IN DEEPEST TEMPLE BAR THE SUBTLE CUISINE OF NEPAL MEETS A STUNNING WINE LIST
Monty’s of Kathmandu
28 Eustace Street
Phone: 01 670 4911
Irish Daily Mail
1 July 2017
Twenty-one years ago, Shiva and Lina Gautam left their homeland of Nepal determined to set up a restaurant in south-west London. Fortunately for us, somebody whom they encountered along the way pointed out that Dublin was something of a desert as far as Asian food was concerned. And so they spurned Richmond for Temple Bar – when Temple Bar was not a name on many lips.
I was reminded of all this when I found a framed review, dated 1998, outside the loo in Monty’s of Kathmandu. It was a review in which I had praised the new departure and commented, being conscious of a national lack of red hot enthusiasm for chillis, that the Nepalese cuisine here was spicy in a complex rather than an incendiary way.
And so it remains, thanks to a true spirit of authenticity and, perhaps, also to Shiva’s infectious enthusiasm for and profound knowledge of wine. Monty’s has one of the best wine lists in Dublin, eclectic, unusual, deep and featuring a single vineyard Champagne from legendary Krug that’s so rare it’s listed for (a not unreasonable) €5,000. There’s also a wine from Tibet which is well into three figures. However, as you will see below, there’s plenty of accessible stuff too.
Monty’s is the kind of restaurant where everybody seems to be a regular. In that sense, it feels rather like a club, but a welcoming one. And the food is even better than I remember it when I last ate here which must be over a decade ago.
I can’t pretend to know much – anything really –about the dishes of Nepal so flicking through the menu was a pointless exercise. Therefore, I did what I always do in situations like this: ask the patron to order for me.
Poleko squid – whole baby squids delicately spiced and cooked in the tandoor– served with little fragments of raw onion were outstanding: juicy, tender, sizzling hot, impeccably cooked. Masu ko bari – cubes of minced lamb in a tomato sauce – is described on the menu as being “medium spiced”. I thought the spicing very gentle, providing layers of flavour rather than a chilli kick. The sauce itself seemed to have been cooked long and slow so rich and intense it was.
Lamb ledo bedo, a traditional Nepalese curry, was medium (but you can have a hot version if you so wish) and a good dish with tender cubes of meat and one of those dark, mysterious sauces that make your palate tingle in a lively kind of way. This was the one dish that I felt I had had before, a curry from Central Casting, albeit a very good one.
Our other main course, however, was back to unfamiliar and interesting territory in the form of tareko bandel, pieces of pork belly, spiced, marinated and barbecued then tossed with crisp, just-cooked onion, green pepper, ginger, garlic and fresh herbs, a dash of soya sauce placing this dish in – if you like – a kind of Asian cultural melting pot. And, boy was it good! Packed, rammed, stuffed with concentrated flavours, textures all working together to create a delicious, harmonious whole.
Pudding was something of which I had long heard but never tried: carrot halva. This is grated carrot simmered in milk – nothing else, not even sugar or spice – for many hours until it becomes something vaguely cake-like. It’s also something that I would never have dreamed of ordering. In fact, Asian desserts form part of the culinary map which I rarely explore.
However, this halva, served in the form of a little cake with a globe of vanilla ice cream on top, was fabulous in a strangely coconutty kind of way.
With some fruity and just off-dry French rosé and mineral water this feast – and it really felt like feasting, with the benefit of not knowing what was coming next – the bill came to just shy of €100.