The Nepali immigrant community in Columbus has grown steadily over the last few years. One happy consequence of this is the potent food cooked at friendly Namaste Indo-Nepali Cuisine, the first Nepali restaurant in Central Ohio.

The Nepali immigrant community in Columbus has grown steadily over the last few years. One happy consequence of this is the potent food cooked at friendly Namaste Indo-Nepali Cuisine, the first Nepali restaurant in Central Ohio.

If you know Namaste as an eatery in the Northland area that opened in 2013 and featured an underwhelming buffet, you should know that Namaste has changed since new management assumed the reins last November. Not only has the buffet been 86ed, but the humble little place has begun cooking much better food.

Namaste, which takes its name from a Hindi salutation, exhibits many Indian influences in its cuisine. That's not surprising when you consider that Nepal - a relatively small country claiming part of Mount Everest and the Himalayan mountain range - is situated on the map much like a state in northeastern India. Flavors from other Nepali neighbors, such as China and the contested region of Tibet, also seep into the cuisine.

These influences permeate Namaste's menu, which features a Nepali-Chinese section and multitudinous Indian-style dishes given Nepali spins. The latter are highlighted by impressive curries skillfully accented by fresh ginger, toasted cumin seeds and cinnamon.

I can sum up the ambience of this bare-bones-but-tidy operation in five syllables: red booths and green walls. Yep, that's about it - but there is beer.

Several large bottlesfrom India are offered (650 ml for $7), such as sweet, strong and malty Haywards 5000. For something crisper, Khukuri - a lager designed to match Nepali food developed by a Nepali expatriate restaurateur who lives and brews in London, England - tastes like a mass-produced American pilsner with lemon and metallic notes and a slightly bitter finish.

Seeking something non-alcoholic? Namaste's mango lassi ($2.79), distinguished by cinnamon and cardamom, is another pleasant foil for the restaurant's spicy fare.

Among Namaste's many chicken dishes, the large Chili Chicken ($8) appetizer is a slam dunk, featuring tender, fire engine-red knobs of tangy, kebab-like meat with a kick tempered by sweet, sautéed onions and peppers.

Fans of steamed Chinese dumplings should target the delightful, hand-rolled Momos (10 for $7.50). They're translucent, thick-ish wrappers enveloping lively fillings of vegetables (cabbage and onion) or zestily seasoned, meatloaf-like ground chicken. On the side: a warm and spicy tomato-based dipping sauce enriched with sesame oil and brightened by ginger.

Prefer something more exotic? The colorful and fiery Chana Sadeko ($5.50) is deservedly popular at Namaste. It's a warm and hearty vegetable salad starring earthy black chickpeas - the less common, more fibrous and chewier cousin to the yellow garbanzo bean - tossed with onions, cilantro, explosive chilies, diced tomato, lime and scallions.

Thukpa ($5), a noodle soup with Tibetan origins, is another dish rarely seen in Columbus. Namaste's simple-but-satisfying vegetarian version offers a light and lightly spicy tomato broth, spaghetti-type pasta, peas, potatoes, cabbage, onions, carrots and cilantro.

Both curries I tried - boneless chicken ($10) and lamb (at $11.50, the priciest menu item) - are terrific. The rich and tangy dark red sauce that flavors big lumps of dark-meat chicken tended to linger in my head like a favorite song on a long walk. It's made with tomatoes, onions, ghee and spices, and cooked for eight hours.

The lean lamb stew meat is well-suited to a lighter sauce, and that's what it had. All curries are served with fluffy basmati rice or buttery naan that is flakier, thinner and crisper than the typical Indian version.

And compelling Indian food with a twist - such as the spicy, creamless Aloo Saag ($8), which is made with celery-textured bitter mustard greens offset by ginger, cumin seed, tomato, bell peppers and comforting potatoes - is reason enough to visit interesting little Namaste.