You’ve likely had his Nepalese dumplings at mo:mo: at the Pizitz Food Hall. You’ve likely had his ramen at his restaurant at The Summit. You’ve likely tasted the menu he shaped from the start at Bamboo on 2nd. And now you can have all of that and more without leaving Mountain Brook Village. Nepalese chef Abhi Sainju was personally asked by a developer to bring his concept to the dining space Avo operated for a decade at 2721 Cahaba Road, and he couldn’t say no. Here’s the scoop on what you will find there soon and some of the back story on the menu too.
Will the menu have new dishes, ones from The Summit location or both?
I wanted to do something new with the menu, but everyone wanted their favorites on the menu, too. I will be adding some new things, some healthy dishes and vegetarian options and specials on weekends. I have too many ideas. We will have ramen and momos (dumplings) that are very popular, as well as a variety of sushi and curries. We will be open only for dinner at first, and then after a month or two, we will add lunch on the weekends and maybe a brunch menu on Sundays.
What will the interior look like?
I wanted it to look different. It will have a hint of Nepal, with a modern twist, and a little bit of Alabama. My friends tell me, “Abhi was made in Birmingham, Alabama, so you have to have something from here.” There will also be a sushi bar, but there won’t be bar seats in front of it.
How did growing up in Nepal influence how you cook now in your restaurants?
Back home, my mom was a very good cook and cooked every meal for us, and I learned to cook from her. When I came to Birmingham for school 22 years ago, I missed the food, and no one made it here. So I taught myself to do it. In college, I would cook for myself and experiment with ramen, recreating the food I missed, and my friends would eat it. My wife is still the taste tester. She has been all over Southeast Asia and is from the Philippines, and we have been together 21 years.
How has Birmingham’s palate evolved in your time here?
Twenty years ago, you could hardly get any spices here, so I had to go to Atlanta or New York. Everything has improved in the past 10 years, and now I can get everything I need in Birmingham. I mix spices to make it taste like what I can get in Nepal since I can’t import spices. Now people eat spicier food than me, but they give me credit for educating them on their palate and food.
What’s your favorite thing on your menu?
It always changes and depends on my mood. The Pork Salad was my favorite, but now the Salmon Salad is fresh and makes me feel good. Everybody loves it. Even all my guy friends are talking about it. It has grilled salmon, tomatoes, onions mixed greens, scallions and cilantro, and we make our own vinaigrette with dried Thai chili I smoke and grind up with fish sauce and lime juice. It takes seven days to make it, and it is outstanding.