- Matthew Schniper
- Tandoori chicken salad could benefit from a reworking.
Beyond the warm appearance and comfortable front patio dining area, it’s Kandu who really charms us over two visits with excellent service and guidance through the menu. It’s not that we aren’t pretty familiar with most all of the Nepalese and Tibetan items (with variations) from the other spots in town that traverse this ground, but we’re always asking “what’s something that sets you apart?” Plus, who better to trust as a guide than a representative of an ethnic group legendary for mountaineering.
Appetizers climb strong, represented by a saag dip (creamy spinach) exuding a widely utilized trinity of seasoning for these cuisines — ginger, garlic and cumin — pinched with naan pieces. Fried veggie balls called pakora taste like potato latkes gone to India, with a spiced yogurt relish cooling the palate. And complimentary dahl, served just after seating, rates excellent, with big black pepper notes.
On the lighter side of entrées, a tandoori chicken salad leaves us a bit lost on the trail, showing up as cold pulled chicken pieces with the classic blushing hue but little flavor, intermixed with ample cucumber, carrot and tomatoes over mixed greens. Better would be hot crispy chicken pieces, fresh from the oven, possibly on the bone still, served atop. And I can only assume that had they not been out of the mango vinaigrette, it’d work better than the ranch dressing for which we settle, feeling very American abroad.
It also took us a moment to get past the “I’m eating baby food” feeling inherent in the texture of the sweet potato masala, a very mild and tame coconut milk-tomato-onion gravy sporting soft orange spud nuggets. The sauce over the included rice still pleases, as do those in the lamb vindaloo and salmon korma plates. The former’s nearly as spicy as the chili icon on the menu indicates, building with each bite, but ask Kandu for a ramekin of her habanero sauce, with big, earthy, vegetal bell pepper flavor underneath a beautiful burn. The lamb’s gaminess melds well into the seasonings, which our salmon doesn’t manage to do, finishing korma bites with a lingering fishiness if a raisin from the cashew-raisin cream sauce doesn’t end up in a bite; consider a different protein option.
And definitely get the lovely house chai, hot or cold, or in “Mustang” form with a shot of Bulleit Bourbon swished in, reminding us how nicely whiskey and milk mix, especially with accenting chai spices. Avoid the awful, gummy, synthetic-tasting bought cheesecake in favor of outstanding homemade ice creams, more crystalline than creamy. The mango tastes just like drinking a mango lassi, and the under-sweet, rich and strongly nutty pistachio alone’s worth a trip to Sherpa Garden.
It’s not a perfect ascent on the whole, but a journey with rewards at its top.