Say namaskar to the Valley’s one and only Nepalese restaurant.
Climbing Mount Everest would never be my idea of fun, especially when I can have a far less strenuous adventure at Sherpa Kitchen, a delightful Nepalese micro-eatery in Gilbert that sprang from a popular food truck called Everest Momo. When the truck opened last spring, customers were so smitten by its signature item – handmade Nepalese dumplings called momos – that owners Subash and Chandra Yadav quickly followed with a brick-and-mortar location offering an expanded menu.
And presto: The Valley had its first Nepalese restaurant. Because Nepal sits between northeastern India and Tibet, with China looming behind, influences from each of these countries can be found on the menu. The result is a delicious dive into a cuisine that’s exotic yet familiar, each dish artfully presented by a couple who sources local ingredients and sweats every detail.
The first impressive touch comes before the food arrives: “spa water,” the server calls it, a refreshing infusion of fresh rosemary and lemon. It’s followed by an order of samosas, those stalwarts of Indian appetizer menus. They’re fabulous at Sherpa, the lightly browned pastry dough enveloping a soft, perfumed mixture of carrots, peas and potato. As with many other dishes on the menu, the samosas are accompanied by two chutneys – green mint and rich, plummy tamarind. Delightfully, you get three chutneys with taruwa, a snacky appetizer dish similar to Indian pakora, crispy, otherworldly looking clusters of deep-fried veggies (onion, okra and cauliflower when I visited).
Signature momos are hearty yet surprisingly delicate, most of them served alongside mildly spicy, fire-roasted tomato sauce. Kothey momo, fried beggar’s purses resembling potstickers, are light and puffy, their crisped, bubbled surfaces giving way to airy pockets of chicken or vegetable filling. Flat-bottomed, swirly topped jhol – my favorite momo of the bunch – come steamed and set afloat in soothing vegetable broth, while chile momo pack an assertive vinegar-chile punch, lightly fried and tossed in spicy chile sauce. We select heat level three (of five) for the spicy dishes, which offers just enough burn to keep our mouths aglow.
Tikka masala, an Anglicized dish lush with yogurt, combines succulent chicken with creamy coconut curry, brightened with tomato, onion and garam masala. Served with basmati rice, it’s soul-satisfying, Indian-style comfort food. Ditto for chana masala, a vegetarian dish of chickpeas, tomatoes, onions and spices, slow-cooked to homey goodness. Sherpa’s golden, nutty daal is wonderful, great as a bowl of soup eaten with naan or as a component in the daal bhat platter, Nepal’s most beloved dish, offered with rice and curried vegetables. Seriously spicy chow mein is nothing like its mild, oyster sauce-based Chinese cousin, so be forewarned.
Coconut rice pudding, capped with a drift of whipped coconut milk, is the perfect salve for a great, sometimes fiery meal. Yessiree, this is my kind of adventure: no crampons, and all you need to do is lift your fork.
Contact: 1533 W. Elliot Rd., Gilbert, 480-687-1187, sherpakitchenaz.com
Hours: W-Su, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., 5-9 p.m.
Highlights: Samosas ($6); taruwa ($8); jhol momo ($12); kothey momo ($12); daal soup ($4); tikka masala ($14); daal bhat platter ($14); coconut rice pudding ($5)