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The momo duel begins at De Namaste in Plumstead - London

j
JFores Dec 4, 2012 04:41 PM

Hello all,

I've got a bit of a review back log but dinner tonight was so incredible that it is leap frogging 4 other places that I need to write up.

I just got back from the Nepalese equivalent of Thattukada. If that doesn't sound immediately arresting and appealing from a South Asian culinary perspective then the fact that I have a list of at least four other Nepalese restaurants in the immediate vicinity that I need to try should get people trekking out here. I was going to do a crawl with two friends and the Nepalese bartender at my local pub (seriously, I got this place off him) but he bailed last second. We ended up hunkering down in De Namaste, ordering 1/4 of the menu and skipping the crawl until it's warmer (or at least lighter outside. I'll try to redo it next week.)

Upon entering D'Namaste (on the menu, De Namaste on its allinlondon listing), you will find yourself in a tiny takeaway like room. I immediately thought "wow this is small, but it looks packed and really good." Turns out there are also three rooms upstairs. Two of them are for large parties while a third serves as the sitting "on the floor with your shoes off equivalent" of four top Thattukada. The setting in the room is legit. A friend who joined me for the meal lived in Nepal for four months and agreed wholeheartedly when I said the room and the environment (huge number of customers who were 100% Nepalese all night) would pass for Nepal with ease if you couldn't see two British electrical plugs in a corner.

The food in this place and its environment are what make me say it is a Nepalese version of Thattukada. The menu is heavily geared towards drinking food, but even more homely dishes like the full thali were exceptional. They have a full bar and most of the other customers were drinking though we abstained.

We ordered:

Mutton momo and chicken momo - At 4.25 for 12, these momo are a steal. I have only had momo at 3 places in England, but they were all mediocre or worse. New York has an immense number of Nepalese and Tibetan restaurants so I have become very accustomed to momo. These were incredibly good and would be within the top 3 or top 5 of what I can name from New York. Homemade dipping sauce (although I've had better) with perfect juicy fillings. The dumpling skins were superior to many places in New York and while I found the filling delicious, I know for a fact that I have experienced deeper stronger spiced flavors at one or two other places. Tawa in Queens edges them ever so slightly on their chicken momo, but these are hands down the best in London if other places in Plumstead fail to blow me away.

Hyakula - Exceptionally crispy lamb ribs which are fried and served with onions, other raw vegetables and a dry powdered dipping sauce which tasted of achar. Excellent with crisp delicious meat. Very tasty.

Taas - An interesting platter which combines a cold potato curry/stew and a tangy achar-like serving of courgette with exceptionally well grilled mutton. Delicious with a good char and a strong meaty flavor. Like the hyakula, it was simple, but delicious. Served with puffed rice topped with crispy fried garlic. The entire dish is like a thali with puffed rice where you can mix and match the different items before eating your next piece of succulent rich mutton.

Mixed Thukpa - Thukpa is Nepal's answer to laksa. A thick noodle soup with a strongly spiced broth that still had an intense flavor of chicken which hinted towards a slowly brewed quality stock 9/10 broth. The "mixed" in the name denotes chicken, pork and mutton all of which pre-grilled. This dish was a meaty delight and it was the single best bowl of noodle soup I've had since pho in Paris (and my best before that was the Indonesian mie bakso place near Charing Cross.) This is an incredible dish particularly in today's weather. The single best version I've had and I have had it at a number of places in New York. My one complaint is that they used pre-made noodles here whereas most places in New York make their own hand pulled noodles and then proceed to murder the meats, accompaniments and broth.

Thakali Thali or Nepali Khana... Literally Nepali Eat or Nepali Thali - This is basically their one dish meal. Another thali is offered and I will pre order it for a return visit ASAP. At 9 pounds for something like a 3.50-4.00 Thattukada meal, it was expensive. The thali itself was excellent though. The vegetables given with the dish were extremely authentic to Nepal, as noted by my companion who lived there. The family she stayed with served both the bak choi like vegetable dish and a cauliflower curry which came in the thali almost daily. The mutton curry had a thin more tangy broth while the meat was shockingly tender. Perfectly cooked. One of the best mutton curries I could name at any restaurant I go to in London. Solid Nepalese dal (extremely thin like Bengali dal.)

This entire feast came to 37 pounds between three people and we were all very full. That price includes two mango lassi which were freshly made.

