Monday, July 25, 2016

Chiya Chai Cafe

-Grubbing in Chicago  
Nepalese in Logan Square

I was very intrigued when reading on DNAinfo that a Nepalese Chai Cafe was coming to Logan Square. It wasn't the Chai Tea part that filled me with anticipation but rather the food items they would also offer. Specifically the Momo Dumplings but also everything else. As the article stated the family behind Chiya Chai runs a place in Minneapolis which is an area with a surprising amount of Nepalese and or Tibetan restaurants. On top of the food they also have what's basically a Chai bar setup for you to sip away while reading or eating. Anything you want. It's a very relaxed atmosphere.

Newly Opened on Milwaukee in Logan Square

I first fell in love with Momo Dumplings while in Madison only to eventually watch the place I would enjoy them at close. Then there was this sick food truck up in Milwaukee that specialized in the South Asian dumplings that are native to Tibet. That food truck basically disappeared into thin air. All this while there was no place in Chicago to get Momo with beef and or bison filling. There's spots that make them but only with chicken. Another place was supposed to open up out in Andersonville but they too basically vanished before they could even open. So when I saw online that Chiya Chai was open I went on over just a day or two later. They offer momo in sets of six and you can choose between Bison, Pork, Lamb, Chicken, Veggie. As I said the only ones that really excite me are beef or bison options. It's the common filling in areas like Jackson Heights in Queens which is filled with Momo options. Back in Nepal the common filling is Yak so buffalo or beef comes closest to that.

Bison Momo

Oh Boy! This is what I was waiting for. I think the $8 pricetag is a tad too much but I dont care because these have the flavor profile of the ones I've loved in other states. As regular readers know I seek out Momo when on the road and these were right up there with the best of the best. The dipping sauces are a tomato and cilantro based duo that go great mixed together. The dumpling shell is delicate and in a surprise for me these were almost juicy enough to be considered soup dumplings. I just love the flavor combination of beefy meat and Garam Masala with green onions and such. We tried an order of pork on our last visit and I was surprised by how good these were as well. You usually dont see swine as option for Momo so I dont know if it's authentic so to say but damn it was delicious. Ground pork with hints of ginger and lots of onion. I'll be a regular eater of these.

Pork Momo

As good as the dumplings are I think everything else is right there with them. I've only had one thing that I didn't love and that was order of Curried Lima Beans which were fine in flavor but a little mushy for my liking as far as texture. It's totally possible this is how's it supposed to be.

Curried Lima Beans 

If looking for a starter to match with an order of Momo I recommend the Masala fries. These are long medium sized slices of potato heavily seasoned with Masala as soon as they come out of the fryer. You have the option to add a side of Masala sauce for extra and that's well worth doing. The sauce is the perfect accompaniment to these fries which suddenly make all others seem so boring. My only beef with these was I wish they were fried a tad bit crispier but that's a personal preference.

Masala Fries

Also on the menu is a section of pies. These come from the days of British representative residing in Nepal back in the early 1900's. Chiya Chai offers four different pies. Options are Chicken Balti, Masala Chicken, Curried Kale and Potato, Spicy Minced Pork. Gotta go pork on my first try. 

Spicy Minced Pork Pie 

Can this meat pie trend continue on? I hope so. This is going to be a great snack on a cold winter day which I know no one wants to think about right now. It made for a great snack on a warm summer day as well so it's something I look forward to having the option to eat in the area. The minced pork was well spiced, just enough to draw a bit of sweat from the forehead, and easily cooled down with the chutney on the side. I will be back to try the chicken options soon enough. This is looking like one of my favorite openings of the year and what I hope is the start of a trend. Momo for everyone!

The Insides

Chiya Chai Cafe
2770 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 360-7541

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