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A Critic Calls New Nepalese Restaurant a ‘Pure Sensory Delight’


Plus Joe’s Imports pairs global wines with worthwhile dishes

Vajra is an exceptional Nepalese experience that earns five stars from Time Out critic Maggie Hennessy. Chef Min Thapa’s menu is “pure sensory delight,” featuring a “parade of classic Himalayan dishes.” Momo dumplings, filled with minced goat and napa cabbage, deliver a “sensory symphony” when dipped in creamy avocado chutney and sweet tomato sauce. Paneer-stuffed capsicum peppers are enrobed in a tomato and cashew sauce that provides “luscious, tangy comfort,” but the most memorable dish of the meal is the tandoori venison. Hennessy’s “never tasted deer meat this special” – the “succulent, earthy meat” is marinated in yogurt, spices and young papaya, and finished off with smoked makhani, a butter gravy. For dessert, paan pistachio kuulchi is a “fitting ender, refreshing [Hennessy] with just enough creamy sweetness to satisfy.” And to drink, the Fields of Elysium cocktail tastes “like a melted pisco-spiked lime freeze pop, mingling tropical-sweet kiwi puree and elderflower liqueur.” [Time Out]

Joe’s Imports offers a wealth of global wines along with a well-curated selection of small plates. Owner Joe Fiely, one of the original partners of Francesca’s Restaurant Group, does a fine job of pairing wines with “the foods native to their respective regions.” His recommendations include duck egg raviolo with a “lush and bright” Ca’De’ Medici Remigio lambrusco grasparossa; and slivers of Roman artichoke with a 2007 bottle of Castello di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva. Ariel Cheung also says the housemade whipped ricotta is a must-order, while the St. Louis sticky ribs provide “immense satisfaction” thanks to their “perfect texture and underlying heat.” The wine list is the spotlight of the beverage program but a mezcal cocktail, dubbed Johnny From the Block, mixes St. George coffee liqueur, chocolate bitters, and cold brew espresso and serves as “dessert enough on its own.” [Modern Luxury]

Mom-and-pop Dominican restaurant Morena’s Kitchen has moved into a bigger space but “what’s unchanged is the soulfulness of [Miriam] Montes de Oca’s food,” writes John Kessler. The star dish is the pica pollo, “crackly chunks of citrus-marinated fried chicken that can drive a person into paroxysms of bone-gnawing pleasure.” Kessler recommends ordering extra to go, “though you may not be able to resist snacking on a piece on the ride home.” Other highlights include sancocho stew — teeming with tender beef, root veggies, and dumplings — that “warms to a dose of explosive habanero sauce,” and shrimp and peppers in a garlic sauce, served with a mound of mofongo. [Chicago]

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