Unless you’re Nepalese it’s unlikely you’ve heard of Third Eye. Even people who live on the surrounding streets in Banksia, 12 kilometres south of the CBD, probably think it’s just a function centre. They’d be half right – it is, but what they don’t know is that the building’s rooftop houses one of Sydney’s best Nepalese restaurants.
Shishir Thapaliya and Prabin KC started Third Eye three years ago with a plan to replicate the feel of a Kathmandu bar, specifically one from the famous late-night Thamel district. “We wanted to bring that to people living here so we designed it like a live-music venue,” says Thapaliya.
That idea was eventually canned, but after nabbing the upstairs space (which at the time was a two-bedroom apartment) they set about converting it into an open-air restaurant. Then they transformed the downstairs area into a function hall for Nepalese birthday parties, christenings, wedding receptions and other significant celebrations. It’s not quite at the level of Thamel’s nightlife scene, but on a Friday or Saturday night it can look pretty wild. “We do some big parties when Nepalese artists come to Sydney,” says Thapaliya.
Despite everything that goes on downstairs and its audible proximity to a highway, the restaurant space is serene. On some weekend nights the sunny courtyard is empty; on others it has just a few families eating dhal, rice and pickles, and a couple Nepalese students eating dumplings and sipping Nepalese beers made using glacial water.
The dumplings, known as momo in Nepal, are the restaurant’s speciality. Most Nepalese joints in Sydney stick to steamed versions of the crescent-shaped parcels stuffed with cabbage, potato and beans or spiced chicken. Here they have the whole gamut: momos stuffed with buffalo; part fried and part steamed momos; momos covered in a tomatoe-y chilli relish; momos sitting a nutty and tangy soup; and the best of them all, the smoky tandoor-baked momos served with a gravy of blended roast tomatoes, sesame and spices. “It’s a new trend in Nepal,” says Thapaliya.
In the Himalayan country, momos are street snacks found alongside buffalo chow mein, heavily spiced tandoor-roasted meats and choila, a partly pickled and grilled buffalo meat, generally served cold. Third Eye doesn’t have a reliable source of buffalo so they use goat meat for their choila. They do serve the traditional Kathmandu side dish, though, chiura, which is crisp rice flakes.
To experience what Nepalese people eat at home, order some rice, a vegetable curry, a mixed plate of pickles, a bowl of daal and a selection of achar (South Asian pickles). (The latter two are popular staples with all of Nepal’s ethnic groups.) “Nepal is a mix of Indian, Tibetan and Chinese foods, with Kathmandu in the middle, so we get all the different varieties,” says Thapaliya.
This is another edition of Broadsheet's Local Knowledge weekly series, where Nick Jordan explores the eateries at the heart of Sydney's different cultural communities. Read more here.
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Third Eye Rooftop Restaurant & Function Center
370 Princes Highway, Banksia
(02) 9567 5704