I dined as a guest of The Hungry Buddha, however all opinions are my own.
J and I headed in for dinner at The Hungry Buddha in Curtin one weeknight, courtesy of the owners of the restaurant. The entrance can be hard to find as it’s actually located underground next door to the Beyond Q Bookshop. The restaurant is very spacious with several tables available. There were only 2 other occupied tables that weeknight so it was a fairly quiet night.
The restaurant was decorated with pictures of Nepalese landscapes and little knick knacks. Nepalese souvenirs were displayed near the front counter. Proceeds from each sale goes towards the Reach for Nepal Foundation, a charity founded by the owner of The Hungry Buddha and sister restaurant Wheat and Oats in Phillip, Lachhu Thapa. The foundation aims to rebuild areas affected by the 2015 earthquakes in Nepal, assist the local community and provide textbooks and funding for scholarships to educate and improve the livelihood of Nepalese children.
The foundation organises community rebuild projects to Nepal and fundraising dinners to contribute to the initiative. The next fundraising dinner is being held on 4 August 2016. The cost is $50 per person for 2 courses including wine, with $35 donated to the foundation.
Onto the food. It was great to see the menu had vegetarian, dairy free and gluten free options. We started off with the mango lassi which came out more yoghurty-white than orange from mango pulp. It was certainly sweet but I didn’t think it had enough mango in it.
We ordered the Nepalese dumplings, momos ($8) which came in a serve of four. The dumpling skin was smooth and silky. I especially loved the sauce which was a smooth blend of home made tomato pickle, sesame seeds and tamarind. It was slightly acidic and had some kick to it.
We also tried the tareko maacha ($9.5) of fish marinated with Himalayan spices, lightly battered with tempura, fried and served with a mint yoghurt sauce. The batter was a lot thicker than a tempura batter. It tasted more like a thick chickpea batter crust. Although the batter had various spices in it, it was just on the edge of dry however that could be due to the chickpea mix. The fish was also a tad dry, most likely due to the longer frying time to cook the batter. It was an interesting appetiser and not something I’d ever tasted before, so I’m still glad we got to try it.
Our mains arrived all at once – two curries, garlic naan and pulao rice.
The Himalaya Kukhura (usually $18) consisted of boneless chicken cooked in Himalayan spices, and the menu stated it was an authentic Nepali style. The big chunks of chicken were deliciously succulent, and I just loved the slightly sweet sauce filled with beautiful exotic spices. Lachhu says this is one of the most popular dishes at The Hungry Buddha. I’d say this is the Nepalese version of the butter chicken, less the butter.
The khasi ko masu (usually $19) is another popular dish of goat curry filled with fenugreek, cinnamon, tomatoes, coriander, bay leaves, ginger and garlic. The goat meat was tougher after starting off with tender chicken and required more chewing. However, we were pleased to receive large chunks of goat meat. The curry itself was a tad too salty for us but we still enjoyed the dish.
We ordered a garlic naan (usually $5) but found it was more of a flat bread than fluffy naan. That could simply be because we’re used to the soft doughy naan from Indian restaurants rather than a Nepalese version of naan. Garlic mince had been spread in between the top and bottom so it certainly was garlicky.
The pulao rice (usually $4) was a saffron rice with cinnamon, peas and bay leaves. For those concerned with the pulao being too sweet, the cinnamon was extremely subtle. I did like the distinctive aromatic flavour of bay leaves in the rice.
For dessert, we shared Kheer, a Nepalese rice pudding (approximately $7). I loved the creamy sweet rice pudding which had cinnamon and hints of cardamom throughout, topped with raisins, nuts and seeds. The dessert was served in a small cup, so between us we smashed through this. I could easily order another to myself! A really simple yet luscious dessert.
We had actually tried The Hungry Buddha with some friends a few weeks earlier so I was keen to see if there were any large discrepancies from my dining as a guest to dining as a regular person. J ordered a Nepalese beer, a Ghurka (approximately $7 with $1 from each beer going to the foundation). He said the beer was just okay but it felt good to help out.
We started off with the pakora ($8) which came in a serve of two. These were mixed vegetable patties covered in chickpea batter and fried. Similarly to the tareko maccha appetiser, I found the batter quite dry. It must be due the chickpea flour batter which is actually healthy for you. Though the pakora was too dry for me, I did enjoy dipping it into the tamarind sauce which was sticky and tangy, and also helped balance out the dryness.
J and I both ordered the daal baht ($22) which was a set dinner that came with a choice of meat (I chose goat), daal, a vegetable curry, homemade pickles and a pappadum. This was presented beautifully on a large tray. The goat curry was very mild but I found the goat meat to be a bit too gristly. The daal was my favourite element on the tray – light but flavoursome and moreish. The vegetable curry was more of a soup. I found myself picking out the vegetables to eat and leaving the soup in the bowl but I wasn’t in a soup mood that night. I stayed away from one of the pickled vegetables that was bright red in colour and looked like pure chilli. It wasn’t chilli, perhaps pickled tomato, but it was extremely sour that I had to leave it alone. Just not quite right on my taste buds.
My vegetarian friends ordered the aloo tama ($17) of potatoes with bamboo shoots and black eyed beans cooked in traditional Himalayan herbs and spices.
They also had one of the specials, the mountain eggplant ($19), with eggplant and peas cooked in Himalayan spices recreating a mountain favourite.
When I dined in anonymously, I found service was friendly but it took a long time for the mains to arrive – about 45. minutes. We all thought it was rather slow considering it wasn’t a packed house that night. When I dined as a guest, there were only two other occupied tables, and our mains took about 25 minutes to arrive. Both occasions, we were checked on by staff to see what we thought of the meals and if we needed anything else. It was great to see staff so passionate about the Reach for Nepal foundation. Portion sizes are on par with dishes served in an Indian restaurant, mostly in small bowls. The restaurant seems family friendly and peaceful, allowing you to enjoy a nice chit chat with friends without it being too loud inside.
If you love Nepalese food, the website provides the recipes for some of the dishes including the Himalaya Khukura.
The Hungry Buddha is located at the Curtin Shops, next to the Beyond Q bookshop underground. Open seven days a week from 5pm.
Value for money 7.5/10
FPJ score 22/30
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