A Melbourne based writer who is a travel junkie, dedicated foodie and emerging photographer.
Published September 4th 2016
Hitting the Heights of Himalayan Cuisine
My first impressions are favourable as I walk into the Nepal Dining Room, located at 156 Waverley Road, Malvern East. It's a long and quite large space, sporting a well stocked bar and beyond it, the kitchen. Nepal Dining Room has been operating for about 12 months, and owners Hem Ghale and Shabnam Maden designed and renovated the premises from scratch as it was previously a retail store. The space would easily cater for 50 covers, with enough room around the tables that patrons wouldn't be sitting on top of one another.
The interior is modern and bright
The decor is modern and bright, with concrete floors and impressive light fittings. It's got high ceilings and the overall feel is modern industrial, though with a few personal touches to keep it warm and welcoming.
We are greeted by Shabnam, whose friendly manner makes us feel instantly welcome. She runs through the menu, suggesting dishes we might like to try. By the time she's finished the run-through, my mouth is watering - it all sounds so delicious! Noting that there are several pork dishes on the menu, Shabnam explains that while pork is not often considered to be part of the traditional Nepali menu, in the region from which she comes, pork is very much part of the cuisine, and hence it's been included on their menu.
The kitchen - all food served is cooked on site
Hem, who has more than 18 years' hospitality experience, is the Nepal Dining Room's chef. In the evening, he has other chefs in the kitchen and he takes over the front of house role.
While the menu largely owes its roots to Hem and Shabnam's Nepali heritage, there are some modern fusion elements also, keeping it interesting and fresh. The menu comprises 'small bites', mains and sides. Sampling a range of the small bites dishes is possible via the tapas platter ($17.00 for two people), which is what we elected to do. The platter consists of aloo chop (potato patties battered in chickpea batter, served with cucumber, onion and tomato salsa), momo (the classic Nepali 'dim sim' available with vegetable, lamb or chicken fillings), pork belly choila (pork belly marinated with garlic, ginger, onion, coriander with a touch of lime) and sekuwa (chicken thigh fillet marinated with mustard leaves, yoghurt, garlic, ginger & cumin).
The tapas platter
As we were progressively tasting these dishes, what came through was the freshness and well-balanced flavours. Everything served is made in-house, and having Hem on site ensures a high level of quality control. As I tasted each dish, I was thinking - 'that's going to be my favourite...', then I'd taste the next, and think the same thing! Of the entree dishes we tasted, it was the pork belly choila I liked most - the pork was tender and juicy, and the spicy hit that came with it was - for me anyway - perfectly tuned to leave the mouth tingling without being overpowering. I would definitely go back for that dish.
Hem and Shabnam went all out to give us the most amazing selection of food for main course, but there was one dish I particularly wanted to taste, and that was the goat curry ($23). It's probably 10 years since I last tried goat curry, and that occasion didn't leave me with a great impression - frankly, the goat was dry, tough and extremely bony. However, the contrast with the Nepal Dining Room's goat curry couldn't have been more marked. Their goat curry was succulent and melt-in-the-mouth tender, and not a bone in sight. Again, there was great balance in the spices - overall a sophisticated dish.
Three of the main course dishes. From left to right: pork belly curry, goat curry, eggplant and pumpkin curry
Another hit was the pork belly curry ($22). I hadn't tried pork curry before so was keen to taste it. It had the softness and succulence of slow-cooked perfection.
Dessert is also available - if you have room! Hem was keen for us to try a traditional dessert - lal mohan (evaporated milk dumplings served with vanilla ice cream and mixed berries - $8.90). It was a delicious way to end a delightful meal. Other options include sticky date pudding ($8.90) and mango or strawberry sorbet ($5.90).
Lal Mohan - a delightful way to round out the meal
Overall, I was very impressed with Nepal Dining Room and highly recommend a visit. The food is delicious and high quality, with a broad range of dishes that will appeal to most. We found the service to be excellent - I had to admire Hem who was handling the front of house pretty much single-handedly while we were there, with around 25 or so diners. It's a friendly and relaxed environment.
Nepal Dining Room is fully licensed but diners can BYO wine.
Nepal Dining Room is open for dinner from Tuesday to Sunday, 5.30 - 10.30pm, and for lunch Wednesday to Friday, 11.00am - 3.00pm. To make a reservation, call (03) 9569 5538, or click here to book online.
The images in this article were taken by the writer. They are not to be reproduced in any form without the express permission of WeekendNotes.