Ottawans, prepare to discover the warmth and joy of Nepali cuisine! The Momo Spot finally has a brick-and-mortar location to serve you their delectable dumplings (known as momos) and sauces. Friends and co-owners Rahul Bura, Milan Nepali, Dev-Ashish Subba, Kripa Dongol and Ashik Shrestha are all devoted to bringing the flavours of Nepal to our nation’s capital.
After coming together for a fundraiser in 2015, the friends began to work together in earnest, selling their momos at the Ottawa Farmers’ Market at Landsdowne and doing pop-ups. Once they had acquired a following of dedicated clients, they were eager to establish a stable location for themselves.
Formerly The Foolish Chicken, 79 Holland Ave. is the new base camp for everything momo. I visited them in person to ask them some questions.
“We’ve had the space since mid-April,” said Bura, “but this is only the second week we’ve really been doing service out of it.”
Once the kitchen was professionally renovated, Bura and co. began renovating the dining areas while opening for takeout and delivery. This has allowed them to generate revenue while gradually getting to know the space, so they’ll be set by the time customers can dine indoors with them: “Hopefully by mid to late November,” Bura says.
The location boasts two floors, seating about 60 people between them. The downstairs dining room will be the “base camp” while the upstairs will be “the summit.” There are plans to have local artists decorate the staircase with mountain imagery, a fun nod to the many who travel to Nepal for mountaineering.
But enough about how the restaurant is going to look. Let’s talk about those momos. These delicious little dumplings are traditional Nepali fare, often eaten as a street snack. The dumplings are handmade, with all the fillings and sauces made in-house, using as much local produce as possible. The wrappers are the perfect thickness, the fillings are packed with flavour, and the sauces make the already-great momos ethereal.
Hand-rolling these delicate little dumplings is no small task. “We marinate our fillings overnight,” says Subba, “then the actual stuffing and rolling can take anywhere from eight to nine hours. We’re making fresh product every day. It’s been a learning curve going from the markets and pop-ups to this, but we are learning every day.”
“Traditionally in Nepal, the fillings would be yak, buffalo, maybe goat,” says Bura, “but we’re using what’s local here and spicing it in our traditional manner. So, it’s a modern take on momos that represents who and where we are.”
The three flavours currently available are pork, chicken, and tofu, all heady with scallion, ginger, garlic, cilantro, and spices, but each with its subtle nuances. Plus, the cooking methods draw different notes out of each momo, giving you various ways to enjoy each flavour. For instance, the steamed tofu dumplings exploded with ginger and cilantro aromas when bitten into, while the aromas and flavours of the deep-fried versions were toastier and the crisp texture of the fried wrapper provided crunch. Pan-frying provides a best-of-both-worlds experience.
You can also enjoy any of the momos as a chilli stir-fry, where they come coated in a mixture of tomato, onion, chilli, and bell pepper. The heat was the perfect level, very present but engaging, encouraging you to take another bite. Jhol style sets the momos of your choice afloat in a well-seasoned broth of tomato, ginger, and garlic, perfect for upcoming chilly days.
The dumplings are only half the equation, delicious as they are. The homemade sauces complete each bite, rounding out flavours and adding brightness to the already tasty morsels. The mild sauce is a traditional blend of tomatoes, ginger, garlic, and salt and goes well with steamed momos. I found the spicy sesame and chilli-cilantro sauces paired better with the kothe (pan-fried) and deep-fried momos, as the extra texture and toasty notes played well with the bolder flavours of these dipping sauces. The team encourages mixing and matching as you please, so with three types of momo, four cooking methods and three sauces, you’ll have to eat a lot to run out of possible combinations.
Looking to the near future, the team hopes to add dhal bhat to the menu. This quintessential Nepali dish is served thali-style: rice and lentils with meat, vegetables, and lots of sides. “This is day-to-day eating in Nepal,” says Bura. “We’re serious about bringing Nepali cuisine to Ottawa, so this is something we must have.”
Looking a bit further ahead, the team hopes to add lamb or goat dumplings to the menu. High on the list is finishing the dining room renovations and opening for dine-in. Once that’s been achieved, they hope to host some pop-ups for other up-and-coming food ventures.
“We received lots of help in the early days,” says Bura. “Gongfu Bao, Moo Shu Ice Cream, Spark Beer, and Good Eats Cafe, they all helped us along the way, getting to where we are now, going from markets and pop-ups to brick-and-mortar. The food community in Ottawa is so close. We want to pay that forward as soon as we’re able.”
For now, you can pick up momos at the shop by walking in or calling ahead. If delivery is more your thing, the Momo Spot is on SkipTheDishes and Uber Eats, with DoorDash availability coming soon.
If you’ve already tried the Momo Spot’s momos, then you’re in the know. If you haven’t yet had a momo, what are you waiting for? These are handmade Nepali dumplings in Ottawa! I’ve never met a dumpling I haven’t wanted to eat, and these are dumplings of the highest order, made by kind and friendly folks.
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