It’s easy to become disoriented in downtown Abu Dhabi’s Madinat Zayed neighborhood, a bustling area of mini-blocks and narrow streets crammed with cars, people, and every type of storefront imaginable, from mobile phone kiosks to one-room laundromats to curtain rod wholesalers.
It’s also easy for a new shop or restaurant to go unnoticed in the fray.
Unless you’re from Nepal and searching for authentic momos, that is. Recently, the capital’s sizable community of Nepalese cab drivers have been congregating in this neighborhood, chatting in the streets about a new restaurant that opened just a few weeks ago, filling a much-need gap when the nearby Nepalese Curry House closed earlier this year.
It’s called the Nepal Palace Restaurant, the newest Nepalese restaurant in Abu Dhabi. It’s hard to miss, even here – the restaurant is located on a patio outlined in bright blue neon lights and clustered behind a row of plants, like an Italian trattoria in the middle of Madinat Zayed.
The menu features six different types of momo, a Nepalese dumpling made of white flour stuffed with ground meat or vegetables and pinched into a crescent moon shape. They are popular throughout Nepal, especially in the Kathmandu valley.
For something a little spicier, the Nepalese server recommends the sea momo. (A safe assumption would be that the sea momos have seafood inside, however these taste like chicken too). They come out in the same crescent shapes, but fatter, and covered with thick red sauce, slabs of roasted bell pepper, and smaller rounds of chopped green chili peppers. Nothing terribly spicy here. But even without spice, they are still perfect packets of chewy dough and juicy savory filling.
Another option is the mixed chow mein – a mix of the chicken, buffalo meat, and vegetable chow mein that can also be ordered separately (there’s no pork or beef on the menu for religious reasons). This is an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink plate: it includes long fried bits of tofu, thin strips of stir-fried chicken, lightly sauced and oiled noodles, and julienned vegetables sprinkled throughout. This one is not spicy either, but it’s one to shovel by the forkful until it’s gone.
The ‘chicken set’ is a metal TV-dinner style sectioned plate that comes with a huge lump of white rice in the middle, with adjoining sections for oily chicken curry, dal, a korma-type orange sauce, side salad, and vegetable broth that tastes of lentils and pea soup.
This and the other ‘set’ menu items seem to be designed specifically for the UAE’s lower-income migrant workers who may want to sample a variety of items at minimal expense. For this purpose it makes a lot of sense. On a very tight budget, it is a great choice, especially since the servers will come around with a big bowl of rice and refill the middle section as often as requested.
But other menu items have more flavor than this utilitarian tray.
Nepal Palace has a great location and atmosphere, and it’s just getting started. As of the time of writing, the manager was still trying to hire someone to make deliveries – although food delivery is on the menu, that feature is still in the works.
For a restaurant that has just opened, Nepal Palace is doing a lot right – friendly service and flavorful, fun food at great prices. This is a restaurant that will not be a secret gem for long – the crowds will come in just for the momos soon enough.
Nepal Palace Restaurant: see the menu
Address: One block southwest of Sultan Bin Zayed the First (Muroor or 4th) Street in the Al Markaziyah neighborhood – nearest cross street is Hamdan bin Mohammed (5th) Street
Telephone: +971 2 6335010