Lama Kitchen, Hauz Khas Village, Delhi
This past Friday, we had the privilege of being invited by The Lama Kitchen in Hauz Khas Village. As the name suggests, this place dishes out Himalayan and Northeastern cuisine (Nepalese, Tibetan, Bhutanese and Meghalaya).
Located at the end of the arterial road in Hauz Khas village right next to the Tomb an archaeological park, the restaurant affords a gorgeous view of the same from its second-floor balcony, which one has to climb the stairs to reach like so many other HKV establishments. The rains on the day of our visit added to the charm of the view as the domes were glistening in the rain and covered with a lovely mist.
We were welcomed by the owner who encouraged us to explore the menu for ourselves to try and discover what dishes in the menu appealed to us the most instead of merely rattling of suggestions like most places do. We decided to start off with a plate of Newari Momos, named after the middle Nepalese valley of Newar (that includes the capital city of Kathmandu) it is native to.To accompany this, we were given three dips of white sesame sauce, chilly peanut sauce and chilly sauce which were replenished throughout our meal.
The Newari Momos were described as bite-sized, although larger than most dimsums and were in a light gravy which consisted of sesame sauce as well as some typically Himalayan masalas which lent it a delightful flavour.
The filling was chicken which blended in perfectly with the surrounding gravy, which is definitely objectively better than the gravies in Jhol momos and pan-fried momos elsewhere. Along with this, we were served some cold potato salad that perfectly complemented the warm flavours of the momo and the hot peanut chilly dips.
After this, we opted to get a Newari Basket consisting of various Newari starters.This was the best decision we took that evening.
The basket consisted of the meat dishes of Choila, Phokso and Sukuti Achar along with Dalmut and chiura (beaten rice). Choila was a grilled shredded chicken dish that was mixed with onions, garlic cloves tomatoes, spring onions and other tangy condiments that gave a great upshot to the grilled chicken flavour and made it a delight to consume. Sukuti achar was pickled and dried buff jerky that was mixed with onions and other condiments present in the choila. The dried buff had a gamey flavour that was a delight to chew and went especially well with the dalmut and had a uniquely strong flavour thanks to the drying and pickling.
The showstopper of the platter (and evening) was the Phokso, which was stir dried goat lungs with the same Nepali masalas and onions that had accompanied the earlier dishes. Here the condiments had no role to play in the flavour since the soft and well-cooked meat had a flavour as smooth as the texture of the lungs, which was bursting with the tender meaty flavour. We have noticed that Nepali mutton dishes tend to be very tender and delicious in other restaurants specialise in Himalayan cuisine.
Although this place seems to have a clear upper hand if the phokso is anything to go by. We made a mental note to come back here and try the other Nepali and Tibetan mutton dishes, especially the fire-grilled/roasted ones. A special mention should be reserved for the dalmut and choila, which were crisp and had a peppy flavour which turned out to be surprisingly good accompaniments to the meat dishes.
Although we wanted to taste the daichi, the famed chilly and cheese Bhutanese dish with tingmo bread that was reputed to be a star here, we realized that we were already too full to do justice to that and hence settled on an equally hearty but less fat containing pork thukpa.
Like all good thukpas, this was great comfort food with the hot soup and noodles being slurped happily in no time and the surprisingly light pork pieces being quickly chewed and consigned to the almost full stomachs.
The lack of fat on these pork pieces was something we were grateful for.we emptied the chilly sauce into the large sink that was the thukpa soup so that it could absorb and dissipate the heat of the sauce to make it more bearable, and we were glad we did it, since it lent a simple stew you couldn’t go wrong with a great flavor.
For desserts, we had the Yomari, which was essentially the same bite-sized Newari momo but with a sweet coconut filling (they also have a Nutella option). This was a novel experience as most crepes and other membrane coated desserts with fillings have either very soft exteriors or crispy ones like in baclavas.
This was the first time we had one with the exterior of a momo which contained the flavour within effectively and prevented it from leaking outside and turning our hands into a sticky mess. These were served with the same coleslaw like dressing in the plate that accompanied the regular momos, which looked adorable if slightly incongruous.
Thus ended our journey at The Lama Kitchen, which is shaping up to be the new player in town (or village hehe) when it comes to Himalayan and northeastern cuisine and seems set to give Yeti a run for its money.
We are excited to return with our families to try the Tibetan, Bhutanese and Khasi (Meghalaya) dishes, having limited ourselves to the cuisine of Nepal that day(with the arguable exception of the thukpa), having earmarked the Yak butter tea and Daichi for the next visit. Would highly recommend our readers to explore this restaurant and its myriad cuisines and offerings.