Probably the closest I’ll ever get to Katmandu
While Boulder is fairly littered with Nepalese restaurants — thanks to adventurous mountain climbers from the college town who serve as ambassadors to Nepal, which straddles the world’s highest peak — Grand Junction has a single restaurant devoted to the cuisine of the remote Asian nation.
And it’s amazing to me that this restaurant has survived and thrived for 18 years here, through several gut-punches to the economy.
But then you taste the food, a blend of Nepalese and Indian, and you can understand why.
Owners Anil and Sarita Luitel have their regulars, and a neat store-front Main Street location attracts a stream of curious wanderers who poke their noses to the glass to check out the menu.
Lunch is a good time to sample and taste, even though a buffet line is never going to be as good as a freshly prepared dinner.
Lunch is luck-of-the-draw, but usually you can count on two salads, about six entrees and two desserts.
No beef, obviously, but choices of fish, shrimp, chicken and lamb and vegetarian dishes.
Skip the romaine and iceberg lettuce and try the marinated three-onion and cabbage slaw. It is piquant with subtle heat.
Load up with cups of sauce, tamarind, Himalayan-spiced tomato achar, mint (didn’t taste very minty to me) and a coriander yogurt blend called raita.
Our favorites were chicken korma, dense with cinnamon, cloves and nutty spices; tongue-happy red curry fish; saag, a creamy spinach; and clay oven-baked tandoori chicken legs with a red cayenne pepper hue.
Also worth a mention: A signature Nepalese dish, tomato, coriander and chutney chau chau noodles; and samosa fried pastry dumplings.
The desserts were lal mohan, a “milk ball in very sweet syrup,” which is something you probably would like if you grew up with it, otherwise, I don’t sense many converts; and khir, a yummy soupy Basmati rice with milk, raisins and nuts.
Our only disappointment was the naan bread, which I normally love.
Naan on a buffet line doesn’t translate very well unless it’s warm and buttery and fresh of the grill.
Honestly, it was perfectly fine the way it was, but without the puffy mouth-watering allure.
Our next trip to the restaurant will be dinner for some lamb, hot naan bread and hot chili anything.
There, I’ve placed my flag on a Himalayan peak, because this is probably as close to Kathmandu I’ll ever get.
FIT TO BE THAIED: Thai Chili Restaurant, 2536 Rim Rock Drive, has a three-page color spread in this month’s issue of Asian Restaurant News.
Owner Quanbei Zhao told the California-based magazine that the foundation of his success is based on customer service.
“When customers are satisfied, we are satisfied.” Positive word-of-mouth “brings us new customers and we convert them to our regulars,” he said.
FOR YOUR SWEETHEART: Ava Sweet Cakes is teaming with the Marillac Clinic for a fundraiser.
Four gourmet cupcakes, timed for Valentine’s Day, are $15.
Proceeds from the red velvet, chocolate, lavender raspberry and pink lemonade mini confections will benefit the health care clinic serving low-income and uninsured residents of Mesa County.
Order at cupcakes at marillacclinic.org/.
WARM TUMMY: Chipotle Mexican Grill, 2504 U.S. Highway 6&50, added pozole soup to its winter and spring menu.
The vegetarian soup is made with roasted tomatillo, hominy and tomato.
QUOTE: “A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch.” — James Beard
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