Apologies for the length of the post, but I felt that this place deserves attention. It undoubtedly does enough business (it was doing a lot for a Tuesday night) but more people need to try this place. It is hidden away in the under-visited center of London's Nepalese community and it is surrounded by other exciting restaurants. This place is amazing and I have not been this excited about a first meal at a random restaurant since Neerob in the Bronx or Silk Road in London.

De Namaste
158 Plumstead Road
London, SE18 7DY

020 8333 2232

Pictured are the taas and the thukpa, but more pics may follow. This is just the beginning of a larger momo duel across Plumstead.

 
 
  1. j
    JFores Dec 24, 2012 04:23 AM

    One more picture of the alu tama which is pretty much a tangy curry of black eyed peas, bamboo shoots and potatoes.

     
    1. j
      JFores Dec 15, 2012 07:23 AM

      I went back here for another meal which was largely of repeat of the previous one. The quality of the mix thukpa and the momo are both extremely high. I will be looking to tackle more of the menu and at least one other place in the area sometime this week.

      Regarding the thukpa, I particularly like variety of flavors in the broth and the extremely crisp pieces of lamb and pork. The former tastes of stock, strong spices, a note of hing, and it is then made opaque through yogurt thus adding a degree of creaminess to the soup.

      1. u
        usualsuspect Dec 6, 2012 07:02 AM

        Thanks for the report.

        I've been reading this board on and off for years, and this thread has finally got me round to posting...

        I've had the Thali at Namaste (very good - particularly the veg), not tried the momo there yet - I am now definitely inspired to go back sooner rather than later!

        There are a few other places I have tried momo (amongst other Himalayan dishes) in that neck of the woods and I've not found any of them disappointing. Woolwich covered market (Plumstead Rd) has a small van/trailer in the back which contains a small cafe with a few tables. I think it is called Gurkha Café, and is possibly only open in the day?? The menu is cheap and short including momo, fried noodles and fried rice. The momo are about £4 for 10/12 and come with a thick, spicy, homemade tomato/garlic/chilli dipping sauce. The momo here are slightly heavier on the garlic than some others.

        There is another place in Woolwich which is well worth a look called Kailash Momo (http://kailash.moonfruit.com/about-us...), which is Tibetan (and also Nepalese) place with an interesting menu. There doesn’t seem to be a huge amount of logic in the pricing or portions and the starters and mains are not necessarily sized as you would expect! The momo here are very good and come with a bowl of stock/soup, to which you add soy sauce for seasoning. I think this used to be a homemade stock but recently seems to be based on a chicken bouillon powder which is unfortunate. I am quite a fan of the lamb momo, and they go well with the spicy chilli sauce. The place is often busy with young Nepalese students, and the staff are very friendly, though there sometimes quite a wait for small orders. The homemade breads are good, and there are a few more interesting dishes I keep meaning to try (I remember one described as buffalo another Pork with blue cheese). Some of the ‘curry’ type dishes are flavoursome, but with quite small portions of pretty tough meat. There is one side dish (was slightly reminiscent of a Uiyger snack called Samsa) though I can’t remember what it was called here – a hot dense crusty pastry with a rich (and fatty) finely diced meat and onion filling that stays incredibly moist inside and oozes juices when you bite into it- well worth a go. If you are there in the day you can pop into the newly opened 'An' Vietnamese next door and grab a bahn mi for your journey home.

        Further down into Plumstead- on the other side of the railway station to Namaste is an unusual looking pub/Nepalese restaurant place called Danfe . I’ve not tried it yet but looks like it could be interesting - I would be curious to hear if anyone has tried it.

        It’s been a while since I was in these places so apologies for the slightly vague reports! I look forward to hearing about how the chowdown goes!

        3 Replies
        1. re: usualsuspect
          j
          JFores Dec 6, 2012 07:32 AM

          I went into Danfe and it looked interesting, but Namaste was a lot more crowded. I will definitely hit up Kailash and Gurkha Cafe the next time I'm there for at least momo. Other than that I have a few more places to try, but at least one of them is not answering the phone number listing I found online.

          I'd welcome samsa over here. How is the banh mi at An?

          Wow! Just reading the menu for Kailash! Very exciting stuff!

          1. re: JFores
            u
            usualsuspect Dec 6, 2012 08:04 AM

            Which places are on your list that you can’t get hold of? I may be able to get you a number or check that they are open for you as I am down that way fairly often. I would happily give a toe for a place in London that could make Samsa that tasted like they do in Xinjiang!

