Sikkim, which became an Indian state in 1975, is counted as one of the eight northeastern states of the country. It is not, however, contiguous with the other seven northeastern states, being separated geographically from them by parts of northern West Bengal that lie further east than Sikkim. The population is of largely Nepali origin with the Lepchas and Bhutias among the other major indigenous ethnic groups (there are also Bengali and Marwari communities). My family lived in northern West Bengal in the early 1980s and I went to boarding school in Darjeeling in the mid-1980s. We went on many hiking trips to Sikkim and I had Sikkimese friends in school. Sikkimese food is, therefore, not largely a blank space in my culinary map as is the case with most of the other northeastern states (the other exception is Assam). Unlike Manipur—whose food I know only from our recent meal at Eat Pham—or Nagaland—whose food I know only from meals at Dzükou and Hornbill—I’ve eaten a fair bit of Sikkimese food in my adolescence, though not a whole lot of it since then. As on this trip to Delhi we were trying to eat a greater regional variety of food than we usually end up doing, I was pleased to learn that there is a well-regarded Sikkimese restaurant in Greater Kailash-1: Nimtho. We ate lunch there in between our dinners at Eat Pham and Hornbill. Herewith some details.
Nimtho is located by the R Block market in GK-1, right above the Sikkim Organics store. That store is operated by the government of Sikkim. I’m not sure if the restaurant also has official backing but it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that it does. It’s an attractive space—larger than both Hornbill and Eat Pham—over two levels, the higher being open-air, I believe. We didn’t go up there; there may have been people eating there but we were the only ones in the lower dining room. Presumably they do better business in the evenings.
Since it was just the four of us—the missus, the kids and me—we couldn’t do too much damage but I think we got a good measure of the menu anyway. That menu is a mix of Nepali and Sikkimese items (to the extent the two categories can be easily disentangled). It features among other things a Sikkimese thali and a Nepali thali and we thought that would be the best way to try a range of dishes. It turned out, however, that the Sikkimese thali was not possible that day due to availability problems with a few ingredients. We therefore shared the following:
- Sisnu ko rass. A completely new to me soup made with wild nettle flowers and leaves. This was subtle and nourishing and we both loved it.
- Steamed chicken momos. Very good momos indeed.
- Nepali classic fried chicken. This looks like it will be spicy but it is not. What it is is a plate of perfectly fried chicken. This formed the bulk of the boys’ meal.
- Chicken choila. This spicy dish of stir-fried chicken strips is Nepali and is very, very good.
- Thakali thali. A large, attractive thali which comprised dal (a thin black dal), two veg (very good spicy potatoes and simply cooked spinach), papad, various pickles/chutneys (including a timur or Sichuan pepper chutney) and a choice of either a veg, chicken, mutton or fish curry; we chose the mutton. The dal I had the same problem with that I’ve had with most Nepali dals I’ve eaten—it seemed like a more watery version of the black dal I’m used to—but that’s entirely my (hard to shake) prejudice. We really liked everything else on the thali, especially the potatoes, the mutton curry and the timur chutney.
- Black rice kheer. Actually, I think this came with the thali. Anyway, it looked exactly like the black rice kheer at Eat Pham but didn’t taste like it. This mostly because this didn’t involve camphor. Indeed, it tasted quite familiar.
Launch the slideshow for a look at the space, the menu and the food we ate. Scroll down for thoughts on price and the rest of the experience.
Service was friendly without being omnipresent, which is often a problem in Delhi. All of this plus water and soft drinks came to just short of Rs. 2400, inclusive of service tax (or about $34). It was a lot of food; another adult could easily have shared everything we had. So pretty good value. I’d be interested in coming back on the next trip and trying more of the menu. And I’d certainly recommend it to anyone in or visiting Delhi who is looking for a change from more familiar fare but perhaps doesn’t want to go as far afield as Manipuri or Naga food.
Next from this India trip, I might take a break from Delhi reports and show you some pictures from my visit to the fish market near where we were staying in South Goa last week.