Boston's Hidden Restaurants

Kathmandu Spice (CLOSED)

166 Massachusetts Avenue, Arlington, MA 02474
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Photo of Kathmandu Spice, in Arlington, MA Lovers of Indian food have a lot to choose from in the Boston area, as there are seemingly countless Indian restaurants, many of which are very good (and a few of which are outstanding). There are also a few dining spots that offer Nepalese cuisine in addition to Indian fare, including such places as Himalayan Bistro in West Roxbury, Yak and Yeti in Somerville, and Kathmandu Spice in Arlington. It is this last restaurant that is the focus of this review, and what a restaurant it is; with a combination of excellent food, a comfortable atmosphere, good service, and low prices, there certainly is a lot to like about this special eatery near the Cambridge border.

Kathmandu Spice resides in a two-room space just east of the heart of East Arlington. Both rooms have an exotic, almost sultry feel to them, with attractive hanging lamps, traditional Nepali and Asian art along the walls, an attractive hardwood floor, and lots of earthy colors throughout. The room to the left consists of a long bench seat and a couple of booths, while the room to the right has some tables in addition to another bench seat and more booths. (A buffet area is also set up along the front windows in the right-hand room, as the restaurant offers a daily luncheon buffet.) As diners enter the restaurant, the first thing that they encounter is a display of spices by the door, with samplings and a brief description of each, including cardamom, fennel, mustard, cumin, and ginger.

Because Nepal is located at a bit of a crossroads in Asia, with China to the north, India to the south, and Southeast Asia and the Middle East not all that far away, Nepalese cuisine is incredibly varied, and the menu at Kathmandu Spice certainly reflects this. Items include Tibetan foods (momos), Indian dishes (tandoori chicken), meals you might find in the Middle East (lamb chops), and Chinese fare (chicken chow mein). The aforementioned momos (available as an appetizer as well as a meal) are wonderful here, with rich-tasting chicken or a mix of vegetables stuffed into tender house-made dumplings and served with a slightly hot tomato cream sauce. Other starters include a delicious soup called kwatti, which has nine different beans added to a mild yet tasty broth; a tomato-cilantro soup that has a bright, sharp flavor to it; vegetable rolls that look a bit like sandwich wraps and are stuffed with long strands of stir-fried vegetables (and served with a delightful mint sauce); and a variety of breads (naan, roti, paratha). Meals at Kathmandu Spice include a mild and slightly buttery-tasting lentil Bukhara, which mixes lentils together with Nepalese and Tibetan spices; a plate called Buddha delight, which is an absolutely unforgettable dish made up of fried cheese "cones" mixed with raisins, pistachio nuts, and cashews, and smothered in a mild tomato cream sauce; and mutton meatballs, which are deep-fried and cooked with a smoky tomato sauce. Beer and wine is available at Kathmandu Spice, as are desserts (including dhudbari, or cooked cheese balls in condensed milk).

Kathmandu Spice has been in business for awhile now, but it remains a little-known dining spot--even to many who live in Arlington. Perhaps it is because folks generally aren't familiar with Nepalese cuisine and thus aren't sure that they want to take a chance on dining here. But if you like Indian food, Chinese food, or nearly any kind of Asian food for that matter, you will probably find some dishes at Kathmandu Spice that you have seen before. And if you are a fan of exotic restaurants and like to get even a little adventurous when it comes to dining, this East Arlington eatery is one place you shouldn't miss.