I was a little skeptical when ~METRO KATHMANDU~ was opening in the 94117, a second Nepali restaurant not five blocks away from another one in the neighborhood, Kathmandu Cafe. As a friend and I recently lamented, would it be so hard to have some Italian here? Or some French bistro action? Oh wait, the space used to be Le Metro, scratch that, we did have that.
Anyway, I am now eating my words, because I have found a new replacement for those nights when I don't and even do want Thai, or Indian, or Chinese. The food here is tangy, spicy, savory, all the things I love--and just the thing that is going to get me through the upcoming chilly and rainy months (or July, for that matter).
The room here is quite toasty, so that will also help with the impending soggy-season fest. A pal and I perched at the back bar area (yay, purse hooks!), the prime spot to gaze into the large mirrors and admire ourselves. Uh, kidding. Actually, we were able to look upon the cozy room behind us, painted deep shades of crimson, with cheerful-meets-groovy multicolored pendant lamps by Ferruccio Laviani that I have long admired at Kartell.
Things start with a complimentary taste of Mom's special pickled daikon--I could see how some folks with less adventurous palates could recoil from the tang of these little buggers, but I found these crispy spears highly addictive with their dusting of mustard seed, turmeric, and chili. Dragon breath is imminent--bring it!
The same tang continued with the chana chatpat ($6), a salad of garbanzos laced with lime, (slightly ungainly) chunks of ginger, red onion, cilantro, and masala. I liked the bright acidity of the dish, but sometimes the ginger verged on too much. Maybe I needed more Mary Ann?
What is it about dumplings that makes them so irresistible? Seriously, whether its pot stickers or ravioli or dim sum, I am all over them. MMmmmmmomos! You can take your choice of crab ($8), vegetable ($6), or chicken momos ($7)--the tender chicken ones we ate had a zingy meatball-like stuffing that was juicy and gingery, and they come with a smooth dipping sauce of sesame and tomato chutney. I liked how they were more delicate than doughy. I could sit down to a plate of these just for myself, easy. Get back from my momos. I will cut you. Because I am hardcore like that.
Other starters include shrimp pakoda ($7), a plate of spicy bite-size deep-fried little numbers that you dip in mint chutney, and the lamb chhoila ($7), kebab-sized bites of lamb that are cooked perfectly (still pink in the middle), and pack a garlic and chili zap--just don't plan on kissing anyone immediately following dinner. Not the prettiest presentation, but ultimately flavor prevails as the winning quality with this dish.
Mains are about your standard Indian restaurant-sized portions, but without the usual oil slick. There are about 16 to choose from. I found the shrimp masala ($15) a touch on the spendy side (I'd like to know the provenance of the shrimp), although dipping the buttery paratha ($3) into the creamy tomato sauce was quite delicious. And decadent--the butter level of the paratha made me think the French restaurant had returned for a second there, mon dieu.
I preferred the kwati with lamb ($14), another dish that comes courtesy of mom's recipe files--a hearty stew-like combo of sprouted beans with chunks of lamb and hits of thyme. Ideal chilly night food. I want to return for the goat curry, and yes, more momos, please.
There are a variety of vegetarian dishes (they can do vegan on request as well)--I had to go for my typical Indian fave of alu govi ($9)--this version had slices of potato and florets of cauliflower that weren't cooked to death (yay) in a tomato-y and curry base. There were a few surprises of big cardamom pods, so watch for them if you can--they totally obliterate your palate for a few moments.
The wine list was surprisingly good--take your pick of some gewurz or gruner veltliner by the glass, or the Novelist, a white meritage from Cosentino Winery that made for a good start. Desserts included a couple choices of refreshing kulfi (mango or pistachio, $5), or a funky little shredded carrot and cardamom number ($5) with nuts that I wanted to be a touch crunchier.
This place is teeny-tiny, and watched over very carefully by Roshan and his wife Shradha, a gracious couple from Kathmandu. They really like to take care of their guests, and ensure people have an enjoyable time at their restaurant. You feel it.
There is a brunch here that I haven't been to for a while so I can't vouch for it, but it always seems to be popular. The menu suddenly snaps to eggs Benedict, omelettes, and chorizo hash, but there is a Kathmandu burger made with curry-spiced lamb; I heard the famous Le Metro mussels will be returning on the weekend brunch menu too. On sunny days folks dine on the patio in the back, a cute little garden that is lovely on those rare warm nights (file this one away as a secret weapon for the next time we have a heat wave). Hey, may I have a momo with my croque madame and mimosa? Merci!
311 Divisadero St.
Cross: Page St.
San Francisco, CA 94117