When I first approached Woodside Cafe in Queens I did a double-take. The awning advertized Italian, American, Nepali, and Indian food. Italian andNepali food? But there's nothing Italian on the menu anymore (pizza stopped recently); instead there are dozens of Nepali and Newari dishes, many of which I you won't find at other Himalayan restaurants. The meal revealed to me unexpected combinations of flavors and textures, making for one of the most exciting meals I've had in recent memory.
I started with an appetizer of musta palu ($3.50), which starts with ordinary salted, roasted soybeans. The crunchy little beans are tossed with mustard oil and chili powder, and served with large slivers of raw garlic and ginger. Each bite combined elements of spiciness, saltiness, and (depending on the bite) the unique punch of the raw garlic or ginger. It was one of the most addictive snack foods I've had in a while.
The anta ko roti tarkari ($6.95) matched spicy roasted potatoes with cold pickled radish. Using the whole wheat flat bread as a delivery device, I mixed chunks of the creamy potato with the crunchy bits of sour radish to create a fantastic combination that just got better with every bite. This combination of potatoes and radish is one that pops up again multiple times on the menu, so it's worth ordering in whatever form appeals to you.
A more familiar menu item is the steamed vegetable momos ($5.95), dumplings filled with potato and leek and flavored with ginger. The skin is thin with a slight chewiness, and if you find the filling was to be on the mild side, give it a dunk in the accompanying dipping sauces. The dark red is a fiery chili sauce; the orange, which I preferred of the two, is more smoky and tangy, like an amped up cocktail sauce that complements the momos wonderfully.
I've been to other Himalayan and Tibetan restaurants before, but I've never been to any place quite like Woodside Cafe. It's a unique experience, even by queens standards, and with plenty more vegetarian options on the menu, I can't wait to go back.
About the author: Howard Walfish is a Virginia native who has been living in New York since 2003. He is, in fact, a vegetarian, and is the co-founder of Eat to Blog and the creator of BrooklynVegetarian. Follow him on Twitter @bklynvegetarian.