CONWAY -- Katmandu MoMo has been selling for about four years -- and still sells, at food truck convocations and special events -- steamed Nepalese dumplings and a few side items, including deep-fried spring rolls, a spicy potato salad and fried rice, to customers across the central Arkansas foodscape.
A year or so ago, husband-and-wife owners Kyler Nordeck and Saroza Shrestha made a small but significant brick-and-mortar move, into a kiosk in the River Market's Ottenheimer Market Hall, which sells everything the food truck does plus noodles -- a spicy Himalayan version of chow mein.
And a few months ago, they added a full-service, sit-down, lunch-and-dinner operation on Conway's Oak Street at which Shrestha offers an expanded menu of Nepalese and north Asian dishes hitherto unavailable hereabouts.
It includes several additional versions of the dumplings, including pan-seared, deep-fried, chili and soup momo; a range of appetizers, including spicy marinated peanuts, chili chicken, samosas and a Nepali-style cucumber salad; noodle soups, including chicken, pork and vegetarian thukpa; and chatamari, a rice crepe filled with ground meat or vegetables, eggs, red onions and cilantro. Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options abound.Gallery: Katmandu Momo in Conway
What is Nepalese food like? We'd say it fits more or less squarely -- as Nepal sits between China and India -- between Chinese and Indian/Pakistani.
Dumplings are a cuisine constant across many parts of Asia, but they vary between regional cuisines (compare momo to, say, Japanese gyoza or Chinese potstickers). Fans of Subcontinental cooking will, for example, recognize the samosas ($3.99 for two), conical deep-fried pockets with a mashed-potato-and-vegetable filling. They'll also recognize the flavors of curry, turmeric and coriander.
The restaurant is cozy, with one brick wall accented by old window frames and the opposing wall of buff-painted plaster decorated by a three-piece, antique-design, Mercator-style map and red stylized portrait of the Buddha. A large, stylized clock decorates the "back" wall that separates the dining room from the kitchen. Open wooden rafters support a peaked wooden ceiling that may be original to the building; below, strings of white, red, green, yellow and blue flags converge at a point near the front. Seating is at black-lacquered booths and tables, the latter with black metal-and-padding cafeteria chairs.
Do not miss Katmandu MoMo's veggie spring rolls ($4.99 for five), as either an appetizer or as a lunchtime side dish -- uber-crisp, paper-thin wrappers filled with a rich mix of crisp shredded veggies. The tangy sweet-and-sour-and-chili dipping sauce is a perfect accompaniment. It also accompanies the conical samosas, which were delicious.
We've been eating the "regular" momo from the food truck and the kiosk for years, so we welcomed the chance to branch out and try some of the others, with the wider choice of beef, chicken, pork or vegetable fillings.
Our veggie-version Jhol Momo ($10.99), "soup" momo, eight plumped-up dumplings in a rich, yellow curry-coriander broth, was satisfying and surprisingly filling.
We were told the kitchen was out out of beef momo, but then they suddenly somehow became available, so we went right for the beef Khotay Momo ($9.99), 10 ground-beef-filled dumplings lightly pan-seared until the pasta-like wrappers become slightly chewy. Momo served on a plate (as opposed to in a bowl, as with the soup dumplings) come with a little cup of vivid orange dipping sauce, lightly spicy but not nearly as fiery as its color would suggest.
The kitchen was out of several other items, including, to our great regret, the chatamari, which we had particularly wanted to try.
A side of turmeric fried rice ($4.99) was excellent investment, a surprisingly sizable plate of flavorful, slightly oily, yellow-green rice. It's also available as an entree with mixed veggies ($8.99) or with mixed veggies and marinated chicken or pork ($9.99).
We discovered that, at least for the time being, at lunch you can only order from the limited lunch menu. So we settled on the Chicken Thukpa, which is available on both menus ($9.99 for lunch, $10.99 for dinner). We were pleased with what is essentially the Nepalese version of chicken noodle soup, good sized chunks of white-meat chicken, bits of vegetables and plenty of flat rice noodles in a rich, flavorful but mild broth. (Gluten-avoiding diners who are into noodles, by the way, can substitute the rice noodles for the wheat ones in the chow mein.)
We did have one big concern: Most of our tableware -- plates and bowls alike -- were significantly chipped. And that's at a restaurant that's less than six months old.
Service was excellent -- the staff is friendly, helpful and knowledgeable about the menu, which is important for folks who might be encountering the unknown. And the Conway restaurant has one big advantage over the one in the River Market: Daytime street parking is free.
Weekend on 08/23/2018
Address: 1018 Oak St., Conway
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday
Alcoholic beverages: No
Credit cards: V, MC, AE, D
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Print Headline: Flavor a-go-go at Katmandu MoMo