            The banh mi at ‘An’ are very good. I’m not sure they are the most authentic in London- I’m not much of an authority on Vietnamese food, but they are certainly very tasty. The baguettes are fairly standard but always freshly baked (albeit from frozen), the (lightly) pickled carrot, cucumber, coriander and mooli are always very fresh with a good crunch. The rolled pork belly is slightly warmed and heavy on the fat, there is also a slice of some reconstituted pork slice type stuff which doesn’t do much for me, but the homemade pork pate is excellent and really works wonderfully with extra sliced red chilli spread over it. It’s my favourite of the few I’ve had in London, though I’m not sure how much it has been adapted to suite London tastes.

            They have only just opened and I am yet to try their Pho. It’s a small family run operation that used to run a sandwich bar at the other end of Woolwich. At their new place they also have a few more noodle dishes, a couple of salads and some barbequed chicken which I intend to investigate!

            1. re: usualsuspect
              j
              JFores Dec 6, 2012 12:41 PM

              Oh wow. Definitely trying at least the banh mi at An.

              I can't find any details at all for a place called Jhalmuri that I got off someone and the other is Chautari. The latter's phone seems to be disconnected.

        2. j
          JFores Dec 5, 2012 02:59 AM

          All pics except momo are courtesy of ShekhaV

          Pictures include the dining room, the menu, an on plate assembly of the items within the thali (we kept forgetting to photograph stuff as it came out), and finally three plump little chicken momos.

           
           
           
           
           
           
          1 Reply
          1. re: JFores
            klyeoh Dec 5, 2012 04:09 AM

            Trust you to unearth such dining gems for us, JFores. Those momos sure looked good. You can compare those to the Nepali momos we get in Kuala Lumpur & Singapore pictured in my old thread here:
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/869179

            We do get some really good Nepali food here in Malaysia which, according to the latest figures, now have the 2nd-largest Nepali community in the world outside Nepal (after India) at about 400,000! In comparison, the US has 59,490 (2010 figure) and the United Kingdom has 31,000 (2009 figure).

          2. howler Dec 5, 2012 02:22 AM

            fantastic find, well done. i would kill for decent momos, and now i'm glad i don't have to.

            by the way, what do you mean about something tasting like achar? achar is hindi for pickle. did you mean amchur, the mango spice?

            2 Replies
            1. re: howler
              j
              JFores Dec 5, 2012 02:29 AM

              The powder had that tangy flavor that you would get off of the oil in lemon pickle or mango pickle. I thought it may been some sort of achar masala mixed with ground chili.

              The momo are pretty exceptional. I don't know if that's just the standard level of quality for the area yet, but I doubt it. The chicken momo in particular were really very good.

              It should be noted that Plumstead is only a short journey from London Bridge and that this place screams Chowdown. Two out of three "dining" rooms are for on floor seating and one of them is clearly meant for large parties.

              1. re: JFores
                s
                ShekhaV Dec 5, 2012 02:38 AM

                Yep - it's the same train from London Bridge to Deptford, just a few stops further. Pics coming soon.

            2. zuriga1 Dec 4, 2012 11:34 PM

              After reading your review, Justin, I have a feeling that our Nepalese restaurants down here (Sherpa Kitchen) are serving faux Nepalese or something very different than what you've described. They say their chef is very 'authentic,' but perhaps he's cooking what he thinks the customers will prefer.

              12 Replies
              1. re: zuriga1
                b
                brokentelephone Dec 5, 2012 01:28 AM

                I'm with you zuriga -- ours in SW London (well the one that delivers to me from somewhere nearbyish) seems to be almost exactly the same as "Indian" food.

                1. re: zuriga1
                  h
                  Harters Dec 5, 2012 01:57 AM

                  I agree, June. Certainly the Nepalese places near me have menus that are little different from the bog standard high street curry house. Yes, they may have some "non-standard" dishes but, as ever, very few customers (and I am definitely not one of them) will have the slightest idea if these are traditional preparations, modern interpretations or, as often, simply made up names. For example, this link to the best thought of place - http://www.gurkhagrill.co.uk/

                  . And a link to my notes on the meal we had there last year - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/819977 . Of course, there isnt a large community of Nepalese people in the area - Google suggests a 200 families or so. But then, experience of other south asian food strongly suggests that a large community is no guarantee of good restaurants.

