I’ve never tried Himalayan food before. In fact, I didn’t even know which countries the Himalayas lay across until I checked it out on everyone’s favourite encyclopaedia – Wikipedia – and found out that the Himalayas actually goes through Bhutan, China, Nepal, India, Burma, Pakistan and Afghanistan. While Himalayan Char Grill serves Nepalese cuisine, I notice some influences from all over these Asian regions, particularly in these pappadums which I normally associate with Indian cuisine. These masala pappadums, received with compliments of the chef, are slightly spicy but not oily at all, and are served with a spiced yoghurt.
It takes us a little while to find the restaurant which is tucked away in a building that houses quite a few little restaurants. Even though Sir D and I venture out to Crows Nest quite frequently and have walked past the building several times, we’ve never actually been inside. Himalayan Char Grill is a small restaurant with vivid green walls decorated with Nepalese artefacts and pictures of the Himalayas. It’s a quite Wednesday night but the place is quite popular, especially with the locals who are frequently popping in for some takeaway or chatting to the staff like old friends.
We start with the Momo, which are traditional Nepalese steamed dumplings. They bear a strong resemblance to Chinese dumplings that I’m accustomed to, but they’re filled with a chicken and vegetable filling instead of pork. The dumpling skins are a little thick but they’re served with a tomato sauce which is tangy and flavoursome, and goes well with the milder flavour of the chicken mince.
Who can resist the promise of fried chicken wings? We can’t, and so we go ahead and order the Himali wings which have been marinated, battered in chickpea flour and deep fried until the skin is super crispy. I love that the wing tips have been left on so there’s some extra crisp skin to munch on. The meat itself is tender and tasty from the marinade, with a fresh taste from little bits of coriander. The chicken wings are served with salad and a fresh tomato salsa.
For the main dishes, Sir D picks the beef cheeks which, according to the menu, have been featured in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Living magazine as one of the best beef cheeks in Sydney. The beef cheeks are damn good, with the meat being braised for long enough to fall apart with the poke of a fork. The beef cheeks have been braised in Himalayan spices with vegetables and the meat is super soft and gelatinous. It’s mildly spicy but not so much that it burns the mouth – there is just enough chilli to provide to a bit of spice but still allowing the flavours to shine.
I was intrigued by the promise of goat meat on the menu so that was my pick of the mains. Touted as a Nepalese favourite dish, I was pleased that it wasn’t gamey in any way. The meat was braised until tender but the goat meat didn’t taste quite like any other meat so it stil had its own distinct flavour. The meat sat in a curry sauce which was quite a wet curry with a tomato base and packed with plenty of Himalayan spices.
We also got some roti which was perfect for mopping up the delicious curry sauce.
Himalayan Char Grill is the perfect place for a first introduction to Nepalese cuisine. The food there is different, but not so different that it’s unrecognisable from other, more familiar Asian cuisines. The staff there are cheerful and friendly, and more than happy to answer any questions and provide recommendations about what to order. With so many other dishes that I wanted to try, like the ‘Fish Fingers’, their marinated grilled meats and apparently the best lamb shanks in Sydney, I’m sure I’ll be heading back soon.
Himalayan Char Grill
18/103 Willoughby Road
Crows Nest NSW 2065
Ph: +61 2 9966 5540
Open Monday to Saturday, noon – 9.30pm; Sunday, 5.30pm = 9.30pm