‘Jewel of Himalaya’ Brings Food, Culture of Nepal to Yorktown
By Plamena Pesheva (York Town): There is one place where you can immerse yourself in the culture and traditional food of Nepal while still staying local – the newly opened Jewel of Himalaya in Yorktown.
Although it has been opened only for a few weeks now, the restaurant has seen close to 3,000 customers, owner Nuru Sherpa said. The line often goes out the door of the restaurant, located in the Triangle Shopping Center.
Sherpa, who was born in the town of Lukla in Nepal, moved to the United States 15 years ago. Although he entered the food industry about two decades ago, food has always been a part of his life. His parents owned restaurants in his hometown and were involved with tourism.
The restaurateur has a background in Asian bistro – both as a chef and restaurant owner, while his brother (also the head chef at the Jewel of Himalaya) has a background in Indian cuisine. The family currently owns two other restaurants in the Hudson Valley – in Yonkers and Poughkeepsie – rated No. 1 by Zagat.
What is Himalayan food?
Nepali cuisine, as Sherpa describes it, is healthier than most. Chefs use Himalayan spices, herbs, lots of vegetables and fruits, as well as cumin and cardamom seeds are some of the main ingredients.
“Nepal is the richest country in the world for spices and herbs,” Sherpa said.
The food, he said, is natural and people don’t use chemicals and preservatives in their dishes. That’s one of the important aspects he makes sure he provides to his customers. Everything is freshly made at the restaurant, using the finest ingredients, he said.
“Serving fresh and healthy foods to this generation is very important,” he said. “And they will not regret it later.”
Sherpa recommends the Nepali Thali dish – either vegetarian or non-vegetarian. It comes with rice, Himalayan soup, meat, potatoes, collard greens, radishes and rice pudding for dessert. Each item is placed in a small stainless bowl and served on one stainless steel plate. This $30 dish is a great value especially during lunch (between 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.) when it costs $9.
One of the most popular dishes in Nepal, and also served at the restaurant, is the Momo – dumplings made out of either chicken, beef or a vegetarian option. They are mixed with vegetables and packed in dough and can be either steamed or fried and served with tomato sauce.
For dessert, Sherpa recommends the deep-fried Himalayan apple pie, which is made out of grated fresh apples, drizzled with cinnamon and honey.
Why open a restaurant?
The business owner said he was often questioned, while he was working in the food industry, why he hadn’t opened a restaurant that serves his own native cuisine. Opening this restaurant has been a dream come true since it was always on Sherpa’s mind. He chose Yorktown since the setting fit perfectly and reminded him of his quiet hometown.
“I want my customers to feel happy and relaxed,” Sherpa said. “We really care and the best thing about our motivation is we want to serve people with dignity and love from our heart.”
He describes the atmosphere of his restaurant as cozy and a place where he wants to make his customers feel different and never rushed to leave. He wants them to feel at home and enjoys having them become his friends.
“I’m happy when a customer enjoys their dining,” Sherpa said.
Pictures of the mountains in Sherpa’s native country, including pictures he took himself when climbing Mount Everest, are hung up by the entrance and on the walls of the restaurant. Some of those photographs are framed in beautiful wooden frames as the art of wood carving has been the pride of Nepal for many centuries.
A television, mounted on a wall, plays a video documenting the Peace Corps visit to Nepal and gives customers a sense of what the country is like while they’re enjoying a traditional meal.
As a student, Sherpa said he was a recipient of a scholarship in Nepal and he continues to give back and help needy students in his country. He also plans to donate a portion of his profits at the restaurant to rebuild his hometown.