At dinner the other night a restaurateur asked us what the next hot trend was and the best answer we could come up with was country ham as an ingredient. But now we think we know what it is: Nepali food. We’ve had at least one Nepali restaurant in the area— Himalayan in a Niles shopping mall— for years, and we suspect that there’s Nepali food hiding under the name “Indian Food” elsewhere. (Evanston also has Mount Everest, which appears to be Nepali as well.) But now we’ve got two opening in fairly short order, which is kind of a lot for a local population estimated at around 7000. On the north side, Ne:Wa Nepalese Kitchen is coming to 5009 N. Clark, according to Uptown Update. The food looks attractive and well-prepared, to judge from an announcement event (held at another establishment) at their Facebook page. Their tagline is “Nepali Cuisine Redefined,” which is interesting, in that it’s never been defined at all for most of us.
Meanwhile, in the South Loop, Nepal House is coming to 1301 S. Michigan by the first week of April, according to Sloopin. This is owned by the same people who have Chicago Curry House (see comment about Nepali under an Indian Food banner above) and will be in the former location, as noted some time back, of one of the odder restaurant businesses in town.
So what is Nepali food like, anyway? Based on our limited experience (limited to several visits to Himalayan, including one on the radio), it’s… a lot like Indian food, or else they feel the need to serve some recognizable dishes. But there are some more rustic, simpler dishes such as stewed goat that were quite satisfying, and also a use of coconut milk (in a green bean dish at Himalayan) that was quite different from anything we’ve had in the usual (southern) Indian restaurants in Chicago. And as the sign on one of the dishes on our photo indicates, there’s another big difference versus most Indian food in the U.S.— Nepalis use pork in their cooking. We look forward to exploring and learning more.