Momos & More isn't for everybody. Located just south of the University of Texas at Arlington campus and owned by a recent UTA grad, the targeted audience is UTA students.
But there's another group of diners who will be interested in Momos: the adventure-seekers. Diners who think of eating out as a mini cultural experience, diners who are always seeking out new ethnic cuisines, will find that Momos, which serves foods native to Nepal, will add an exotic stamp to their culinary passports.
I had no previous experience with Nepalese food, so I spent some time noodling around on the Internet before my trip to Momos. I learned that Nepalese food is heavily influenced by Indian and Chinese cuisine, no surprise considering that this small, Himalayan country is surrounded by those two culinary giants.
Momos owner Damodar Dahal graduated from UTA with a dual degree in mathematics and management. He opened Momos a month ago. Dahal says there are some 700 Nepalese students attending UTA. The restaurant is tucked into the crook of a modest neighborhood shopping center on Park Row, walking distance from the college.
We sipped on a mango drink (99 cents) while we waited for our food. Freshly made (we knew it was made-to-order because we could hear the blender going in the kitchen), it was sweet and lightly tart (perhaps from a tangy yogurt) with a few chunks of mango floating in the thick drink.
The only meat choices at Momos are chicken and goat. Nepal is a mostly Hindu nation, so no beef.
The first order to hit our table was the vegetable box ($5.49). It contained spicy fried cauliflower that seemed to have a heavy coating of cumin; cooked shredded daikon (radish) that had a good bit of heat to it; a lentil stew (dal) that seemed overly salty to me, though I'm no expert on dal; alu tama, a stewlike dish containing black-eyed peas; and a lovely basmati rice with cilantro.
Next up was the potato chilli ($4.99), which was potato wedges and chunks of green pepper doused in a hot red sauce that could have been sriracha, the popular Asian hot sauce with the rooster on the bottle. It was served with a side of white, crunchy pellets called bhuja, a dried puffed rice snack. I'd call these a Nepalese cousin of Cheetos.
Last up at our table was a plate of beautiful chicken momos, the restaurant's namesake dish and, according to Dahal, the country's favorite dish. Dahal called momos "the hamburger and pizza of Nepal."
Momos are filled steamed dumplings, like Chinese dim sum. But rather than being accompanied by a soy sauce for dipping, they were served with a tomato-cilantro-garlic sauce. We ate our way through the plate trying to decide whether it was the filling in the dumplings or the dipping sauce that was spicy. We never could make up our minds. Perhaps it was both.
Our Momos server had a limited command of English. There was some pointing involved in our ordering. Momos is scrupulously clean but offers nothing in the way of "decor," not even a K2 poster on the wall. You don't come to Momos for the experience. You come for the food.
Come to think of it, the food is an experience.