After such a great meal at the Himalayan Yak last week, I felt a deep yearning in the pit of my stomach to explore the cuisine of the region a little more, so when I found out about Merit Palace (formerly Merit Farms), my interest was piqued. What attracted my attention was the fact that this small storefront actually contained a whole Asian food court serving up Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Nepali, Tibetan, and Bhutanese specialties. Wow! All that food under one roof! Who wouldn’t want to check it out? So I grabbed and friend and once again found myself on the 7 train to Jackson Heights.
We almost walked right by the place it is so unassuming (and literally steps from the 7 train). Once inside you are confronted with a cozy cafeteria-like atmosphere where diners can browse the offerings displayed in steaming chafing dishes, and share tables. We walked by the fried shrimp, buriyani, and all the familiar looking Indian dishes, until we found ourselves at Namaste at the back. I had seen the write-ups, but nothing beats personal experience, so after a few questions for the man behind the counter we ordered a few dishes. The chili beef looked good, as did the freshly made momo (chicken for us), and some hot chicken soup for a cold day. We could always order more, or even something else if we fancied it because this was not a formal restaurant with a wait staff.
The food arrived very quickly, too, and we dug right in. The chili beef was grilled and cut into bite-sized chunks. Though alone, not too spicy, when dipped in either of two sauces—red or orange–it came to life. It had a flavor, which I would call interesting, having not tasted anything like it before. But I kept on popping tidbits in my mouth, hoping for some recognition from my taste buds. The momo was perfectly steamed, and actually took more than one bite to finish. It was served with a chicken broth for dipping that I actually thought was the chicken soup we had ordered. My bad. The real chicken soup, when it arrived, was much more complex and flavorful–chunks of white meat chicken submerged in a hearty broth along with green onions and chopped cilantro. It reminded me of chicken soup I’ve had in Mexico, but then again, some dishes have universal appeal.
It was good food—not great–but still Asian food fast and hot and with plenty of choice for all. I could see coming home late, and, not feeling like cooking, ducking into Merit Palace for a quick dose of something beyond the banal.
Dumpling Palace (Tashi Delek)
Nepali, Tibetan & Bhutanese cuisine
37-67 74th St. Jackson Heights, NY
(7 train to 74th St./Roosevelt)