Achari okzsfv

A dish of achari fish also comes with rice and saag paneer.

Image: Alice Levitt

The population of Burlington, Vermont's largest city, is just over 40,000 souls. When I left for Houston in 2015, 1,653 of those people were Nepali Bhutanese refugees. That means nearly one in 20 people I met had immigrated from the Himalayas (don't forget Tibetan and Bhutanese folk who hadn't stopped first in Nepal, not included in those numbers). It wasn't surprising, then, that by the time I moved, there were five Himalayan restaurants in Burlington proper, not counting eateries in the often rural suburbs.

What am I getting at? It's strange to me that there's a total dearth of Himalayan cuisine in Houston itself. After a disappointing—verging on depressing—meal at Tandoori Garden in Katy, I waited more than a year before venturing out to my one other option. For now, the Nassau Bay restaurant is called Cuisine of India. It will move soon to Webster, where it will be rechristened Noon Mirch.

What won't change is a primarily Indian menu with a few Nepali plates for good measure. It was difficult to skip the lunch buffet in progress—which smelled spectacular—to order the Nepali food I'd come for. Momos, soft dumplings common across the Himalayas, are a pretty reliable barometer when trying a new eatery. Entrée options were limited among the wide variety of Indian dishes, but I struggled to decide between a Nepali goat stew and something called Achari Fish. 

Momo mh1lxy

Momos shouldn't be this shiny.

Image: Alice Levitt

Ultimately, the latter won out due to curiosity factor. I knew the word achaar or achari to mean pickles, usually pickled mangoes. There wasn't a pickle in sight when my plate arrived. Instead, I was presented with a large fish filet covered in a clumpy, spicy tomato sauce. It reminded me of subcontinental cacciatore. Not what I expected, but with its tangy burn, what I got was certainly not unwelcome, either.

The fish came with a heaping bowl of pea-topped basmati rice and a helping of saag paneer. Though there was only one piece of paneer in the whole bowl, the dish was plenty rich. It tasted primarily of cream and cinnamon, like Mexican hot chocolate without the chocolate.

And the momos? Not as successful. Though the well-spiced center of chopped vegetables did its job, it was packed into what were clearly pre-made wonton skins, far from the pucker-topped, doughy wrappers to which I'm accustomed.

I didn't leave disappointed, partly because my expectations were embarrassingly low. And I would certainly return to Noon Mirch, though more likely for Indian food. But when I'm in the mood for momos, I'm left waiting for a Himalayan chef to show Houston what it's been missing.

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