                  1. re: Harters
                    j
                    JFores Dec 5, 2012 03:30 AM

                    In terms of specific dishes, nothing seems overtly Nepalese. The biggest nod towards the Himalayas seems to be the appearance of soy beans in one of the vegetarian dishes. There is a lot of grilled meat on that menu so it could definitely be a Nepalese crew (they do a lot of grilling) but the actual dish names seem anthropologically untraceable. I've never seen any of that stuff on a Nepalese menu besides the Indian stalwarts that always appear (chili paneer or chicken, samosa, etc.)

                    1. re: JFores
                      h
                      Harters Dec 5, 2012 05:02 AM

                      Restaurant is definitely in Nepalese ownership. Many of the small local Nepalese community have their roots in retired Ghurka soldiers.

                      1. re: Harters
                        s
                        ShekhaV Dec 5, 2012 05:39 AM

                        The Gurkha community is also another factor I think that could influence Nepalese cooking in some of these more central places. The more traditional North Indian dishes on the menu, or those leaning towards that are probably incorporating elements taken either from army cooking or just being more settled in the UK, either preparing for a wider palate or just more inclined to fusion...? Just speculatively throwing it out there, I have no idea if this is actually the case. I reckon that while still undoubtedly Nepalese, the ex-Gurkha community would have some differences to their cooking than that from regional areas/ethnicities in Nepal.

                        1. re: ShekhaV
                          h
                          Harters Dec 6, 2012 07:29 AM

                          I understand (from Wikip.) that the Ghurkha soldiers are recruited mainly from particular ethnic groups - two in central Nepal and two in the east of the country. I wonder if regional cooking style is something that effects the later restaurant cooking style?

                          1. re: Harters
                            s
                            ShekhaV Dec 6, 2012 07:46 AM

                            I would think so, that combined with stuff learnt in the army probably lends a certain style you find in the more widely marketed Nepalese restaurants. There are also a few I know that do just try and cater for a wider palate, and knock off northern Indian cuisine. I think it's just a combination of all three things personally.

                            1. re: ShekhaV
                              h
                              Harters Dec 6, 2012 08:19 AM

                              Suspect you're right. Whilst the Nepalese places round south Manchester have been around for a while, they've been nowhere near as long-established as the "Indians" on the Curry Mile, for example. So, I can well understand that, to compete in the beginning, they've adopted a knock off of the usual Bangladeshi take on Punjabi dishes.

                    2. re: Harters
                      zuriga1 Dec 5, 2012 03:44 AM

                      Whenever we take friends to our local Nepalese (they're usually from the States), we tell them it's like Indian but 'different.' I wouldn't call it bog standard curry house, but all the dishes are delicious. I can't tell you what the difference is.. maybe in the spicing. I'm glad this thread came up as we haven't been there in ages.

                      Outside Seattle, there is a fantastic restaurant that seems to blend all the cuisines of northern India, East Pakistan, Bangladesh, and ... Nepal! Shamiana is extraordinary and is owned by people who grew up in East Pakistan. My son found this place about 20 years ago, and I never miss a chance to eat there. (Just for anyone who may be traveling...)

                      http://www.shamianarestaurant.com/abo...

                      1. re: zuriga1
                        j
                        JFores Dec 5, 2012 03:52 AM

                        Interesting. It's very weird that they're using the term East Pakistan still. Are the owners Urdu speaking Biharis? I've met a stupidly large number of Bangladeshis, but never a Bihari (which is understandable as many left for West Pakistan, were killed in reprisals following the BD War or are still citizenship-less in refugee camps across BD.) The community was regarded wholesale as a unit of collaborators for the Pakistani military and they took an absolute beating in the aftermath of the war. Still effectively stateless.

                        1. re: JFores
                          zuriga1 Dec 5, 2012 04:55 AM

                          From the sound of their name and from what I remember, the owners of this restaurant are probably Americans and not from the other side of the world. They were brought up, maybe, as missionary children. I'll have to ask my son about that. Next time I'm there, I'll inquire where the chef is from. :-)

                          1. re: JFores
                            howler Dec 5, 2012 06:32 AM

                            They are plenty of Indian Urdu speaking Biharis living in old BIhar. Indeed Urdu is an official language of old Bihar with about 9 million speakers.

                            What you are referring to are the 'stranded' Biharis in Bangladesh, about half a milllion - everybody under 40 has been granted Bangladeshi citizenship.

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