I love trying new things in the (vegan) food world, and one of my favorite ways to do that is sampling dishes that hail from other areas of the planet. You can find “Mexican” and “Chinese” food on every corner around here, but I like to scout out the less common ones — Indian, Ethiopian, Korean. It’s also preferable to find food that’s as authentic as possible (I’d wager I’ve never actually had real Chinese food). There are still many, many types of “ethnic cuisine” (what is the real phrase I’m looking for?) that I haven’t yet tried, but fortunately, I’m still young!
All that to say, I’ve wanted to go to Cafe Momo for quite some time now (and my desire to go doubled when I discovered that they won the Hippo’s award for Best Vegetarian Food in Manchester a few years back!). I realize that Manchester, NH is one of the least likely places on the planet you’d expect to find authentic Nepalese food. But, surprise! Here it is. I hit up Momo one night a few weeks ago with my (omni) mom and (vegan) sister and we were all super-impressed.
Cafe Momo is tucked way waaaay up on Hanover St by the highway. There isn’t much to see on the outside (it was too dark when I went — check the Yelp page for pics) but they make up for it with the super-colorful interior:
I’ll say right up front that it is DIM inside. I don’t know if it’s any better at lunchtime with the natural light helping, though the Yelp page seems to suggest it is, since other people seem to have gotten some food pictures that didn’t need to be heavily desaturated, lightened and adjusted for temperature. (And mine STILL look orangey-purple…) So if you have an intense need to see all the details of your food, this is not your best pick for restaurant. Or at least not your best pick for dinner.
Mom and I kicked things off with some soups:
This was my mom’s choice so I didn’t have much of it, but what I did have was tasty! At first (aka before I checked the menu) the TVP scared me off — I thought it was meat. Fortunately, I verified that all the soup choices are vegan!
I was more drawn to the Gundruk, advertised as being a traditional homeopathic soup. It was spicier than I was expecting (the theme for the night!) but I ate it all up anyway. The stuff floating around the top is soy nuts — a weird addition to soup, I thought, but it worked.
I don’t drink, and my sis is only 19, but Mom said this was good!
My sis, ever the carb lover, opted for the unassuming “flat herbed bread” appetizer. At $3 this is the least expensive thing on the menu (besides the undescribed “Pickle,” which they curiously charge $2 for) but I’m pretty sure it was the favorite plate of the night! We all LOVED this bread!
Since we’d all gotten appetizers and the entrees were more expensive here than those at the restaurants we normally go to, the three of us decided to get two to share. I’d heard great things about their curry, and the Katmandu Thaili sounded like a must-have (“A crepe made of black lentil flour with cilantro and scallions steamed into it… filled with seasoned sauteed vegetables cooked to perfection! This filling entree is topped with avocado cilantro sauce.”). So we were all set to order one curry and one order of the Thaili… when we received word from the kitchen that the Thaili was all out! Which leads me to my one complaint: For a cafe that was honored for having the best veggie cuisine in town, there was precious little food we could eat! There are only 5 entrees on the vegetarian menu: two curries, the Katmandu Thaili, a paneer dish (not vegan), and the Tarkari Bhat — described as being “seasoned vegetables and a serving of basmati rice.” We were down to two curries or the Bhat, which — no offense — sounded more or less ordinary. So we decided to split the two curries.
Both of these were awesome, tomato-based curries (and they get bonus points for including plantains, which I LOVE!). The avocado cilantro sauce perfectly accompanied the rice, too! But the entrees were both pretty similar, and I really wished the crepe had been available. Also, we ordered “medium” spiciness and it came out so hot I had to take a forkful of rice between pretty much every bite. Beware!
We also hoped to order a dessert but discovered that there were no vegan options available that day. Alas. Probably for the best, though, since we were pretty full at that point.
The bottom line is that Cafe Momo serves great (great!) unique food. It’s worth a visit (or two, or three!). Just don’t be fooled by the Hippo award to go here and expect vegan heaven. The options, though awesome, are limited.
Whatever else you order, though, get the bread!
Cafe Momo is located at 1065 Hanover Street in Manchester, NH near exit 7 on 101. http://www.cafemomonh.com/