Nepalese

Where:
Johnny Gurkha (FB page which is actually informative with menus)
GF/45A Graham Street
Soho, Hong Kong

FYN hot tip:  While officially listed as GF/45A Graham Street, it’s actually not adjacent to 45 Graham Street (the godawful Cencalo’s) nor on the ground floor.  Next to The Globe, look for a staircase and the clearer signage for Japanese restaurant Toriyama.  Head up the stairs and turn right into Johnny Gurkha.

Phone:
+852 6293 4941

Price:
HKD150 a person before tip.  I reckon with a bigger group you’d probably look at HKD120 – 150.  But what’s HKD30 for all you big dick swinging HK ballers?  No service charge.

The deal:
I’d been given a big hitting recommendation to check out Johnny Gurkha from a bona fide FYN Nepalese homie, so of course I took that hard hitting shit to heart.  After receiving reports that they were open for business again post a “renovation”, we swung in for dinner on a Saturday night.  At 8:30pm, the restaurant is empty and dead silent, and initially there’s no background music to break up the awkward silence.  While no one else joined us for dinner, at least the kitchen seemed to be doing an ok takeaway trade with the Foodpanda dudes popping in periodically to collect orders. It’s a basic dining room and I’ll be real, the floor could be a little cleaner, but it seems positively salubrious in comparison to the Saw-like grimey apartment ambience of the super ghetto Up 9 Nepalese “restaurant” in LKF.

Johnny Gurkha only opened earlier in 2015 and in a fuck yeah indicator, all of the staff in the restaurant and the kitchen are Nepalese. The friendly owner comes over to walk us through the menu and make some thorough and well explained recommendations which forces us to reconfigure what we were initially going to order.  I am filled with immediate regret that I’ve only got one homie with me, rather than dragging along a couple more so we could more comprehensively bang our way through all the fuck yeah sounding dinner options.

We get started with some complimentary pappadums and tomato salsa and order some mango yoghurt lassis (HKD42).  They’re cute as all hell, served in handled mason jars with tin lids and a solid reuseable stripy plastic straw pierced through the top.  I fucking hate cute but functionally useless stripy paper straws that become instantly soggy upon contact with a liquid (surely this is crucial properties for a fucking straw to have) so I can get behind this sustainable choice.  Unfortunately it wasn’t quite my thing as the mango lassi needed more fresh mango and I think there was some sort of syrup in there which gave it an artificial fuck no taste.

The kutta ko achaar (pork trotters slow cooked in a tomato based gravy, HKD68) had been recommended to us with a promise that it’s quite spicy.  Given that it’s chunks of pork trotters, if you’re one of those slack jawed pussies who can’t deal with fatty meat or bones in their food, don’t order this dish and go and order a chicken breast from somewhere.  But if you’re into pork trotters that have been slow cooked until they’re a tender, gelatinous delicious as fuck combination of pork skin and meat in a fucking glorious spicy sauce, slightly reminiscent of those spicy Sichuan chilli dishes, you need to most definitely get involved.  The sauce is an epic masterpiece, deep with the flavours of pork bones and fat, tomatoes, chillies and ginger with a vinegary acidic kick at the end.  If only I’d had the foresight to order some roti so I could have captured every last bit of that magical fuck yeah sauce.  Rules to live by, always and forever – carb life = best life.

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We also ordered the Yak Cheese (HKD88) which comes from the milk of spoilt Nepalese Yaks who appear to be living a life better than my current HK life, as the menu claims that they are breathing clean air, drinking pure water and eating wildflowers. Very biblically, it’s served with dried apricots, walnuts and honey (although in reality, strawberry jam appears to have been substituted for the honey). It’s similar to a mild to medium cheddar and a good palate cleanser after the amazing kutta ko achaar but I’ll be real, I’d rather have ordered another curry dish in its place and as much as I love Nepal, it’s not exactly known for its cheese prowess.

The next dish is what we’ve all been waiting for, Nepalese dumplings which are well loved by all and available in pork, chicken or vegetable.  YASSSSSS MOMOS.  The steamed pork momos (HKD60 for 10) are fucking delicious – thin skinned and stuffed with a fragrant coriander and pork filling.  As always, I want to suck back all of the spicy acar sauce that’s served with the momos, a blended cooked sauce of ginger, onion, garlic, tomatoes, ginger and red chillis with a squeeze of lemon juice to brighten it all up.  It’s only too sad when I’ve finished all my momos cause as the saying goes, NO MOMOS, MO PROBLEMS.

