4720 Table Mesa Dr., Boulder 80305, 303-554-5828 Casual noodle house serving flavorful bowls and salads laden with fresh vegetables.
Hours Lunch: Mon.--Fri. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sat. noon--3 p.m.; Dinner: Mon.-Sat. 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Accepts all major credit cards. Wheelchair accessible. Vegetarian and vegan dishes.
Noise level Quiet and conversational.
Recommended dishes Buffet, Chana chatpat (chickpeas with tamarind chutney), daal, chicken momo, fish curry.
For two years, Ratna and Machendra Shrestha have enticed diners with savory blends of eastern cuisine--an amalgam of Nepali, Indian, and Tibetan food--in this hidden South Boulder eatery, sandwiched between Table Mesa and the Tantra housing development, next to the new Vic's coffee shop. The restaurant replaces the former Rudi's World Cuisine and the short-lived Mista, and though it is rarely packed, it appears to have cultivated a local clientele.
Most indulge in the abundant buffet, which shatters all stereotypes with its fresh, flavorful options. There are no dried out dumplings, stale pakoras, or flavorless saag. Instead Ratna, a native Nepali who grew up cooking, refreshes the options frequently. At $12.95 for dinner, and $8.95 for lunch, the buffet offers enormous value, measured not just in dollars, but also in quality and nutritional value.
So regular is the buffet choice that one evening our server was surprised when we asked for a menu, but cheerfully retrieved it and made useful recommendations. I cannot argue with his raving review of the Chana Chatpat ($3.75), a very simple appetizer with a hearty texture, robust flavor, and an adequate quantity to begin the meal without sabotaging future entrees by filling us up. The traditional daal (lentil soup) ($3.95) was equally refreshing and enticing.
For entrees, the Nepali specialty chicken momo ($9.95) was an amusing dumpling. The tender chicken was loaded with flavor, while the exterior dumpling was neither too dry nor too damp. Served with a tomato-based sauce, the momo was a refreshing take on a dish vulnerable to being overcooked and under appreciated.
The lamb saag ($12.95) was a savory marriage of flavors. The creamy spinach sauce achieved the ideal balance of cream and vegetable and managed to complement--instead of counter--the bold lamb flavor. A long-time saag fan, I am constantly on the lookout for one that errs on the side of spinach instead of cream or butter, and I am convinced I may be able to now retire my quest.
The delicious fish curry ($13.95) was a light dish of onion, garlic, tomatoes, ginger, and spices. The mahi mahi came flaked on the fork yet held its structure in the steaming broth. Vegetarians and vegans have ample choices at Nepal Cuisine, and my preference would fall on the Alu Gobi ($9.95), a mélange of cauliflower and potatoes stewed with tomatoes, onions, and spices. Occasionally vegetarian dishes at similar restaurants are little more than platters for copious amounts of cooking oil. Not so at Nepal Cuisine.
The restaurant's attendant service borders on overbearing. During several meals, waiters earnestly asked about our level of enjoyment (high), and one rushed to get the vacuum cleaner (and promptly used it) when something unnoticeable to me caught her eye on the floor. However, I won't fault sincere efforts at pleasing the customers, particularly in Boulder where customer service occasionally translates into aloof condescension or bossy demands from servers.
The restaurant's homemade chai tea is sweet and pungent, and their selection of Asian beers will please most aficionados. The dessert menu is an affordable and rewarding relief. Prices range from $2.50 to $3.50, and the choices are sweet without crossing the line into utter decadence.
It was a sincere pleasure to rediscover Nepal Cuisine. On average, a dinner for two with drinks and plenty of food cost $40, with a tip. Better yet, the food was flavorful and healthful and left us energized and renewed. For too long, I imagine Nepal Cuisine has been a local favorite and remained lesser known to greater Boulder. Diners would be well-served to seek it out.
Dining critic Rachel Walker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.