Somewhere in Tampa, some number of years ago, two Nepalese friends met at a birthday party. At the time, they were strangers to each other, but they knew they had one thing in common: they missed the rich Himalayan flavors of home.
Over time, the friends met two others and the four made a plan and a pact to bring their native cuisine to the Bay. This past July, after—in the owners’ words—”a lot of love and patience,” their dreams finally came to fruition through the grand opening of their restaurant, Gorkhali Kitchen.
Bringing “a new cuisine” to Tampa
“There are limited options of Himalayan flavors in Tampa,” owner Rajesh Pathak said. “This is the first Nepali restaurant around here. We wanted to bring the feeling of Nepal and introduce a new cuisine to Tampa.”
Nepali, or Nepalese in English, fare, he explained, is similar to Indian food, but unique. Nepal has various climates and altitudes, so the dishes served across the country are incredibly diverse. Gorkhali Kitchen specifically focuses on the cuisine of the nation’s capital, Kathmandu, however, because the city—like most urban hubs—is a melting pot that reflects the varying cultures of the land.
“A lot of the recipes we make here are learned from family,” Rajesh said. “Like my mom’s rice pudding recipe. But we also include a lot of Indian dishes as well, because people are familiar with them.”
Huge fans of Indian cuisine, and very curious about Nepali, we decided to stop in to Gorkhali Kitchen last weekend. From the flavorful sauces to the sweet heat of the spices, everything we tasted was delicious. Though it’s hard to compare apples to oranges, we’re comfortable calling the new Himalayan passion project one of the best restaurants in Tampa.
And, if you order some of these tasty dishes, we know you’ll agree with us.
Rajesh’s personal favorite dish on the menu, the Tandoori Wings are a great way to start your Gorkhali meal.
Featuring juicy, bone-in chicken marinated in house spices and scratch-made tikka sauce, every wing in this customer-favorite appetizer comes packed with flavor.
A popular dish from Nepal, Momos are meat or vegetable-filled dumplings. At Gorkhali Kitchen, every batch is made by hand and also includes onion, garlic, soya and house spices.
When we ordered our Momos, we particularly enjoyed their customizability. In addition to selecting our filling, we also got to choose how we’d like them cooked. Some preparation styles offered include “Steamed,” “Kothey” (pan-fried), or covered in spicy “Chilli” sauce.
Probably the most well-known Indian dish (included on Gorkahli’s menu for audience familiarity), many of you have likely tried Tikka Masala before, whether of the Chicken, Paneer (cheese), fish or vegetable variety. We can guarantee you, however, that you’ve never had it like this.
After tasting just about all the tikkas in Tampa Bay, we can confidently say this one is our favorite. The sauce is creamy, but not too thick, the spices are bold, but not too hot, and the drizzle of yogurt over the top gives it a tanginess that is totally fantastic.
If you’re looking for the best thing on the menu, this is likely it.
Gorkhali’s signature curry is a flavorful, warm stew featuring your choice of meat (or vegetable) slow-cooked in a saucy bath of Himalayan spices and reduced veggies. For our personal protein option, we went with the goat.
Between the tender, bone-in meat and the unique, almost sweet sauce—which tastes phenomenal on the restaurant’s homemade naan bread—this dish was definitely one of our favorites of the night.
Thaali (or “Himalayan Meal”)
Thaali is a traditional Nepali sampler-style meal consisting of various mini bowls of meats, vegetables and sides. Gorkhali’s Thaali, in particular, includes a choice of goat, chicken or veggies, accompanied by basmati rice, black daal (similar to a thick lentil soup), potatoes, sautéed mixed greens and more.
Indecisive folks who want to try “everything,” this one’s for you.
If you like rice pudding, you’ll enjoy Kheer because—aside from a slightly thinner consistency—it’s essentially the same thing.
At Gorkhali Kitchen, the team makes their Kheer from Rajesh’s mom’s secret recipe. Indulging in some for dessert, therefore, feels like slurping down a rich cup of love.
An unassuming hidden gem
Ready to cross Nepalese food off your culinary bucket list? Gorkhali Kitchen is open 6 days a week for lunch and dinner.
And if you’ve already had Nepalese fare—or perhaps are even Nepalese yourself—go anyways.
Nationality aside, this unassuming restaurant just might be one of the best in the Bay.