If You Can’t Go To The Mountain, Bring The Mountain To You.

Dhaulagiri Kitchen  ** moved to Manhattan**

It’s been fairly well covered in the press but you wouldn’t know it had already been discovered by slipping through the door. In fact, you would just assume that you had mistakenly entered the back entrance of someone’s kitchen and as you glanced nervously for someone to apologize to, the lovely chef/owner, Kamladidi would take your arm, smile and point to the one table for you to sit at. Not the one table available, I mean the one table. Granted it’s a four top so it could be construed as two tables of two. But it would be cozy. There are about four small stools along a tiny counter you pass upon entering, if you don’t luck out and score the table. But I scored.

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Long fascinated by Nepal, and having done what I could from here to help after the earthquake, it now seemed high time to get to this heralded kitchen and support the community in NYC at least. And I’m very sorry I haven’t been sooner because I can’t wait to make this a regular haunt.

It’s special here, the food is true Nepali and so so good. The sign outside indicates that bread is made and sold there, Tawa Foods Corp. As long as you know to look for Tawa, you won’t get lost. Open the screen door, pass the piles of packaged freshly made roti, watch the chapati being rolled and baked ten feet away beyond the table and grab a seat. This is gonna be fun.

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Accept any and all help from the woman in charge. She will not steer you wrong. Her english covers the essentials but her intuition is beyond and she will know when and what to bring. I swear. Even though the food is meant to be eaten by hand, scooped up with bread, she’ll give you silverware. Your choice.

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We probably over-ordered but honestly, we were over-excited. Started with the quintessential sel roti, a slightly sweet fried doughnut made of partially ground rice flour, butter and sugar. The doughnut had a crispy outside, velvet inside and was absurdly light. Heavenly. We were told to have it in tandem with the revelatory spicy potatoes. Okay…hmmm. Surprising but count me in. It’s a knock your socks off carb extravaganza.

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My dining partner had the goat curry which he loved, a tough but worthy chew. Nicely spiced and even better with the dipping sauces.

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There were momos galore including a version stuffed with buffalo. Dumplings are always fine, these were pleasantly satisfying but the dough skin was on the thicker side. But oh, those dipping sauces with heat, cilantro, mint, garlic, mustard turn anything into greatness.

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I loved my vegetable thali, served to perfection in a metal tray filled with pickled things, uncooked rice passing as airy white rice krispies, papadum, dehydrated bitter melon, dal, vege curry. The pickled achar (anchovy, radish, gundruk-fermented vegetables) shot past the boundaries of earthy, straight on to bitter and tart. A spice force to deliciously reckon with.

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The proprietor, Kamala Gauchan has a dry wit and a plucky sensibility. She rules here and watching us sweat a bit, down ginger ales quickly (no liquor), she plopped a soothing yogurt drink in the middle of our dishes and said loudly…DRINK! She’s generous and always offers more of the accoutrements. When we realized we couldn’t finish our slightly indulgent order, she laughed loudly.

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Dhaulagiri re-defines the apt hole-in-the-wall description one tosses around for places three times the size. When you arrive here, you’ve actually discovered one. The giant wall mural of the mountains in Nepal does its best to make you feel you have room to stretch an arm out without knocking over the statue of Buddha or the roti flour. It’s definitely an intimate space, there’s a careless warmth, and a certain twinkle in the owner’s eye as she regards the troops of people finding there way here and rejoicing that they did.

Quitting time and one of the bakers offered us a slice of her apple as she walked by. And it wasn’t pickled.

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Back out on the dusky streets, I turned to mentally capture the exotic world we’d left behind. I noticed the storefront next door said Time Travel. Ha! Next time.

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The food is as good as it was in Jackson Heights. Updated blog to come soon.

Dhaulagiri Kitchen
124 Lexington Avenue
Manhattan
917.675.7679
Daily from 11am-1am

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