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Taj Mahal Everest: Great Nepalese and Indian food

by

Special To The Japan Times

Taj Mahal Everest, an Indian and Nepali restaurant, near the place where the Kyoto Sanga football club plays their home games in the western part of Kyoto, manages to divide their menu fairly between the two neighboring countries.

On a recent visit we caught the tail end of Dashain, an annual two-week festival and a highlight on the Nepali calendar. Half the restaurant was given over to young Nepalis, who were in a celebratory mood. The other half of the restaurant, which is divided between floor seating and tables with chairs, was packed with bemused local residents enjoying the festive atmosphere.

Since Taj Mahal Everest opened just over a year ago, I have been slowly exploring the Nepali side of the menu, trying to steer myself away from the curry and naan that is so common. Luckily, this effort also includes trying Everest Beer, which is shipped to Japan from the mountain kingdom.

A good place to start is with the momo, petite dumplings that are a cousin of shūmai (steamed dumplings). The dough here is closer to what you might find on a nikuman dumpling; inside the momo is a hearty mix of minced pork, garlic, ginger, turmeric and nutmeg.

Staying on the Everest side of the menu, there’s no shortage of noodle dishes, which will probably appeal to people who like Japanese food. If there’s a need, you can also ask the staff to tone down the spices. They’re an exceedingly helpful bunch, even when coping with a full house with a festival in full swing.

A dish called thukpa is described simply on the menu as Nepal’s version of udon noodles, which is instructive, to a point. While the noodles have a similar taste and texture to udon, the broth is a far more pungent affair than any udon dish you’re likely to have tasted. Be warned though, it’s laden with spices, vegetables and cuts of chicken, and is best shared, as it’s a heavy dish.

As you might expect when you roll two curry-loving countries together, there’s also a full-on curry menu. A few standouts include the vegetable masala, which is stuffed with chick peas and properly spicy, and the aloo baingan curry, a dish from northern India that is seeded with smoky chunks of eggplant and potatoes. There are times when some of the curries can lean toward being on the sweet side. The spinach and prawn curries are examples of this.

If sweet naan is your thing, try the Kashmiri naan, which is stuffed with cashew nuts and shredded coconut. There’s half a dozen other naan options, but the plain naan works and tastes best.

If you’re looking to do a bit of border hopping between India and Nepal, especially if you want to go beyond the familiar terrain of curry dishes, Taj Mahal Everest is a worthwhile base camp.

Main items from ¥800; Japanese and English menu; Nepali, Hindi and English spoken.