Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Mitho Restaurant: Compelling Himalayan Cuisine in Winchester

"Nepal! N-E-P-A-L! Viva Nepal! Viva Nepal!"
--The Golden Child

It's great to see restaurants in Boston+ area specializing in lesser known cuisines. Though there are a few restaurants in the Boston+ area serving Himalayan/Nepali cuisine, it is much more difficult to find such restaurants in the suburbs. Thus, I was very intrigued when I learned about the planned opening of Mitho Restaurant, a Nepali/Himalayan restaurant, in Winchester.

Located on the site of the former Cafe Piazza Dolce, Mitho Restaurant opened in December and I've already dined there four times. Their website states that they offer "cuisines from the foothills of the Himalayas." Nepali cuisine includes dishes and ingredients that have some similarities to what can be found in Tibetan, Chinese, Indian and Thai cuisines. Commonly used ingredients include lentils, tomatoes, potatoes, chilies, coriander, cumin seeds, garlic, mustard oil, and peppers. I don't have much familiarity with this cuisine, beyond momos (their version of dumplings), so I was eager to experience and learn more about it.

The restaurant has two dining rooms, with a patio for outdoor seating once the weather improves in the Spring. The front dining room also has a small section of bar seating. The restaurant is tastefully decorated with Nepali/Himalayan accents.

This is the back dining room. Mitho is open for lunch and dinner, seven days a week, except it is not open for lunch on Mondays.

Just outside the restaurant, they have a sign of Today's Specials, though it doesn't appear to be posted inside of the restaurant. And I was never given a menu of Specials on any of my visits. I ordered a couple items off the Specials menu, but they should provide you a copy of the Specials with your menu.

When you sit down at your table, and receive a copy of the menu, they also bring you a glass bottle of water. This is especially appreciated as some of the dishes can be spicy and you might want some water to quench that fire. The menu has a moderately long list of nonalcoholic beverages, from Lassi to Herbal Tea, from a Cucumber Cooler to a Virgin Mojito. I enjoyed a hot cup of Matcha Green Tea and was intrigued by the Chia Tea, which is a milk and spiced, sweetened black tea from Nepal.

Last week, Mitho acquired a liquor license, and they have just started serving beer, wine, and Sake. You can get Sake cocktails like the Mitho Mojito (Sake, fresh lime juice, simple syrup, fresh mint) and the Cucumber Cooler (Pickle cucumbers soaked in Sake, fresh lime juice, simple syrup, soda water). As the license is brand new, it will take a little time for them to select and stock all the alcohols they will normally carry.

The food menu is large and diverse, and you may be unfamiliar with some of the terminology but the menu does a good job providing explanations for most of the terms. And the servers can also answer any of your questions. Their website states they have the "most varieties of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free dishes in New England." This is likely hyperbole, and I am doubtful as to the accuracy of the claim, however, they do carry lots of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options. Meat lovers will also find plenty to please their palate.

Their dishes also tend to be healthier, as their food is generally steamed,  pan-grilled, or stir-fried, seasoned with with organic herbs, and often served with steamed Basmati rice or fresh vegetables. Their sauces tend to be lighter and their flavors are very clean.

The Menu includes Appetizers, like Momos, Chhoila, and Bhuteko. For example, they have six types of Momos ($9-$12), including Chicken, Buffalo, and Vegetable. There are also Salads (4 options for $6 each), Soups (2 options for $6-$7) and Sides (3 options for $2-$3). There are Lunch Entrees (11 options for $11-$14), mostly Tarkari Curry and Namche Stir-Fry.

There are four types of dinner Entrees, including Tarkari Curry, Our Chilies, Grilled Delicacies and Stir-Fry Noodles. The Tarkari Curry ($15-$19) includes dishes served with items such as chicken, lamb, goat, shrimp, sweet potato, plantain, jack fruit, and tofu. The Our Chilies ($16-$27) includes dishes served with items such as duck, buffalo, wild boar, calamari, and mushroom. The Grilled Delicacies ($17-$26) includes dishes such as Wild Boar Ribs, Basil Shrimp, Cashew Coated Haddock, and Basil Thyme Lamb. The Stir-Fry Noodles ($16-$19) includes dishes with tofu, chicken and shrimp. The Dessert menu ($6-$9) includes 4 choices, such as Chia Seed Pudding and Sikarni.

When ordering a dish, you'll be asked the level of spiciness you desire, on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the hottest. This is an excellent way to customize your dish to your particular preferences. So, even if you dislike spicy foods, you can still enjoy their dishes. And if you love spicy heat, Mitho can ensure plenty of fire for your palate.

Momos! Momos are indigenous to South Asia, especially Tibet, Nepal, parts of India, and Bhutan, though the word itself seems to have Chinese origin, and simply means "steamed bun." They can be filled with a variety of ingredients, from yak to pork, chicken to vegetarian. At Mitho, they have six different Momos, priced from $9-$12, and you receive 8 dumplings with a slightly chilled dipping sauce. I enjoyed both the Buffalo (pictured above) and Lamb Momos. The dumpling skins have a nice texture, with just the right amount of thickness, and hold a rough sphere of flavorful meat and spices. The Buffalo and Lamb Momos clearly had different flavors, and the Lamb was my favorite though I certainly would order the Buffalo again too. Dumpling lovers will savor these delectable Momos.

