FRONT ROYAL – Deep in a corner off Riverton Commons Drive sits a business of foreign flavors, run by a young man anxious to share his world.
Narayan Chhetri, 26, owner of Khukuri Nepali Cuisine, offers a trip to the other side of the world without leaving Warren County.
Chhetri came to the U.S. from Nepal in 2010 to study business administration. While he was in school, he said he started working in restaurants. When he graduated in 2015, Chhetri was a general manager for a group of three restaurants in Northern Virginia and working in a partnership for another restaurant in Sterling.
“I always had a passion to open my own [restaurant],” Chhetri said. “I was looking at the people running the restaurant and looking at them…it always made me feel like I should open my own.”
Chhetri’s run of success led to his buying a house and moving to Stephens City. On his days off, he said, he would wander around Front Royal, looking for good food. When he couldn’t find any Nepali food up to his standard, he thought he had found a hole in the market.
“I said, ‘Let’s give Front Royal, Warren County, authentic curry taste,’” he said. “People said they wanted this… I said ‘Why don’t I open one?’”
Once he started looking, everything fell into place, he said. Everything from the size of the building to the location, worked as well as he could have hoped, Chhetri said. He took 2 1/2 months to renovate the building, splashing colorful red and orange paints on the walls, fixing floors and installing the stone-walled, cylinder oven to bake the naan, Roti and Paratha bread.
Open six days a week for lunch and dinner, Chhetri said he wants to give Front Royal a chance to taste authentic Nepali and Indian food, the kind he grew up eating every day. The menu of 15 different items rotates daily, with staples such as butter chicken and tandoori chicken always available.
Signature dishes include MoMo — steamed dumplings with chicken and vegetables — and dhal, bhat, achar, a traditional lunch and dinner meal Chhetri said he ate every day back home.
To make sure the authentic Nepali taste makes it through, Chhetri’s mother is visiting, overseeing the Nepali chefs in the kitchen and double checking her son’s work.
Authenticity is important, Chhetri said, as he wants people to understand Nepali and Indian food isn’t scary.
“I see people afraid of trying new food,” he said. “When it comes to Nepali [and] Indian food, they think that it’s spicy.”
The spices, Chhetri explained, are layered for flavor rather than for heat. Nepal and Northern India share a border, pulling similar spices from the Himalayas and lending similar flavors to their curries.
“When you talk about Indian food, you might say it’s spicy,” Chhetri said. “Ours is more about balancing.”
Chhetri said he created an environment that is friendly to the curious diner. A buffet offers a range of options every day so diners can find their favorite dishes. Once those diners come in, Chhetri said, they will want to return.
Plastered on the wall near the entrance, under crossed swords and a Himalayan outline, is Khukuri’s motto – “Once is Not Enough.”
“Every day I’m seeing a new customer that is trying, for the first time, Indian food, Nepali food,” Chhetri said, “and they are liking it!”
Khukuri Nepali Cuisine is located at 40 Riverton Commons Drive in Front Royal.
Copied From: The Northern Virginia Daily