Our reactions to the evening's appetizers were also uniform, if less enthusiastic. New for most of us were vegetable momos, Nepali steamed vegetable dumplings. Binod Dhakal, Cardamom's owner, is from Nepal, as are many of his employees, and this street food is a favorite of his family. We found the momos rather bland, however, even when dipped in the roasted tomato-Szechuan pepper chutney that accompanied them. Dry and somewhat flavorless, the bharawan aloo tikki--sauteed mashed potato patties stuffed with peas and raisins and garnished with tamarind and cilantro-mint chutneys--also failed to impress us. However, onion bhaji--shredded, spiced onion dipped in chick pea batter and deep fried--were exactly what onion rings should always be and rarely are: crispy, oniony, and delicious.
Another time, we arranged to meet friends at 8 p.m. one Tuesday in mid-summer. Even on a weeknight and at that late hour, we encountered a wait for a table either inside the brightly painted dining room or outside in the narrow patio that lines one side of the restaurant. Fortunately, a mild evening lessened the vexation of waiting on the sidewalk. Once seated, almost forty-five minutes later, we found the service knowledgeable and friendly, if a bit erratic--due, I think, both to the kitchen and waitstaff. Drinks came out very slowly, as did one of the appetizers, but the entrees swept in as soon as we had finished the last bit of our starters.