We split an order of the Himalayan soup (HKD32) made from fermented greens (gundruk) and other vegetables.  I’m not sure what the green vegetable they used (normally mustard greens or spinach are used), but whatever it was its stems were  fibrous fucks which detracted from the very tasty sour and spicy soup.  Maybe this would have been better if it’d come out at the start of the meal but either way, if there’s an option on fried chicken wings marinated in herbs and coated in crispy panko breadcrumbs vs a fermented woody stemmed soup, you can probably guess which way I’m gonna swing next time I’m at Johnny Gurkha.

Our final dish was the Trucker’s Thali, a solid value proposition of only HKD78 for a mixed plate of lamb curry (option on pork, chicken or vegetable curry), rice or roti, lentil soup, two types of seasonal greens, tomato acar sauce and a papadum.  Unfortunately, we weren’t asked whether we wanted rice or roti which meant we ended up with the inferior breadless choice of rice and I was forced to console my roti-less situation with fork tender, generous chunks of fucking delicious lamb curry.  All of the components were jam packed with fuck yeah flavour – the slightly spiced potatoes which had most definitely been cooked in some sort of delicious fat (ghee? The answer to superior fuck yeah deliciousness is often clarified butter), curried green peas and a yellow lentil soup. Who knew that such value was available for only HKD78 in Soho??

Johnny Gurkha isn’t anything fancy in terms of its decor and it’s not pulling any punches in terms of the food it’s selling.  But I can most definitely get behind a straight up, family owned business making affordable and super delicious Nepalese food in a Central HK location.  I hope they’re turning over a good volume of home deliveries because it’d be too sad if Johnny Gurkha fell victim to HK rents simply because no-one fucking knew about them and the idea of the Nepalese family sitting forlornly in their empty restaurant night after night is just too fucking much for me to bear.  Don’t worry Johnny, I will do my bit to give you my patronage but largely it’s for self-serving selfish reasons because let’s face the hard hitting facts, I desperately need your tasty Nepalese eats in my life again soon.

hilaryselfishme

Verdict:
Fuck yeahhhh!  I need to get back to Johnny Gurkha to more systematically take down their menu.  As always, MO MOMOS NO PROBLEMS!

Where:
Up 9
Unit H, 9/F, Winner Building
27 – 37 D’Aguilar Street
Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong

Phone:
???? – it’s on the bottom of the menu, but I didn’t take it down. Sorry homies, but I doubt you can book this place.

Price:
Dishes range from HKD30-60, we got out at HKD80 a person.

The deal:
Up 9 is also known as the ‘secret’ Nepalese restaurant in LKF.  Allegedly, it’s where the formidable as fuck Nepalese bar and hospitality staff get their late night, post shift eats on.  It’s also where every hipster foodie asshole who actually knows where this place is gets all fucking weird and defensive about actually disclosing its location.  Lucky for my lazy ass one of my homies did the hard yards on finding its exact location by haranguing his regular Nepalese bar homie.  Like WTF foodie hipster assholes, just cool your fucking jets on how special you think your discovery is because guess what, I found Up 9 referenced on Mario Batali’s blog, so it’s not like you’re blazing the shit out of the HK’s ‘secret’ underground food scene.

I was given a thorough briefing before I went, being warned that Up 9’s interior is pretty ghetto, with the bulk of their business done via take out / deliveries.  I asked whether it was more or less ghetto than your average Chungking Mansions restaurant, and my homie likened it to eating in a room from Saw.  As in Saw the horror movie where people get dismembered and fatally fucked up in grimey rooms with flickering fluorescent lights. OHHHH SHIT SON, with a pre-amble like that, I made a careful selection in who to go with, rounding up Ms Little Yak (if you don’t read her fuck yeah travel photography blog, you really fucking should) and one of my Antipodean homies who was visiting the Kong who actually gets a bit hot and heavy for authentic, ghetto cheap eats.

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So you’re gonna need very specific details on how to get to Up 9 as it’s totally unmarked.  Up 9 is on the ninth floor of the Winner Building (near Al’s Diner) and it’s the first door on the left when you exit the lift. There’s fuck all signage, just a “9H” on the doorframe, a door bell towards the top left corner of the door and a few bags of styrofoam containers outside.  We stood a bit dazed and confused outside what we thought was the restaurant when a kind Nepalese homie passing by assured us we were in the right place.  When we were let inside, it felt like we’d crashed someone’s apartment for dinner.  At this stage, my hot-for-ghetto-eats Antipodean homie was noticeably giddy as we sat our asses down at one of the foldable tables covered with printed plastic sheets, amongst the styrofoam takeaway containers piled up to the ceiling.  Despite being warned about the Saw inspired interior design, shit wasn’t quite that grim in there – there’s even air-con but fair warning, don’t take your prissy as fuck besties here cause it ain’t going to go well for you. Or them.

