Only a handful of cities around the world can boast wearing the Nepalese jewel in their culinary crown, and Reykjavík is fortunate to be one them. Kitchen Eldhús opened at Laugavegur 60 a little over two years ago and it has consistently remained one of my top downtown dining choices. Proprietor and executive chef Deepak Panday offers a menu that caters to a variety of tastes and appetites, with an emphasis on the healthy Newari cuisine that is indigenous to the Kathmandu Valley. The indiscriminate tongue often mistakes Nepalese cuisine as Indian, a common fallacy, as they share many of the same spices and rices, as well as sharing a common political border. Rather than heavily sauced meat typical of a northern Indian Mughal style kitchen, Newari cuisine is praised for being delicate and slightly milder with a more distinctive, wide palette that spares not one taste bud. Spices are indispensable to the Newa way of life, with most dishes consisting of a combination of methi (fenugreek), besar (turmeric), jeera (cumin seeds), dhaniya (coriander), jwano (carom seed), lahsun (garlic), aduwa (ginger), khursani (chilli powder), Nepali sunp (dill), and tejpat (bay leaf).
Kathmandu is particularly famous for the ‘Mo: mo;’, a type of dumpling that originated from Tibet and popular as a fast street food (1.490 ISK). My partner and I began with this fresh specialty served with a tomato and poppy seed chutney, and the Beignets de Aubergine, a fried eggplant round filled with a cheese and tamarind sauce (1.990 ISK). We could have stopped here, as our mouths already arrived at nirvana. We were given a private table on the second floor, and were completely at ease with the ambiance of our surroundings. This was our first time away from our newborn, and so we expected a nervous evening tethered to our telephones and staring at clocks. Quite the contrary. The relaxed but refined interior warmed by a gentle melody played on the wooden flute subdued all anxiety. Our entrees arrived, and I savoured every bite of Achari Salmon, a spicy steak marinated in mustard, fennel, chillies, and anis (3.590 ISK) and served with a Nepalese Pilau (890 ISK), rice cooked with cashews, almonds, raisins and coconut, and Peshwari Naan (490 ISK). Perhaps I should have paired a wine to complement this, as the list was rather extensive for Icelandic standards, but a Nepalese chiya worked just as well. Once again, we finished more than satisfied, and without room to spare for dessert. One day I will save room for Juju Dhau, the king of yoghurts, one day.
Without compromise, Deepak prides himself in offering the healthiest food available, with each of the twenty five dishes made to order fresh, and adjusted for any specific dietary concerns as suggested by the menu. Each bite evidenced that this establishment is truly a labour of love for Deepak and a culinary asset for Iceland. Kitchen Eldhús serves lunch weekdays from 12-14:30, and dinner seven days a week from 17:30-22:00.
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