Northside Himalayan eatery Momo Masala to close, change ownership

Emilia Bulfone/Staff

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Though their sign still hangs at the entrance of Hearst Food Court, Momo Masala, a Northside restaurant specializing in Indian and Himalayan food, has closed and the location will be changing ownership within the week.

The restaurant, which featured a mix of Tibetan and Indian dishes, opened in July 2013 and closed Aug. 22 of this year, according to former manager and owner Tashi Namgyal.

Employees from the neighboring Subway and TC Garden restaurants could not comment on any definite aspect of the closure, and only speculated that the location had changed ownership.

According to Ashkan Hosseini, a recent UC Berkeley graduate who lived on Northside and ate at Momo Masala often, the restaurant was a hangout spot for engineering students.

“Whenever I was craving for indian food, I could just walk from Soda hall,” he said in an online message.

Namgyal said there were difficulties to being located in a food court, which mostly attracted student customers rather than locals from the neighborhood. Since the majority of the restaurant’s clientele were students, he said, most business was concentrated during the semester sessions.

Linda Gilman, former owner of Crepes A-Go-Go on Telegraph Avenuewhich closed in April after over twenty years in business, echoed the difficulty of running a restaurant in Berkeley during the less crowded summer months. In addition to wage laws and business regulations, the sheer quantity of restaurants in the city makes it “harder and harder and harder to compete,” Gilman said.

Hosseini said Momo Masala had a cozy atmosphere and he appreciated that the restaurant stayed open later than other options in the area, until 9 p.m. He also said the quality of the food had declined in the past couple of years, which contributed to why he eventually stopped patronizing the restaurant.

Other restaurants featuring Himalayan cuisine in the Berkeley area include Taste of the Himalayas on Shattuck Avenue, Himalayan Flavors on University Avenue and Mount Everest Restaurant on Telegraph Avenue.

“What Berkeley will be missing is an Indian restaurant on Northside,” Hosseini said in an online message.

The void left by Momo Masala may be filled soon. Sudesh Rai and Lobsang Jampay will be part-owners as well as cooks in a new restaurant set to occupy the former Momo Masala site at 2505B Hearst Ave.

According to Rai, the new venture will feature momos, the Himalayan dumpling that served as Momo Masala’s namesake and was also included on their menu. Rai and Jampay’s menu will include different flavors, with influences from Himalayan, Tibetan, Nepalese and Bhutan’s cuisine.

Jampay stressed their “opportunity to cater to something different,” and Rai added that they intend to maintain an authentic menu. According to Jeffrey Ota, a broker from the seller’s side, the restaurant property is in escrow, and the deal will close by Monday.

Jampay added that the restaurant is considering doing something for students at their soft opening, such as offering discounts for student customers. The new restaurant is set to open in October, according to Jampay.

“(The) location is great for kids who are on that side of campus,” Namgyal said. “Honestly I enjoyed being there.

Contact Camryn Bell at [email protected].