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Monday, October 19, 2009

Gorkha Palace Restaurant, North Strathfield

The forks. They are tiny.

I've never been known for any semblance of graceful movement, but at Gorkha, the tiny forks that accompany our dishes have tines the width of a pea. It's a struggle to manouevre any more than one cube of food at a time. Perhaps this is a deliberate dietary hint from above I need to take heed.

In other ways, the tiny forks match the petite servings. At first glance the portions seem child-sized, but we find ourselves easily satiated by the end of it. In a world of excess and wastage, the humble serving sizes are more than appropriate, especially where satisfaction lies not in the amount of meat, but in the complexity of the sauces that require deftness of hand and an intuition with the balance of spices.

I'd arrived at Gorkha Palace not really knowing what to expect. Apart from a few takeaways from festival stalls, this was my first time dining in a Nepalese restaurant. The dining room is simply furnished with touches of Nepalese spirit. Dark timber tables are topped with colourful woven tablecloths, intricate wooden carvings are proudly mounted on the wall, and several trinkets and knick-knacks are scattered throughout.

Cushion room

Upstairs is the cushion room, cosy and inviting with cushion lined bench seating just off the floor. Tonight, however, our group of five is dining downstairs.

Cushion seating

Complimentary pappadums with yoghurt sauce

Thin discs of pappadums are sent out as complimentary starters to every table. The pappadums are crisp and impressively flat (mine always buckle into mountainous terrain), dipped into a cool pot of minted yoghurt sauce.

Mango lassi $4.90

Mango lassi is surprisingly spicy. I'd expected the usual yoghurt and mango combination, but here the lassi includes a generous sprinkle of cardamom, making for a richer drink that feels more a part of, than a counter to, the meal.

Bara $6.00
Traditional Newari dish from the capital of Nepal, Kathmandu. Thick lentil
pancake made with lentils, garlic, ginger and spices. Served with a Nepali dip

Bara, we're told, is one of the house specialties. The lentil pancake is a lovely golden colour, and whilst I find it a little on the mealy side (as lentils are wont to do), others consider this as one of their favourite dishes.

Sekuwa $8.90
Tender pieces of lamb marinated in roasted cumin and coriander seeds
enriched with yoghurt, lemon juice and a hint of Szechuan and chilli powder
served with fresh salad

I'm a much bigger fan of the sekuwa, tender cubes of lamb that pack a little punch with Szechuan powder and chilli. The marinade of yoghurt has helped to soften the meat and I love the caramelised edges from its time in the tandoor oven.

Momocha $8.00
The most famous steamed dish of Nepal: home made dumpling
stuffed with minced chicken and fresh onion, garlic, ginger
and fresh coriander. Served with special home-made momo chutney.

Momocha are the Nepalese version of gow gee or gyoza. I love that the humble dumpling has so many variations around the world, and why not? What better way to package minced meat than in a wrapper of dough that becomes silky and soft when steamed?

We dip the momocha into the accompanying momo chutney, a sweet tomato sauce that is flavoured with garlic, ginger, garam masala and chilli.

Aaloo Bodi Tama $11.90
Potato and black eyed peas cooked in a low heat with Nepali herbs

Aaloo Bodi Tama is my favourite of the evening. The black eyed peas have been cooked until just tender, the potatoes soaking up the rich sauce infused with tumeric, garam masala and cumin. Bamboo shoots add an element of crunch. It's perfect comfort food, especially eaten with rice.

Plain naan $2.50
Flat leavened bread baked on walls of clay oven

We soak up the curry sauces with naan, both plain and garlic, which are hot and fluffy from the tandoor. Roti is quite the revelation - not as flaky as the Malaysian style you find at Mamak, but crisper, like the browned bottom of a sausage roll. And yet it's made with wholemeal flour so it tastes delusionally good for you.

Garlic naan, rice and mango lassi

Roti $3.00
Wholemeal bread buttered

Aaloo ko Achar $2.50
Homemade pickle

Aaloo ko Achar is a cold potato salad that is served a little too cold for my liking, presumably straight from the fridge. It's hard to taste the flavours from the dressing, although I do like the crunch of the nigella seeds.

Piro Kukhura chilli chicken $15.90
Lightly battered chicken fillet cubes pan-fried with onion, banana chilli,
capsicum, and seasonal vegetables
flavoured with soy sauce and vinegar
and garnished with
fresh spring onion.

We'd asked for one dish to be served hot, just as local Nepalese would eat. "It will make you cry," we're told. "Make us cry," we nod.

The Piro Kukhura is designated as the hot dish. The battered fried chicken pieces are swathed in a sweet and sour sauce that reminds me a little of Cantonese flavours, particularly with the capsicum and green onion. We don't find it particularly hot until Billy find a piece of banana chilli (pictured at the front of the dish) and proceeds to eat it.

He winces. "Oh my god that's hot." Simon naturally follows suit with bravado. He splutters in response. "Yep, that's hot."

