There's a new Indian restaurant in Fort Worth hoping to use its cuisine as an exploration of India's culture. Called Mela Indian Cuisine, the restaurant opened in early summer at 14113 Trinity Blvd., in the space that was previously Midori Sushi.
For owners Basanta Thapa and Arjun Dhakal, the restaurant has been an evolving concept, responding to customer requests and the needs of the neighborhood.
Basanta previously owned Midori, which he opened with a Nepalese chef who had experience as a sushi chef in Japan and the U.S.
Midori did well on weekdays, attracting patrons from nearby offices, but was quiet on weekends. Recognizing that the area had a large South Asian population, Thapa decided close Midori and shift to a cuisine he knew first-hand.
Mela serves popular Indian standards such as chicken tikka masala, lamb vindaloo, butter chicken, and biryani.
But they also do chicken wings and Chinese fare such as gobi Manchurian – cauliflower cooked in Manchurian sauce and served with rice.
Beef is not on the menu, as is the case with many Indian restaurants, but there is chicken, lamb, and fish.
The restaurant also offers a twist on some traditional Indian foods. For example, pakoras, the fried fritters, customarily have fillings such as vegetables or potatoes. Mela's also contain jalapenos. They do a special Kashmiri naan, the Indian puffy flat bread, that contains nuts and raisins.
The evolution continues: In August, Mela began to offer Himalayan aka Nepalese dishes.
"We have a lot of Nepalese customers and they were asking us to offer these dishes, so we wanted to meet the demand," Thapa says.
That includes what has become probably the most famous Himalayan dish: momos, the Nepalese version of Asian dumplings, which they offer with choice of chicken filling or vegetarian.
Chicken thukpa is the Nepalese version of chicken noodle soup, but with a bright assortment of Indian spices such as ginger, cumin, coriander, and turmeric, along with plenty of onion and garlic.
Bhatmas sadeko is a novel Nepalese soybean dish that can serve as an appetizer, side dish, or salad. Soybeans are roasted in a pan until brown, then combined with chopped onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, and lemon juice.
Goat curry is probably the prototypical Himalayan dish; they also do chicken sekuwa, or chicken skewers, a popular street food served with rice pilaf.
For buffet fans, Mela has the obligatory buffet at lunch which every Indian restaurant in DFW is forced to have. The restaurant is currently BYOB, but the owners have applied for a liquor license — one more evolution at Mela.