The transformation of an old Café Rio on 3300 South near 3000 East into the new Gurkhas Indian and Nepali Cuisine is dramatic.
Colorful tablecloths and linen napkins adorn the tables while prayer flags hang from the ceiling. The scent of cumin and coriander waft in the air.
Utahns who enjoy Indian food will find something comforting — and familiar — about Gurkhas. Owner Rabi Subedi was a partner in both Himalayan Kitchen and Katmandu restaurants so he knows what Utahns like. And several longtime favorites from those Salt Lake City area eateries now are served at Gurkhas.
The restaurant gets its name from Nepali soldiers known for their fearless military prowess, so expect to find intriguing items from this South Asia country in the specialties section of the menu, including chow mein ($11.95-$13.95) and momos. The latter are Nepali-style dumplings or potstickers filled with either lamb ($13.95) or chicken ($12.95) and seasoned with ginger, garlic, cilantro and onion. They are an excellent shared item to start a meal.
We were wowed by the fist-sized lamb samosas ($5.95), the fried pastry bursting with minced lamb and peas. Less memorable were the green chili bhaji ($4.95) battered in chickpea flour and lightly fried. The chilies were medium to hot and overwhelmed our palates. Kids might find the chicken finger-like chicken pakora ($6.95) a great snack or meal with choice of two dipping sauces.
Naan is in plentiful here. The Gurkhas bread basket ($9.95) comes with four different flavors of bubbly, charred flatbread. The tandoori oven-baked onion and garlic varieties ($2.95 each a la carte) disappeared first as we generously dipped into our curries and kormas, followed by the cheese ($3.95) which required a bit more judicious pairing — leaving only the sweet naan ($4.95) stuffed with cashews, raisins and cherries behind.
Like Gurkhas predecessors, the restaurant has a vast menu of vegetarian, vegan and sharable entrée choices to which diners can also add chicken, seafood, lamb or paneer (cheese).
You’ll find filling dishes in an earthy shrimp saag ($15.95) seasoned with just the right combination of ginger, garlic and cilantro or the Himalayan Kitchen favorite butter chicken ($13.95) bathed in a creamy tomato sauce.
I’d place Gurkhas’ lamb korma ($15.95) as my favorite in the city. Tender chunks of lamb are generously distributed in the creamy curry sauce accented with cashew nuts and plump raisins.
The chicken coconut korma ($13.95) was a little bland when we ordered it at the mild heat level but it would be a solid choice for someone just venturing into the flavors of Indian cuisine.
More adventurous diners also will find vindaloo ($12.95), daal ($10.95) and tikka masala ($13.95) selections as well.
If you enjoy meats prepared in the tandoori oven, the mix special grill ($22.95) allows sampling of juicy chicken legs, chicken tikka, smoky shrimp, fish tikka that was far too dry and barbecued vegetables with a nice char.
For those wanting to sample more of Gurkhas’ offerings, the large, all-you-can-eat lunch buffet ($10.99) is served from 11:30 to 2:30 Monday through Saturday and includes hot tea or soft drinks. The bone-in goat curry ($14.95) appears on the lunch buffet every Monday and is an a la carte entrée at any time.
The rice pudding ($3.95) on the dessert menu had just the right amount of sugar, coconut, raisins and cashew nuts to end our dinner on a slightly sweet note. There are also several flavors of Indian ice cream ($4.95).
Although you won’t have just one server at Gurkhas, we found the overall service to be thoughtful and attentive from the time we were greeted at the door to an invitation to return again soon on our way out. Questions were answered in detail throughout our meal. Personal plates were cleared after our appetizer and replaced with fresh plates for entrees. Water and soft drinks were refilled quickly.
In Gurkhas, diners will find a plethora of Indian and Nepalese choices that are time-tested favorites in Salt Lake —accessible via dine in or takeout or as part of the midday buffet.
Heather L. King also owns www.slclunches.com and can be found on social media @slclunches
Gurkhas Indian and Nepali Cuisine • ★★★ (out of ★★★★) The newest restaurant from owner Rabi Subedi who has found previous success in Himalayan Kitchen and Katmandu serving curries and kormas.
Food • ★★★
Mood • ★★★
Service • ★★★
Location • 3025 E. 3300 South, Salt Lake City; 801-755-3499 or www.gurkhas.net
Hours • Open Monday through Saturday 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5-10 p.m.; Sunday 5-10 p.m.
Children’s Menu • No
Liquor • Yes
Reservations • Yes
Takeout • Yes
Wheelchair access •Yes
Outdoor dining • No
Onsite parking • Yes
Credit cards • All