I am pretty sure they were both crying on the inside.

Khasi ko Masu $16.90
Traditionally spiced Nepali style goat curry with fenugreek,
cinnamon, tomatoes, coriander,
bay leaves and mustard oil

We round out our mains with the Khasi ko Masu, a goat curry that has been slow-cooked until the meat falls off the bone. The sauce is aromatic with spices - another dish we delight in sopping up with rice and torn bits of naan and roti.

Garlic naan and goat

Kheer traditional Nepalese rice pudding and
Rato Mohan fried oodles of milk curd soaked and cooked in sugar syrup

For dessert we share a combined served of the kheer rice pudding, cold and quite grainy in consistency. I'm quite taken by the Rato Mohan which are like smaller versions of their Indian cousins, gulab jamun. Made from cottage cheese curds, the balls are deep-fried and then soaked in sugar syrup. The balls soak up the syrup like a delicious cheesy sponge cake.

Mango kulfi $5.90
Traditional mango flavoured milk mousse dessert
served with almonds and pistachios

Mango kulfi provides some cool refreshment to the end of our meal. You might think that tiny forks might not work well with ice cream, but you'd be surprised how much you can scrape off a plate if you try.

Grab Your Fork dined as a guest of Gorkha Palace, with thanks to Billy for organising.

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Gorkha Palace on Urbanspoon

Gorkha Palace Restaurant
217 Concord Road, North Strathfield, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9736 3414

Opening hours:
Lunch Saturday and Sunday 11.30am-2.30pm
Dinner Monday to Sunday 5.00pm til late

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Goan - Viva Goa, Pyrmont
Indian - Maya Indian Sweets, Surry Hiills
Pakistani - Faheem Fast Food, Enmore (Jul09) and (Oct05)
Sri Lankan - Janani, Homebush (Oct05) and (Jul05)

10 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 10/19/2009 02:22:00 am


  • At 10/19/2009 7:54 am, Blogger aussiehen said…

    This was a bit of a revelation as the few times I've tried Nepalese food at stalls, it's been quite tasteless. This all sounds delicious!

  • At 10/19/2009 9:54 am, Anonymous billy@atablefortwo said…

    wow great coverage Helen! I love the mango Lassi, probably one of the best one I've had for a long time. Did you know the family sitting behind us are nepalese? It is always a good sign.

  • At 10/19/2009 10:43 am, Blogger Y said…

    Goodness, how tiny are those forks!

  • At 10/19/2009 12:11 pm, Anonymous clekitty said…

    Those forks look adorable! I've never tried Nepalese cuisine before (unless those market stall counds). I also never knew they did dumplings like the Chinese do. Probably not surprising considering they are a neighbouring country.

  • At 10/19/2009 1:18 pm, Anonymous Simon said…

    Naturally? Crying on the inside? There was no crying on the inside. Just had some dust caught up in it, is all :)

    Loved the Indian/Chinese cross-cuisine that seems to be Nepalese food. Perhaps a little Middle Eastern too as the bara tastes something akin to a flattened out falafel. Would certainly like to try out other dishes at this place.

  • At 10/19/2009 6:34 pm, Blogger lifeis2munch said…

    wow, never had tried nepalese before... saw a nepalese restaurant once when I was in NY but never tried... will definitely try this next time I'm in Sydney.

  • At 10/19/2009 10:58 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Looks like I missed out on some awesome food :( but great to be able to read it like I was eating it hee hee
    Mmm craving naan and all naan-related products now

  • At 10/20/2009 2:20 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Aussiehen - I think stall food at festivals tends to be prepared in advance so not always at its most tasty. There are quite a few Nepalese restaurants in Sydney - must explore more of them soon.

    Hi Billy - The mango lassi was packed with flavour. I did notice the family behind us, and I agree, always a good sign!

    Hi Y - Yup the serving forks were tiny. Luckily our eating forks were more regulation size. lol

    Hi Clekitty - I'm keen to try making my own momocha sometime, but then I'm always looking for an excuse to make homemade dumplings! Interesting too how the Polish have pierogi too.

    Hi Simon - Uh-huh. Right. You're braver than me - I definitely wasn't game to try it after your reaction!

    I found the menu quite comprehensive - it was a little daunting trying to work out where to start!

    Hi Globe Trotting Foodie - I, on the other hand, am envious of all the Ethiopean restaurants in NYC. Hope you find some Nepalese near you soon :)

    Hi FFichiban - Ahh yes I wonder if you would've eaten the chilli? The naan was great and I was really impressed by the roti too.

  • At 10/26/2009 2:56 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The mango dessert looks delicious!
    I must try out this place sometime. North Strathfield...is it near Outback Steakhouse by any chance?

    A.V <<<

  • At 10/28/2009 11:38 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi A.V - The mango kulfi was refreshing with a lot of cardamom flavour. It's not too far from Outback Steakhouse, about 1.3km or a 3 minute drive by car according to Google Maps :)


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