This post originally appeared on the abortive KREIS5.NET blog.
I am quite fond of Nimmi, one of several Sri Lankan restaurants on Josefstrasse. But let me back up a bit. For a year after arriving from NYC to Switzerland, I was living in the burbs. Not only did I not have any cheap ethnic food nearby, I really more or less had no food nearby – I was at the top of a hill and, while I doubt I’ll ever have a more magnificent lake/mountain view, I planned two separate vacations around going back to the city just to eat things with any amount of spice in them.
While the opening of the Thalwil Thai restaurant was an important bridge, it’s not really cheap, per se. That’s why I was so happy when I discovered Nimmi, which IS cheap by Swiss standards, and served as the harbinger of restaurants to be discovered once I moved to Zürich.
Actually I went to Nimmi for the first time on the day I viewed my current apartment, dragging two visiting friends through the neighborhood while I had my internal debate about whether to take the place. Nimmi looked appealing not just because it was different, but because it looked like the kind of places I used to eat in New York – the timeless hole in the wall, though Nimmi is perhaps cleaner than the average NYC joint.
Aside from my own personal reasons, I am fond of Nimmi because the food is commendable. CHF12.50 will buy you Kottu Rotti, which is cut up roti bread mixed and pan fried with the curried meat of your choice (lamb’s a good bet), onions, and chilies (I don’t know if that’s a comprehensive list of ingredients but it gives you the idea). You can put some other goofy starches in there, too, if you are feeling carb-deprived.
In a similar price range, the Masala Dosa is an excellent iteration of the traditional Indian/Sri Lankan stuffed pancake. It doesn’t take the tubular form of the previous Dosas I’d had (specifically Newark Avenue in Jersey City, New Jersey), but makes up for the lack of presentation with roughly twice the spiced potato filling in a folded-over omelet kind of format. It often comes with homemade (and red!) coconut chutney, which is to die for.
There’s plenty else on the menu – for instance, a case full of pre-prepared curries that can be nuked in a variety plate that’s actually pretty good, and I spotted some string hoppers the other day, which is a Sri Lankan specialty I last had on Staten Island. But I keep coming back for the Dosa.
Again, I love Nimmi, so let me couch this next sentence in kindness: the proprietor’s sense of hospitality extends to serving you a dessert that I think is pretty wretched. It consists of generally good, ripe sliced melon and/or pineapple, but drenched in some kind of strawberry syrup that probably would appeal to kids as an ice cream topping. I mean, it’s SWEET. And it comes out before you can even decline.
So, I’ve taken to trying their other desserts as a means of avoiding the dreaded syrup. But even that strategy was foiled last time. Upon hearing they were out of everything but a spherical fritter they called a banana ball, I blanched a bit, but was actually pleasantly surprised to find no fried bananas were contained within. Instead it was a quite dense cake that was neither too banana-y nor too sweet.
How were my machinations stymied, then, you ask?
As I watched in (concealed) horror, they scooped some fruit on top and squirted a long dollop of the strawberry syrup on top…foiled again.