I had the delightful occasion to dine a few weeks ago at Kathmandu, in downtown Asheville, North Carolina. I am a bit partial to exotic flavors and tastes, and adventurous. Apart from an unpleasant experience with some freshly caught undercooked grilled octopus in Cozumel, my escapades in finding new and delicious off-the-beaten path items has been quite exciting indeed.
My experience this evening was one of those wonderful, suspended moments.
I arrived with my date in the evening to find the ambience perfect for an intimate conversation. Tables were subtly separated from one another by hand carved columns from Tibet. As with the Buddhist thangka, a wall hanging depicting Buddhas or Taras for which artists train for decades, these columns have precision artistry. Everything is significant, from the number of petals in the flower to the exact shape of the curves. Altars, beautiful artwork on the walls and genuine Tibetan artifacts make the spiritual ambiance really prepare you for the cuisine.
The tables were set with lovely metal cups, in the traditional Tibetan style, and, I noted with relief, served with filtered water instead of Asheville’s chlorinated brew. In this way each step of the meal is addressed, right from the very start with cool, clean water to prepare the palate.
Our waitress was attentive and friendly, but discreet, setting the perfect balance between being intrusive and being too aloof. I started with a chai latte, and the meal was off to an auspicious beginning. Creamy, spicy, just warm enough to wake up my appetite, this latte was almost certainly one of the best I’ve sampled. There were no harsh or high notes, it was a well rounded and complex flavor I enjoyed till the cup was dry.
Next the vegetable pakoras, seasonal vegetables fried in chickpea batter. Truly, petal, fried foods are a bit much for my consitution, and I often avoid it in favor of foods which more clearly highlight the vegetable. These were delightful, if a bit underseasoned. The batter was applied with a light hand and they were quickly fried so the flavors of the vegetables shone through.
My companion ordered the Bheda Aloo, lamb simmered in a gravy. The lamb was said to be the house’s specialty, and it did not disappoint. It was tender and not gamy, and the dark Tibetan spices penetrated the meat thoroughly.
I ordered the trout, apparently a new addition to their menu. It was served whole on a hot grill plate in fajita fashion, with grilled vegetables surrounding it, and a separate plate of basmati rice. Often I will avoid fish served by a landlocked cuisine, but my adventurousness demanded I sample the flavors of fish and masala and curry seasoning. I expected the light flavor of the trout to be overpowered by the heavy exotic notes of these spices, but they married together quite succulently. This was quite the highlight of my meal.
The naan bread was standard; not too far afield of the typical offering.
For dessert, we were treated to a new combination of evaporated milk dumplings served on a thin, sweet rice pudding with almost-frozen raspberry garnish. It was apparent that the rasperries being almost frozen was deliberate, and the ever so slight crispness inside contrasted in such a beautiful way with the creamy and rich nature of the dumplings and the pudding. It was an original offering I thought about for hours afterward.
A digestif finished the meal: sweetened rosewater. I do not care for the scent of roses, personally, but if it is a pleasant experience for you, this is a wonderful finish to an intimate and spiritual meal.
I give Kathmandu 4.8 of 5 stars and recommend it for its intimate atmosphere, authentic cuisines and decor, and a wonderful way to impress an adventurous date with an open mind.
The Persnickity Particulars:
90 Patton Ave, Asheville, NC
Lunch Hours: 11:30 – 2:30
Dinner Hours: 5:30 – 9:30
Phone: (828) 252-1080