We are given a one page laminated menu and a super sweet Nepalese waitress takes our order.  I’ll be fresh with you, my knowledge of Nepalese cuisine is coming from a very low base, essentially limited to “It’s kinda like Indian food but not exactly” and momos (a type of steamed or fried Nepalese dumpling).  Yeah, I’m making space on my mantle right the fuck now for that James Beard Foundation award that I’m totally gonna win this year with such a solid expertise in global cuisine.  Regardless, we hit our waitress homie up for some recommendations and the following hilarious conversation ensues:

Team Ghetto Eats (TGE):  We’ll have the chilli momos.  What else do you recommend?

Super Sweet Nepalese Waitress (SSNW):  Chilli momos.

TGE: What else do you like to eat?

SSNW:  Steamed momos.

TGE:  Ok, we’ll get the steamed vegetable momos.  Anything else you like to eat?  What do you eat from here?

SSNW:  *awkward pause* I don’t really eat here.

OHHHH, that’s not the best sign.  However, this turns out to be a bald faced lie cause we saw our SSNW eating her dinner there later. Regardless of the miscommunication issues we may have had, our lassis arrived.  Which were actually lassis from a carton which proudly declared to have “Natural, Natural Identical and Artificial Flavouring Substances”.  I toasted to #cleaneating and #eatrealfood2015 and unfortunately, I gotta fuck no this artificial mess but LBR, WTF do you expect from lassi in a carton??

No biggie cause the real stars starts to arrive.  The chilli momos are fried thick skinned dumplings covered in a thick, red piquant fuck yeah sauce.  I think the sauce is a combination of hot and sweet chilli sauce with tomato ketchup, but for all my knowledge deficiencies re: Nepalese chilli momo sauce, I can definitely tell you that they made me really fucking happy.  The steamed vegetable momos were slightly less exciting except for when you added the achar sauce.  ERMAGERD that bottle of achar sauce left on every table was a fuck yeah of epic proportions, a mysterious mix of ginger, tomato, coriander and chilli which I wanted to guzzle straight from the bottle.  This achar sauce sent straight from the gods of oh-so-oh-so-oh-so-fucking deliciousness was also a motherfucking treat with Up 9’s fuck yeah vegetable pakodas (Nepalese for pakora).  Crispy and light, these delicious as fuck vegetable fritters were fried to fucking perfection, ensuring that any vague nutritional benefits from being a vegetable were battered away to oblivion.

However, the fuck yeah highlight of the night (if not my whole goddamn month) was the panipuri (heads up yo, these aren’t actually listed on the menu).  Panipuri comes from two words – pani meaning water and puri meaning bread.  This dish consists of crispy fried hollowed out spheres made from wheat, which are filled with a lightly spiced mix of potatoes and onion and a sizeable chunk of fresh red chilli (with seeds).  Our SSNW had warned us that it was very spicy and she wasn’t wrong.  A bowl of tamarind infused water is served, which should be poured into each hollowed out sphere.  Due to my Nepalese Noobness, I used a spoon to get that sour, salty soup into my puri but I noticed some Nepalese homies just using their puris to scoop directly from the soup bowl. More importantly, these delicate fried puffs were a monumental fuck yeah of contrasts.  Sour versus spicy, the crispy shell versus the soft potato and then the tamarind soup brought it all together.  Given the fact I had homies with me, we shared a plate but fuck me, I’d totally be down to smash a plate of these fuck yeah panipuris all on my lonesome.  These were so fucking good that I even provided unsolicited advice to a table of lost looking Asian dudes that they should add a serve of panipuris to their order of “chilli mamas”.

So Up 9’s shit is not fancy but if I ever need quick, cheap late night eats in LKF with homies who don’t give a fuck about aesthetically pleasing dining rooms, I’m definitely gonna get my panipuri, chilli momo fuck yeah eats on again.  But next time, chatpate (Nepalese chaat – a mix of spices, crunchy shiz , puffed rice and tomatoes), imma coming for you.

Verdict:
Fuck yeah to Nepalese cheap eats!  Just steer clear of the boxed lassi and start the fuck yeah panipuri and achar sauce dreaming.

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