The Lentil Dal Soup ($7), which is vegan & gluten-free, is a mix of red and yellow lentils seasoned with ginger, garlic and cumin seed. On a cold winter day, this hot soup warms the belly, and it possesses a tasty depth of flavors. With your lunch entree, you can get a small bowl of this soup for an additional $3.

The Jeera Chicken ($8) was one of my favorite dishes at Mitho, and I ordered it on two different occasions. "Jeera" means "cumin seeds" and this dishes includes pan-grilled chicken, to crisp, with cumin seeds, that is cooked in a typical Nepali way. The crispness of the chicken pieces was compelling, and the spices and seasonings were absolutely delicious, with a pleasing spicy kick. I generally ordered my dishes at Mitho to have a spiciness level of 5, which was a good choice for my palate. This dish is an appetizer, and it would be an excellent snack for cocktails or Sake. Highly recommended.

One of the Specials, the Shrimp Bhuteko appetizer (gluten-free) is a stir-fry dish with unique spices and served with crispy puffed rice. There were plenty of shrimp amidst the crisp, fresh vegetables, and once again the spices and seasonings intrigued and delighted my palate. The puffed rice added a crunchy texture and also helped to mitigate some of the spicy heat of the dish. On their regular menu, this Bhuteko dish comes with Calamari.

Another appetizer, the Chicken Chhoila ($11), which is gluten-free, is made with grilled chicken, marinated and seasoned with fresh lime juice, cumin seeds, and mustard oil with fresh chiles. The chicken pieces are basically diced, and there is an addition of what seemed to be crunchy onions, adding a textural contrast. This ended up being the spiciest of the dishes I had at Mitho, and it was also delicious, with interesting flavors.

As for Sides, this is Flat Herbed Bread ($3), a vegan dish, which is served warm. A nice texture of the bread with a crisp exterior, and which can be used to sop up the sauce from your other dishes.

One of the Lunch Specials, the Chicken Tarkari ($11) has a tomato-based curry sauce, with fresh onions, peppers, zucchini, and carrots and a side of steamed basmati rice. As you can see, the chicken is about 25% of this dish, the veggies occupying the majority of the dish. The chicken is moist and tender, cooked perfectly, and the curry sauce has a nice blend of flavors. This is not a dish though that will remind you of the usual Indian curries. It has its own unique and interesting flavor profile.

As an aside, the ingredients you find at Mitho are likely familiar to you, and some of the flavors will bring to mind other cuisines, especially Indian and Chinese, but there are significant differences as well. The cuisine at Mitho is a fascinating blend of familiar and unfamiliar, and sets apart their Nepali/Himalayan cuisine. You might have certain expectations about their dishes, based on the description and list of ingredients, but you'll find something different when you actually experience each dish. All of their dishes present something more unique and we need more restaurants that offer something different for our palates.

Another Lunch Special, the Namche Chicken Stir-Fry Noodles ($13) is an ample-sized bowl of chicken, veggies and noodles. Once again, everything is cooked just right, with a nice depth of flavor, tender noodles, and moist chicken. Stir-fry is very common, but the flavors of the dish are not.

From the Grilled Delicacies, the Lamb Tass ($19) consists of pieces of lamb filet that have been pan-grilled with dry rubbed herbs and spices. The lamb was tender and flavorful, with a pleasing taste which was both familiar and unfamiliar. The veggies were fresh and crisp, and there was a larger portion of meat to veggies in this dish.

From the Entrees, the Chicken Chili ($16) is made with a sautéed blend of different fresh chilies in sesame seed oil, olive oils, vinegar, red wine, and spices. The menu states "our chilies are not like typical chilies" and this dish won't remind you of other chili dishes. The chicken, once again, was tender and moist, with a powerful, complex and scrumptious blend of flavors. A pleasing spicy kick, a hint of tartness, and each bite pulled me into having more. This is another of my favorite dishes at Mitho, as I just loved the unique flavor profile of this dish. The veggies are fresh, cooked just right so that they maintain a nice crispness. Highly recommended.

For dessert, I was impressed with the Blueberry Haluwa ($9), a combination of semolina, blueberry and coconut, and topped with whipped cream and golden raisins. It was served warm, and resembled three donut holes, though the texture was closer to a brownie. The blueberry flavor was dominant, with coconut accents, and the flavors meshed very well together. A fine ending to a meal.

Overall, Mitho Restaurant will impress you with its Nepali/Himalayan cuisine, offering healthier but still delicious offerings. It is very reasonably priced and you'll enjoy the freshness of their ingredients. Service is good, and they are eager to answer your questions about the cuisine. With their new liquor licenses, you'll be able to get a drink with your meal, though don't ignore their nonalcoholic selections. The suburbs need more of these type of restaurants and Winchester is fortunate to have Mitho, which earns my hearty recommendation.

1 comment:

Lisa Maria said...

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