Tag Archives: Nepal

Chai and Momo at Chiya Chai Cafe

Nepal FlagWho would have thought that Logan Square in Chicago would be home to a cafe with amazing hommade Chai and Nepalese food? We wouldn’t have either, until we came across the eclectic Chiya Chai Cafe (2770 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL). The main draw for the Chiya is the amazing array of Chai teas. One of my pet peeves is when you go to cafe, order a chai, and they don’t even hide the fact that they are just pouring your drink out of a box of Oregon Chai concentrate…and then charging $4.50 for it. Not so at Chiya, the brainchild of longtime tea importers, where all of the chai is brewed in-house. Along with their signature masala and spicy masala chais, you can get a variety of interesting non-traditional chais in flavors like Salted Caramel, Vanilla & Nutmeg and Orange & Ginger. Each flavor profile I have tried has been delectable, but my favorite is Pistachio & Cardamon. It is also nice that you can choose between black, green and rooibos teas, though on my last visit, the server gave me black tea twice when I had asked for rooibos.

chiyacafe

The vibe at Chiya is bright and airy, with large windows overlooking Milwaukee Ave. Going with the coffeehouse vibe, Chiya also serves coffee and continental pastries like cookies, muffins and croissants if you happen to be in that mood. However, it was the mango lassi that most caught our eye for dessert. Though you will see people tapping away on laptops with mugs of tea while utilizing the free Wifi, don’t think it is just a coffeehouse. With a compact food menu alongside its teas, Chiya is actually a legitimate Nepalese restaurant. We are always glad to see Nepali food, which is only available at few places in Chicagoland, including Mt. Everest in Evanston.momoc

At Chiya, you can get a basket of steamed Nepali dumplings, momo, in a variety of flavors (pork, veggie and even bison, $8). There is also an interesting range of side dishes (many of which are gluten free, $3-6) including a green apple raita, samosas, and curry fries. For the bigger appetite, you can get curry bowls ($9 small, $12.50 large) and savory pie in flavors like chicken balti and spicy minced pork ($8.50). We ordered the vegetable momo and spicy pork vindaloo curry bowl. The momo dumplings were made in house, steamed to order, and came out perfectly formed. The kale, bell pepper and mushroom filling was delicious, as were the two spicy dipping sauces. The pork vindaloo had some nice heat, and a slightly different flavor with the addition of fenugreek and mustard seed.  Despite all this, the creamy, yougurt-y green apple raita just may have been our favorite dish of all. currycAt first glance, it may seem that Chiya Cafe is trying to be too many things at once. As if the current options were not enough, for dinner, they also open up the larger dining room in the back and serve more substantial meals and alcohol. However, somehow it all works. The Nepali small plates and the chai work well together, and we were happy with everything we sampled. If you are a tea fan, make sure you sample some of the real stuff at Chiya Chai cafe. You’ll never be able to drink boxed chai again.

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A taste of Nepal in Evanston at Mt. Everest

Mt. Everest
630 Church St.
Evanston, IL

India FlagNepal Flag There is such a thing as a free lunch. Really. I saw a sign in the window of Mt. Everest, Evanston’s only Indian/Nepalese restaurant, offering a free lunch buffet for charity, so I decided to give it a go. I was not surprised to find that the restaurant was packed to the brim with hungry students and local residents when I arrived at 2:30. However, they were seating everyone together at communal tables, as to speed the turnover. I ended up sharing a table with a nice couple and their very cute (and gastronomically-adventuresome) 1-year old daughter. Mt. Everest’s dining room is comfortable and low-key with wooden tables and soft lighting – the buffet is tucked away unobtrusively in an alcove in the corner.

FreelunchWhen seated, we made a beeline to the buffet, which I had never tried, but is normally priced at $9. I passed on the limp salad bar and went straight to the hearty grub. There was a nice spread even at 2:30, a satisfying mix of Indian and Nepalese items:

Indian Items:
Tandoori Chicken – Generally good flavor, but the chicken was rather dried out and a little mild for my tastes. Chicken Makhani – The creamy tomato sauce with butter was delicious, and wonderful to sop up with naan. However, there was little chicken swimming in the creamy sauce. Palak Paneer – Spinach with cubes of fresh cheese and a ginger sauce. The sauce was tasty and the cheese tender. Mixed Vegetable Pakora – The pakora consisted of lightly battered and fried potatoes, carrots and peppers, which would appeal to any fans of tempura. For dessert there was Carrot Kheer– An unusual rice pudding concoction with carrots. This sweet orange-colored dish was the favorite of the youngest diner.

Nepalese Specialties:
Aloo and Bodi – potatoes and green beans sauteed onion and tomatoes. According to the menu, this dish contains “traditional Nepalese spices,” I could taste ginger, paprika and some lime. This dish was tasty and had a different flavor profile from the usual Indian offerings. Khasi Ko Masu (Goat meat) – I’m not much a fan of goat meat, so I did not particularly like this dish. I thought I’d try it to broaden my horizons, but still not a fan of goat.

There was a large basket of Naan on the table (something the restaurant usually charges extra for, a bugaboo of mine), so I was extra happy. After donating some money to the Nepalese children’s fund, I said goodbye to my dining companions, pleased with my meal. Mt. Everest does a pretty good job with Indian favorites and offers some unusual Nepalese dishes. My one complaint is that perhaps some of the dishes were a bit too mild, but I’m sure the kitchen would spice up your order if you asked. But really, who doesn’t like a free lunch (for a good cause)?

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