Nepali Explorations in Jackson Heights

Chowhounds have been tracking the growing Himalayan scene in Queens for some time. Thakali Kitchen in Jackson Heights serves up something new, Joe MacBu reports: specialties of the Thakali people from northern Nepal.

The signature starch in the Thakalis’ homeland, the rugged Mustang region, is buckwheat, prepared here as a mash (dhido) or a flatbread (roti); Joe prefers the latter, a thick, dense pancake that makes a fine foil to the chicken curry, cauliflower-potato curry, pickled radish, and dollop of hot sauce that come alongside.

Besides the handful of Thakali choices on the menu, there are exceptionally good Nepali and Tibetan dishes too. Joe, who’s from Nepal, ranks this as one of the better Nepali restaurants in Queens, if not the United States. Ghundruk is a delicious soup with potato and soybeans, with a brown broth that gets its deep flavor from dried mustardlike greens. The saladlike bhatmas chiura is a brightly flavored appetizer of marinated soybeans with ginger, garlic, chiles, cilantro, and a bracing shot of mustard oil; mix it with the crunchy, neutral-flavored dried rice flakes served on the side. Sel roti is a savory/sweet fried doughnut of rice flour and banana, difficult to make and, at this restaurant, better than the ones cooked by Joe’s mom (who had better not be reading this).

Among the Tibetan choices, Widmark recommends made-to-order vegetable momos (steamed dumplings), which are “delicious even before adding any sauces.” Be sure to try the terrific sauces (chile, tomato, sesame) as well.

Andrew Hyatt has found another hound-worthy momo not far away at Samyeling, a Tibetan tea and snack joint under an awning for an Internet business. He describes tasty, pleasantly greasy minced beef folded into light, perhaps overly delicate skins. There’s also good, warming chai and Tibetan-style butter tea. david sprague likes the momos just fine, especially the vegetable ones, but prefers the chaat vendor that shares this space. Its pani puri (potato, chickpeas, onion, and spices in a fried shell) is the best in the area, he says.

david also endorses Tashi Delek, a momos-and-more counter at the back of Merit Farms, a 24/7 Bangladeshi-Pakistani buffet. Better than the momo, he’s found, are prepared dishes like aloo dum (potato curry). Tashi Delek also claims to make hard-to-find specialties from Bhutan; this has been the subject of excited murmuring among Himalayan-loving hounds, but no reports yet.

There’s more South Asian news from the neighborhood. The two Roti Boti Pakistani places on either side of Broadway have both changed their names. The quieter one on the south side of the street is now Karahi & Grill, bigjeff reports: “Same owners, though, same excellent tandoor items (quail, beef bihari kebab) and a nice selection from the steam table.” The larger, more glitzy Roti Boti is now Dera. (There’s still one Roti Boti standing, in Astoria.)

A newcomer, Ruchita, looks promising, jeff says, all dolled up in bright red and packing in the crowds with bargain biryanis and kebabs; no word yet on the quality of the food though. Among the veterans,
he adds, Dosa Place remains a dependable spot for South Indian, especially rava masala dosa; bread specialist Tawa Food “is still holding it down with paratha and roti”; and Alauddin is making some of the best seafood dishes in the area—and seems to have settled into more predictable hours.

Thakali Kitchen [Jackson Heights]
74-14 37th Avenue (between 74th and 75th streets), Jackson Heights, Queens
718-898-5088

Samyeling [Jackson Heights]
73-19 37th Road (between 73rd and 74th streets), Jackson Heights, Queens
No phone available

Tashi Delek [Jackson Heights]
37-67 74th Street (near Roosevelt Avenue), Jackson Heights, Queens
646-203-9938

Karahi & Grill [Jackson Heights]
72-08 Broadway (near 72nd Street), Jackson Heights, Queens
718-533-8700

Dera [Jackson Heights]
72-09 Broadway (near 72nd Street), Jackson Heights, Queens
718-898-3372

Ruchita [Jackson Heights]
35-68 73rd Street (between 35th and 37th avenues), Jackson Heights, Queens
718-424-3611

Dosa Place [Jackson Heights]
35-66 73rd Street (between 35th and 37th avenues), Jackson Heights, Queens
718-397-1000

Tawa Food [Jackson Heights]
37-38 72nd Street (near Broadway), Jackson Heights, Queens
718-457-7766

Alauddin [Jackson Heights]
37-14 73rd Street (between Broadway and 37th Avenue), Jackson Heights, Queens
718-424-6900

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