Saturday, July 11, 2009

Coming full circle

The concept of starting all over again is not always looked upon favourably - it's discarding what one has accomplished or started and the economist's view of sunk costs inevitably comes into consideration. But for the sake of argument, and sometimes conversation, my good friend and advocate of the devil - another point of view - sees it as an opportunity to choose a new direction and start building stocks in another area.

It's like coming full circle, to the point of the beginning but then starting a new circle from that very same point. And the optimist tells me that the new circle can be as big; as colourful; as encompassing as I want it to be. Or I can just trace the same old circle.

I've excitedly got an Entertainment Book in my hot little hands this year (I lie - they're freezing), and voucher/card-wielding, I'm ready to take on even more Sydney Restaurants. First cab off the rank is Mandala Nepalese Restaurant; mostly for me to try Nepalese cuisine and to a lesser extent, the connotations of the word mandala. Oh, and momos.

Pappadums from Mandala Nepalese Restaurant, Avoca Street, Randwick

The pappadums are complimentary and come with a cumin-spiced achar for dipping. Lovely gesture as it is, they're somewhat wanting of freshness.

Chicken momos

I still struggle to understand my obsession with dumplings of most varieties. These steamed momos are made similar to Chinese styled dumplings, but the coarse mince of chicken and strong cumin flavour are new to my dumpling palate. I like this texture where the meat is not pulverised and I'm also a fan of the al dente-like wrapper and again cumin-strong achar on the side.

Bangur ko pet - crackling pork belly with grilled eggplant

The pork belly comes out a small dish of sharp cuts, glowing with the radiance only seen in deep fry. There are lots of layers of fat, some very thick, cooked to a creamy flavour and texture. Blatant artery clogging never tasted so good. The skin only achieved a low-to-medium level of crunch but the meat was nicely tender; however some sweetness or acidity would have been ideal to cut through the fat as the eggplant was also heavy on the oil flavour.

Beda sekuwa - grilled diced lamb fillets with coriander
and cumin on a vegetable pulau

The lamb dish looks a little abstract - cubes around a half sphere and random green splotches. Artistic un-appreciation aside, the lamb seriously good - the crispy charred surface gives way to medium-rare inner perfection; tender but with a meaty chew that we carnivores adore. The greenness is subtle despite its hue and the pulau is a sweet, fluffy rice mix with sultanas and peas that matches well with the lamb.

Maccha pucchare - grilled barramundi fillets with tiger prawns

The suspiciously thin grilled fillets of fish were served simply with lemon, tomato and coriander alongside several tastily char grilled prawns. The dish was almost too simple with any differentiating flavours masked by the strong fishiness of the fillets.

Khukura ko masu - chicken meat prepared in traditional
Nepalese way, tomato, garlic and ginger

The stewed dishes came out in vessels reminiscent of Indiana Jones' version of the Holy Grail. Heavy and deep bowls of bronze sheen with a stem, they're filled to the brim with meat and gravy. The chicken thigh meat is cooked to within an inch of its life, almost disintegrating at the mercy of the serving spoon. The sauce is mild and sweet, happily lapped up with jasmine rice and roti.

Boka ko masu - goat in bay leaf and cardamom sauce

On the other end the goat is served in large chunks, tender as non-fall apart chicken. It has an initial gaminess that gives way to a meatiness that's lighter than beef. The spiced sauce has more of a kick to it and envelopes the overall dish more favourably than its poultry counterpart.


The paratha are a more flaky, buttery flat bread as compared to the roti here. I likened my first taste to a good pie pastry and they're ideal for dipping into sauces and wiping clean plates, which we managed to finish off to a point where dessert was uncalled for.

And so we've come to the end of the meal, with waistlines stretched and eyes sleepy (what's with overeating and sleepiness?). My first start in Nepalese cuisine has been an earthy and invigorating step that looks part of a very big and colourful circle.

Mandala on Urbanspoon


Betty said...

Oh, I'm such a sucker for dumplings - of any variety! Food sounds yummy! I've only tried Nepalese once, and wasn't too impressed - it seemed like a bland version of Indian food, but I might give it another chance!

Tina said...

Hi Betty - You're sort of right - I felt it was a milder approach to Indian cusine although slightly different spicing. Yay for dumplings!

Mr. Taste @ tastedbytwo said...

Hehe momos. Nepal has the best flag. It's like they said to everyone "you momos keep your rectangles, our flag is gonna be wicked"

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Yes I find it's like a not as spicy version of Indian with another country or two thrown in. I share your dumpling obsession I have to admit!

Tina said...

Hi Mr. Taste - I admit I had to google the Nepalese flag, but that's definitely non-conformingly wicked!

Hi Lorraine - There seems to be an inexplicable connection between food bloggers and dumplings. Or maybe it's just everyone and dumplings...?

Maria@TheGourmetChallenge said...

You can add another vote for dumplings here! I love them, and always eat too many when they are put in front of me. They seem to have some sort of evil power! lol

panda said...

i was just as excited as you when i got my hands on this year's entertainment book! :P

i've never tried nepalese food but this place looks great - thanks for the write up!

Tina said...

Hi Maria - I know exactly what you mean. So many times I've overeaten and gorged myself on dumplings...!

Hi panda - I flicked through the sample menus and decided on entrees and mains for them all - how sad...!

Anonymous said...

YEAh to the entertainment book, sure you save money,but it also maks you SPEND MONEY!! hehe tell me if u ever have problems using it...........i have!!


Tina said...

Hi Sydneyguyrojoe - My argument is that I'd spend anyway - full price or not :) I'm looking forward to using the card a bit more than the vouchers - keep an eye out for posts :)


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