Tonight a second Nepalese joint in Ashfield, and it was neat.
The first one, Mandap, the larger one we went to the other night, and had sent us a take away flyer, was pretty good. But we ate the Indian stuff from the menu because the Nepalese stuff didn’t look that exciting. An excellent biryani, but the saag gosht was just okish. But it was all pretty spicey and good with the chilli, which I like.
Tonight we went to Cafe Kathmandu, and I liked it. It’s in what was a fairly ordinary, if not downright dodgy ‘Italian’ cafe, and it has kept all the furniture, fittings and servery stuff. It’s a small place, only about eight tables inside, and two larger tables outside. As we arrived a couple of young blokes were carrying a carton of beer to the tables. Those tables are always full of a) Indian blokes, b) Chinese blokes or c) Nepalese blokes, all in their 20s, smoking and eating plate after plate of momo.
This is what the menus look like:
‘ordinary’ cafe food – big breakfasts, sandwiches, coffee, tea, etc – during the day
Nepalese food. For lunch and for dinner.
Nepalese menus are kind of cool because they’re usually a combination of Chinese dishes – noodles (chow mein especially), stir fries – and Indian dishes, as well as more specifically Nepalese food. Which makes sense, geographically and culturally.
I really like Nepalese vegetable dishes, so I hunt them down.
We shared a tali and a plate of chicken momo because we were a bit full. The tali was delicious – a cold veggie curry, a little pile of wilted spinach (perfectly cooked), a blackbean dahl and a bit of goat curry, all in little pots next to a nice pile of perfect rice (white, absorption-cooked medium grain). The momo were largeish, very fresh and super tasty – chicken with coriander and shallots and things. Dave had a mango lassi that tasted pre-mixed and was a bit sweet for me. But I don’t like lassi, usually.
In retrospect, I wish we’d had the Khaja set, as it had a heap of delicious looking potato dishes and things.
The owner was a casual and friendly middle aged woman who, while she had to delay in serving us called out ‘just be a minute!’ and kept us informed of her progress. She was helped by a younger bloke was who was equally friendly.
While we were there (about an hour, tops) they shipped plate after plate of momo out to the young blokes outside, and three other tables worth of diners trooped in and out for quick, casual meals. Including one middle aged Singaporean woman and her Anglo-Australian husband. She was my favourite, obviously having her first Nepalese meal and determined to taste everything and engage the owner in conversation about the food, asking lots of questions and inquiring about the different speciality Nepalese dishes.
This is what I liked about it:
- Freshly cooked;
- The veggie dishes (my favourite part) were fresh and nice;
- The people working there were friendly and nice.
- The original cafe features were still in use, and it was a practical combination of ‘cafe’ and Nepalese food.
I also like the Malaysian joint in Ashfield for some of these things. That place has been set up in a classic ‘fish and chip’ joint near the station. They’ve even left all the signage and menus in place. Except now there’re ‘Malaysian food’ and ‘Australian food’ menus chalked in. There are tables (just a few) set up, with the usual pots of copsticks, sauces and so on on the tables. The chef chats with the punters and you’re very welcome to join in.
I like these places, I like the way they move into smaller venues which embodied the anglo/euro history and diet of Ashfield and adapt them to suit the new dietry and cultural needs of the community. Small sites, working on a very tight budget with small staff, specialising in a particular cuisine for the local ex-pat communities, but in the sort of welcoming multicultural way that really illustrates Ashfield today. This is one of the things I like most about Ashfield.