It’s no secret that a plethora of Himalayan and Tibetan food can be found in Jackson Heights. A designated Annual Momo Crawl has even been conceptualized based on the dumplings that have become a neighborhood staple. However, head just one neighborhood west, and you’ll find the beloved momo in a more refined setting at Dawa’s in Woodside, Queens.

Opened in 2016 by Chef Dawa, who was born in Tibet but raised in Nepal, and her father Ngodup, Dawa’s is a plant-filled oasis serving up modernized takes on traditional Tibetan cuisine. The menu is separated into American dishes and Himalayan-inspired dishes, and while there are plenty of tempting offerings on the American side, the Himalayan-inspired menu easily outranks it.

For example, sure, the buttermilk fried chicken sandwich on the American menu sounds great, but why not go for Jhasha Khatsa instead? The dish consists of chicken that’s been marinated for 12 hours in ginger, garlic, and soy sauce, then battered and deep fried. It’s served with fermented chili paste gravy and a steamed whole wheat bun.

And hey, who doesn’t love a good pancake? While the American side of the menu offers homemade pancakes with berries and syrup, the Himalayan side offers black lentil pancakes (bara) with their chicken sekuwa dish, a Nepalese BBQ-style chicken.

Chili cauliflower at Dawa's in Woodside, Queens. (Kaitlyn Rosati for New York Daily News)
Chili cauliflower at Dawa’s in Woodside, Queens. (Kaitlyn Rosati for New York Daily News)

I popped in on a Saturday afternoon and opted for two dishes from the Himalayan menu: the chili cauliflower and the familiar, beloved momo. For the momo, I was given the option of a filling of either chicken or beef, and I opted for chicken. Don’t expect your Jackson Heights styrofoam-packed street food-style momos here.

Dowo’s plating of these dumplings, in a tomato fenugreek broth topped with fresh herbs, is almost too pretty to eat — keyword: almost. The broth is bright, silky and refreshing, almost like a gazpacho. I don’t usually opt for chicken as a dumpling filling because it is often dry, but the chicken here was anything but and quite tender.

My server had warned me the chili cauliflower was spicy. While I’m often warned of spice, I seldom find it true, though admittedly it takes a five-alarm fire to set my internal sirens off. When the dish came out, it certainly looked spicy with its bright red complexion along the battered pieces of cauliflower, but the heat was subtle and came on like a slow burn. The cauliflower was accompanied by big, chunky vegetables in a broth that reminded me of a chili-spiked tomato sauce. On the side, there was sticky purple rice that had a slight funk to it. While I ordered the momos due to sheer familiarity, this is the dish I would return for again and again.

Momos at Dawa's in Woodside, Queens. (Kaitlyn Rosati for New York Daily News)
Momos at Dawa’s in Woodside, Queens. (Kaitlyn Rosati for New York Daily News)

I’m already pining my return to try their thenthuk, a hand pulled Tibetan noodle served in a beef bone marrow broth with spiced fermented soybean chili paste, and riki kur, a sherpa potato flatbread served with a green chili spread.

While you can stick to what you know with grass-fed beef burgers, chicken wings and even a kale salad, you’d be remiss to not order something less familiar, especially from a cuisine that generally gets overlooked. My advice is don’t go alone like I did. Grab some friends, order an array of dishes to get a proper sampling of the menu, and share them amongst each other, ideally with a cocktail in hand from their bustling bar menu.

  • Address: 51-18 Skillman Ave, Woodside, NY 11377
  • Phone: 718-899-8629
  • Hours: Wednesday-Monday 12 p.m.-10 p.m; closed Tuesdays
  • Prices: American Dishes $2-$30; Essential Goods $6-$15; Sides $5-$7; Himalayan-inspired dishes $10-$20; Small bites $7-$13; Dessert $8-$11
  • Takeout and delivery available; no reservations.

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