The first question out of my mouth when I met Rinchen Palzar was, “What drove a successful guitarist like you to open a restaurant?” and he only had one word for me—passion. The same passion that drove Rinchen Palzen to be the guitarist of one of the most popular bands in Nepal, Abhaya and the Steam Injuns, is what ultimately led him to open his own eatery.
Palzar always knew he wanted to open a restaurant one day. His entire family is rather passionate about food, and he himself has always been interested in cooking. Even as a grownup, Palzar was never away from food. He was always the guy that brings the food during parties and hangouts with his friends and band mates. And it was in these circles that he met his partner, Karma Tenzing.
“Although I always wanted to open a restaurant, just like with music, you need people with whom your ideas match.” Karma Tenzing just happened to be the person with whom Palzar clicked immediately. Tenzing is an entrepreneur and an amateur musician, and the two soon found they had a lot in common. “He loves music, and I play in a band. He also plays the guitar. So, we just clicked. He was immediately interested in my food and we decided to open a restaurant together,” he adds, explaining how the decision to open Momo Karma came to be.
Momo Karma, a cozy little restaurant in Nagpokhari, has only been in operation for a little less than three months, and already its fame is spreading, mostly through word of mouth. “We already have a few regulars who come in every day. By now, they feel more like friends rather than customers,” Palzar says.
The menu at Momo Karma is very limited, but what they do provide is excellent in terms of taste, quality, and presentation, a fact I can personally attest to. The menu consists of a handful of starters, some spicy alu dum, aloo chop stuffed with keema, and daal pakoras. The main course consists of thukpa, and momos—chicken momo, pork momo, and veg momo. The main reason behind the limited menu is to ensure that the food options that they do provide is made to perfection, something they have accomplished to a large degree. “Although what we offer is fast food, we want to maintain a certain standard,” he explains.
It is not only the food that recommends Momo Karma, but the ambiance too. The wood paneling in the wall as well as the choice of lighting gives the restaurant a warm and cozy feel. The table settings reflect fine dining rather than fast food, giving it a more sophisticated air than many similar places. A charming detail that stood out to me was how the plates, bowls, and cups were all customized with logos saying “Plate Karma”, “Bowl Karma”, etc.—a rather clever piece of marketing. The restaurant also opens up to a small backyard if one prefers open air.
Palzar is very much involved in the running of the restaurant, especially the food. He comes in every day at around ten and personally mixes the stuffing for the momo. The cucumber achar that accompanies all the starters is fresh, homemade, and brought in from Palzar’s home. Although they have a chef, Palzar is closely involved in the food that comes out of the kitchens. He enjoys working with the food more than any other aspect of running the business.
Besides the food, his favorite thing about running a restaurant is getting to know the clientele and interacting with new people. “Just like when you’re in a concert, you know the audience is enjoying your show by their reactions, you also get to know what your customers like with their food choices. Opening a restaurant takes a lot of homework, and if Palzar were to give advice to aspiring food entrepreneurs, it would be to do their research well. “We also had to do a lot of homework before starting this restaurant. We had to make a decision when it came to what to include on the menu and where to limit the choices, and stick to what we did best. What we realized was that momos are something that everyone loves and what most people order, so we decided to stick to it. Momos in Nepal are like love songs, it never fails.”
Palzar and Tenzing also did a lot of homework before deciding on everything from the décor to the tableware. Getting just the right things for the restaurant had them running all across Kathmandu. However, their hard work has paid off. Momo Karma is a great new place to eat, and it definitely has our seal of approval.