Base Camp Café Brings Nepali Cuisine to Hanover

By Jessica Zischke, The Dartmouth Senior Staff | 10/6/14 4:00am

Moving from the San Francisco Bay Area to Dartmouth was quite the change for me. I realized that I would soon feel temperatures below zero, and have to wear snow boots and a parka just to remember what warmth felt like. And I had to get used to a slightly more limited food scene. I always joke with friends from home that in Hanover, there’s the Chinese restaurant, the Thai restaurant and the Indian restaurant.

But the Hanover restaurant scene just got a little more exciting with the addition of Base Camp Café, a Nepalese restaurant serving lunch and dinner every day. Just over two weeks ago, this joint set up shop in the basement of 3 Lebanon Street, replacing Salubre Trattoria.

Base Camp Café uses local, organic produce as often as possible and doesn’t deep fry any dishes. The restaurant avoids using artificial chemicals and colors and incorporates healthy fats, like olive and sesame oils, into its recipes. It also serves plenty of vegetarian and vegan options, flavor included.

Manager Bhola Pandey researched obesity and nutrition in Boston for two years before opening up Café Momo in Manchester. Each dish has an almost scientific nutrient breakdown, consisting of 60 percent seasonal vegetables, 30 percent protein and 10 percent carbohydrates, according to the restaurant’s website.

But of course, I wanted to see how Base Camp Café held up in the Hanover food scene, so I took a jaunt over there to try some of its best dishes. To be honest, I was somewhat dubious of whether I would like the food, as I’ve felt let down by Upper Valley restaurants before. Surprisingly enough, my first venture into Nepalese cuisine was about to take place in none other than Hanover!

Atmosphere: When you first walk into the restaurant, the soft, warm lighting welcomes you in. The rhythmic music in the background adds to the ambiance, just as the small figurines and sculptures take you away from Hanover. Bright lighting fixtures echo the brightly colored walls, and you feel as if you’re anywhere but rural New Hampshire.

Service: The waiter or waitress checks in regularly at your table, and gives plenty of great recommendations from the menu. The entire staff welcomes you in and makes you feel at home in the new restaurant.

Food: Ah, the main attraction. Putting the waiter’s recommendations to good use, we started off the meal with small steamed dumplings called momos. We settled on a split order of paneer and spinach and goat momos. Each serving comes with eight of the dumplings, but you can order four of two different kinds for some more variety.

The goat momos were the round’s clear winner. The meat had great flavor and was well cooked. The sweetness of the dumpling dough matched perfectly with the spices of the goat, whereas the paneer and spinach dumplings were overpowered by the dough flavor. A delicious sauce that had some subtle heat added another great flavor to the momos.

We also ordered a side of the flat herbed bread which was good, but the least exciting part of the meal in comparison to the rest of the food.

For the main course, we settled on tarkari bhat (curried vegetables with rice) and lamb and Portobello mushroom curry (also serviced with rice). Although the flavor in the tarkari bhat was delicious, the spices on the lamb mixed with the juice from the cooking hit the spot. The meat was well-cooked without being tough or chewy, and the vegetables in both dishes still had a slight crunch.

The dishes came with more vegetables than I had expected, which was a nice change for the girl who usually stuffs her face with a variety of noodles. Base Camp Café’s food was great and left me feeling satisfied, but not dragged down by heavy ingredients. It’s a nice change of pace from the standard Hanover restaurants and is definitely worth a visit!

Jessica Zischke, The Dartmouth Senior Staff