Thukpa, the hearty, spicy noodle soup of the Himalayas, is popular through Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan. It's rich, steaming, and very filling, just the thing for a chilly day.

Kathmandu Kitchen: A taste of Nepal

By Robin Garr

Kathmandu: Even the sound of the name of Nepal’s historic capital, gateway to the Himalayas, evokes feelings of romance and exotic travel. The bustling, noisy city of 850,000 lies in a green valley at 4,500 feet above sea level. It’s not even as high as Denver, but on a clear day you can see Mount Everest from historic Durbar Square in the old city, home to seven Unesco World Heritage sites.

Want to go? It will take you maybe 26 hours including layover time to get to Kathmandu from here. The price? Don’t even ask.

But here’s an easy workaround: Head to Kathmandu Kitchen on Old Bardstown Road in Buechel, and you can enjoy a fantastic Nepalese meal without all the hassle of international travel.

If you love Indian food – I certainly do – you won’t find Nepalese fare entirely unfamiliar. Nepal lies along the southern flank of the Himalayas sandwiched between India and Tibet, and its food and culture draw from both countries in a spicy blend.

Kathmandu Kitchen has been in business for seven years, our friendly servers told us. A smallish storefront in a strip of shops around the corner from the main drag, it’s bright and pretty, with bold colors, photos of Kathmandu and the Himalayas, and colorful Buddhist prayer flags.

The menu offers a mix of Nepalese and Northern Indian dishes, and they’ll gladly honor your level-of-spice request from mild up to blow-off-the-top-of-your-head hot. (Our helpful server did gently hint that I probably didn’t want extra-hot, and I’m sure she was right.)

The menu includes more than 100 Nepalese and Indian dishes, and it comes with a sweet promise: “You can have faith in the quality and taste to your food as it is hand-crafted everyday by two culinary experts. They have mastered their cooking skills using the ancient secret family recipes that have been created and passed on from generations before them to provide you with an authentic Nepali and Indian experience.”

I agree: Kathmandu Kitchen ranks near the top of local Indian or Nepalese eateries for food quality and taste.

Kathmandu Kitchen’s menu reflects the country’s Hindu and Buddhist traditions. There are plenty of chicken, lamb and goat options (all halal) and shrimp, plus an extensive array of vegetarian choices. Just about every main dish on the menu falls into a tight price range from $12.99 to $16.99.

Everything we tried was excellent and came out from the kitchen quickly, perhaps thanks to the fact that we were the only diners in the room for a late Saturday lunch.

Onion pakoras ($5.99). a traditional Indian appetizer that’s popular throughout South Asia, came in a generous 10-piece serving. Sliced onions are rolled into marble-size balls with spicy flour batter, deep-fried until crunchy dark brown and delicious, with subtle aromatic spices enhancing the crisp onion. They came with sweet tamarind chutney and pale-green spicy chutney on the side.

What's a momo? It's a Nepalese dumpling and a beloved street food in Nepal's capital city, Kathmandu. They're filled with meat or veggies, steamed or fried, and invariably delicious.
What’s a momo? It’s a Nepalese dumpling and a beloved street food in Nepal’s capital city, Kathmandu. They’re filled with meat or veggies, steamed or fried, and invariably delicious.

Momos – fried or steamed stuffed dumplings – are a classic Nepalese and Tibetan appetizer, and Kathmandu Kitchen does them well. Six veggie-stuffed fried momos ($7.99) made a filling starter. Thin flour pastry was folded around a mix of minced veggies, perhaps cabbage, green pepper, onion, maybe potato, formed into fat crescents and gently fried until the pastry was crisp and light brown and the interiors steaming. The menu described a pool of mild orange dipping sauce as homemade tomatoes pickle.

Another signature Himalayan dish, chicken thukpa ($12.99, pictured at the top of the page), is a rich and spicy soup, chock full of veggies and thick wheat noodles. Ordered mild, it still carried a touch of heat, but nothing fiery. Its fascinating complex spice flavors popped on the palate, fresh and distinct. Walnut-size balls of battered fried chicken had been added to the soup at the last minute so they were crunchy, not soggy. Floating on the top were very finely chopped raw cabbage, tiny squares of red onion, and fresh cilantro leaves, with a big slice of lemon floating at the center of the bowl, its tangy citrus flavor permeating the soup.

Jhanneko daal takes lentils to an Everest-high level. Thick and savory, loaded with aromatic South Asian spices and, in this order, kicked up to endorphin-boosting heat, it's a filling Nepalese delight.
Jhanneko daal takes lentils to an Everest-high level. Thick and savory, loaded with aromatic South Asian spices and, in this order, kicked up to endorphin-boosting heat, it’s a filling Nepalese delight.

Daal jhanneko ($12.99) is a Nepalese cousin of the Northern Indian lentil dish dal tadka. This thick, savory lentil soup comes with yellow (my choice) or black lentils simmered to a thick, savory porridge, then kicked up with a complex, piquant tadka spice mix that’s poured into the lentils to flavor them. Kathmandu Kitchen’s daal jhanneko is tempered with cumin seeds, onion, tomato, cilantro, ginger, and garlic; and to kick it up to my requested “hot” spice level, three tiny but dangerous looking chile peppers to create that endorphin rush.

Perfectly prepared long-grain basmati rice came with the daal, and a bowl of soft, puffy garlic naan ($3.99) made a perfect accompaniment.

As an antidote to the spicy fire, a big dish of raita ($2.99) got the job done. Cool, thick and creamy homemade yogurt was filled with grated cucumber and sprinkled with fresh, bright green cilantro leaves and small cubes of red onion.

A memorable taste of the Himalayas for two totaled $49.76, plus a $12 tip.

Kathmandu Kitchen
3825 Bardstown Road

Noise Level: The restaurant wasn’t very busy on a Saturday afternoon, and conversation was never an issue.

Accessibility: The dining room and restrooms appear to be accessible to wheelchair users.