slow cooked lamb to do. This was also accompanied by a fragrant curry sauce, which was different to, but equally as tasty as the beef cheeks.
At this point in a meal you would normally be asked whether you wanted to see the dessert menu but I think the waiter guessed by the look on our faces and the size of our stomachs that this wouldn’t be necessary.
So how do I rate my first experience of Nepalese cuisine? Well, I don’t have anything to compare it to and I went with little or no expectation, but I left feeling satisfied that I had had a good feed and thinking that I would definitely return, with or without a dining deal. On my next visit I will probably take some friends so that I could sample a wider range of dishes on the menu and ask that the mains be bought out at the same time so that I don’t gorge myself on the first dish and be too full to fully appreciate the rest of them.
Thanks again to Food Morning for the opportunity to sample a great dining deal.