Momo House - Stay for the Dumplings
By Jenna Sanders
Simplicity and comfort reign supreme at Momo House, where a pared-down menu features traditional Nepalese cuisine, such as pakoras, lamb ledo, and of course, momos. Each dish is prepared to perfection with a razor focus on flavorful ingredients without any fuss.
Our meal for the evening began with artichoke heart pakoras ($9) and garlic chicken ($10). At Momo House, ribbons of artichoke hearts, spinach, and onions breaded with garbanzo flour are flash-fried, creating a perfectly golden, crispy pakora. The chef’s precision with the pakoras meant they arrived at the table hot and crunchy without a spot of grease. What we truly couldn’t get enough of, however, was the herbaceous cumin yogurt sauce accompanying the pakoras. The salty, earthy, and bitter flavors of the vegetable pakora, already delicious, were elevated to an even higher level of excellence with the addition of the herb-filled, creamy yogurt sauce.
The garlic chicken was tastier than a dish this unassuming dish has any right to be, composed of nothing more than thin pieces of chicken alongside chunks of red bell pepper and onion dressed with a sweet chili sauce. As with every dish at Momo House, diners may choose their ideal tier of spicy. We chose mild for this dish, primarily because I like to dip my toe in any pool before diving to the bottom.
I approached the garlic chicken as a skeptic; it looked and smelled like buffalo wings. The second bite converted me fully. The chicken melts in your mouth. The peppers and onions are perfectly sautéed, retaining enough texture to give the dish a backbone. The spice of the sauce packed flavor rather than heat.
We followed our appetizers with a plate of mixed momo dumplings (10 momos for $16). Though the Momo House menu offers chicken, vegetable, and beef momos separately, the menu is merely a starting point. The owners prize accommodating their diners and will customize many of their offerings if you ask.
Much like the pakoras and the chicken, the momos arrived without much ceremony – a shallow bowl held four green-skinned vegetable momos, three crescent-shaped beef momos, and three circular chicken momos, nestled atop a tomato-based chutney.
As my partner and I cut into our vegetable momos, a helpful diner at the neighboring table leaned over and said, “In Nepal, you eat the momo in one bite. If you cut the momo, you lose the juice inside the dumpling.”
It turns out our helpful neighbor was K.C. Sherpa, one of the restaurant’s owners. He went on to tell us that momos are one of the most popular foods in Nepal, where much of the population eats the dumplings daily.
According to K.C. Sherpa, the key to momo success is to eat the dumplings as soon as they are placed on your table. Eating the momo quickly ensures the dough of the wrapper remains hot and supple. Once it cools, it can become chewy. Because the momo is hot from the steamer, the next step is to dip the dumpling in the tomato sauce to create a barrier between your tongue and the hot juice and filling inside the momo. Finally, place the entire momo in your mouth and enjoy.
Armed with knowledge, we set about devouring our bowl of momos. Though I would not say the dumplings are comfortably single-bite-sized, I will say the reward is worth jamming the entire dumpling in your mouth. The beauty of the momo is in the juice released by the filling as the dumpling steams. We couldn’t choose a favorite. The vegetable, beef, and chicken were equally delicious.
The final dish we chose for the evening was the vegetable pappardelle ($18). Diners choose between one of two pasta sauces, a creamy tomato sauce, similar to a tikka masala sauce, or a vegan coconut sauce. Momo House offers gluten-free noodles for an additional $2, as well. My dirty, restaurant-reviewing secret is that at home I am 100% gluten-free and dairy-free. I cannot understate my enthusiasm for a restaurant dish that easily accommodates both of these preferences.
Thin rice noodles (no pappardelle shape for the gluten-free option), peas, asparagus, spinach, and mushrooms are tossed lightly with the coconut-based pasta sauce. The vegetables were perfectly cooked, with enough of a bite left in them to provide a textural contrast to the noodles. Rice noodles tend to soak up sauce, rendering our pasta dish richly flavorful without swimming in sauce.
We left Momo House satiated, satisfied, and eager to return for another round of momos. We also left Momo House feeling relaxed, having enjoyed a meal without any of the culinary wizardry that abounds in many Napa Valley restaurants. It was a treat to eat a meal that was straight-forward, rustic, and untouched by tweezers.
1408 Clay Street in Napa | 707-637-4476
Wednesday-Monday, from 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.-9 p.m.