TAMA Eatery & Bar
TAMA eatery and bar is tucked away on Upper Queen Street, and one dark and wintery evening, the Cheapeats team gathered there to discover Nepalese cuisine.
TAMA is located in the seemingly “no man zone” of Upper Queen Street, not far from K’Road. Many of us would have driven past and not noticed this unassuming restaurant. But step inside and you find a friendly welcome and a simple decor with a huge image of a Yak decorating one wall.
Alexia arrived first, so decided to order some chicken dumplings – Momo – ($12.90) while she was waiting for the rest of us. These dumplings were fabulous and we all loved them (so much so that we ordered a second plate later). Delicate thin pastry wrapped around a fragrant mixture of chicken mince with plenty of garlic, spring onion dried and fresh coriander. They were served in a thin sesame tomato sauce which complemented the herbal notes perfectly.
There were five of us for dinner, and we all made a selection from the menu. TAMA’s menu has Nepalese and also some Asian style dishes, but we decided to stick with the Nepalese side of the menu. Once everyone arrived we ordered a Bara ($9), Saag fried mustard greens ($9), Lamb Chowella ($12), Pork Sekuwa ($12) and some spicy chicken nibbles ($9) to share.
Bara is a mildly spiced, thick pancake made from ground lentils, lamb mince and an egg; this came with a Nepalese sauce giving it a lovely tangy boost. Everyone’s favourite was the Pork Sekuwa – pork strips marinated in charred tomatoes and cooked over coconut shell coals. It was slightly reminiscent of caramelised pork belly and was hoovered up in seconds. The mustard greens were a nice green, fresh complement to our other dishes and were cooked perfectly so as to remain slightly crunchy.
The Lamb Chowella was pieces of grilled marinated lamb with just a hint of spice, served with rice flakes and soy beans. The rice flakes were unfamiliar to us all – flat, light, dry flakes, they were crunchy and interesting. At first we all felt a bit puzzled by them, but by the end some of us were tossing them over everything we ate to add a different texture. Beware the soy beans on your teeth and any fillings!
We continued on to dessert and shared one of each: Malpuwa ice cream ($12) and Kheer ($10). The Malpuwa was a beautifully plated dessert of fennel infused sweet bread served with ice cream, berry compote, sesame dukka and sherpa coffee ganache. The flavoured bread was unusual for us and the ganache tasted more of chocolate than of coffee.
We loved the Kheer – a rice pudding type dessert with berries, sesame dukkah and coconut. Comforting and refreshing, it could not have been a more perfect end to a meal on a cold Auckland night.
Tama is worth seeking out to try a lesser known cuisine in Auckland. We definitely want to return to try their curries – and more of those Momo!