Eating local

Kathmandu II joins Boulder’s unique Himalayan food scene


When you travel, one of the first things you tell folks about your trip is how the food was. It’s just a simple way to engage your conversation partners in a talk about your trip, which we care about but don’t really want to hear about, and give them something to latch onto.

Unless you get sick, the food on any trip is “incredible.” It’s new, you’re hungry all the time, you’re eating out at Yelpverified restaurants, you’re drinking the local beer — a trip to anywhere is like a culinary trap door where your fate is determined well before you leave. What was the last trip you took where the food wasn’t “incredible”?

What’s the point here? When people travel to Boulder County, what do they say about the food? It’s probably similar to what I tell folks while I’m travelling: there are a lot of microbreweries and there is a lot of farm-to-table stuff. Though those answers are true, find any other town that isn’t peddling that in 2015. You might also say, as I do, that green chile is quite abundant and that the Mexican food comes from a different state in Mexico than what you might be used to. True, but you can say the same of much of the southwest.

So that leaves us with what I think is the truly unique aspect of Boulder County dining, the one thing other cities don’t have in such abundance and variety: Himalayan food. Whether it’s classified as Tibetan, Nepali or Indian fare, Boulder County can lay claim to such a great diversity of Himalayan restaurants that upon hearing of this, out-of-towners respond with a gleeful, “Huh!” 

It’s no surprise then that we are once again welcoming another Himalayan restaurant to Boulder, although most locals will recognize it from its flagship enterprise in Nederland. Kathmandu II opened about a month ago in the old Golden Lotus building, and things there are just getting into high gear.

On a recent evening, we hopped into Kathmandu for dinner. The place will still remind you of Golden Lotus; a small bar is located far to the left, and a dining room with booths and tables is on the right. The small covered patio had a few patrons out dining on a cool, post-rain night.

First to our table was a plate of chicken momos and vegetable samosas. The momos were popping at the seems, and the interior meat was well-seasoned. The spicy tomato dipping sauce was spot on. The samosas were flaky, warm and delicious, like any other properly made samosa. But what I particularly liked was the subtle dusting of brown sugar on top of the samosa. It made a world of difference and completely changed the eating experience. The brown sugar pulled out sweetness in the potato, which is too often the tuber’s forgotten attribute.

We ordered a special dinner platter next, which included tandoori chicken, vegetable yellow curry, dahl, lamb jal fregi and a kheer dessert.

The chicken was, foremost, beautiful. A sunburst of bright orange and red skin on a plump thigh and leg gave way to extra moist meat. It was lightly seasoned, and the flavor of the grill was allowed to shine. The lamb jal fregi was mild and hearty. The lamb bits were tender and the sauce was earthy with deep raisin sweetness. The vegetable yellow curry was much less creamy than other varieties (which was refreshing for my tastes) and the vegetables were cooked to slightly hard. The kheer was effortless, simply prepared with bright and robust ingredients.

Where Kathmandu II stacks up against Boulder County’s other Himalayan restaurants is unclear. They’re still getting settled in their new digs, of course, but it was a tasty and welcoming start to their Boulder endeavor. What is clear, is that the next time an out-of-towner asks you what the taste of Boulder is, you’ll be safe sending them to Kathmandu II.