A Taste Of The Himalayas
Wednesday - September 30, 2009
The only reason I feel qualified to write about Indian food with some knowledge is because I grew up in Scotland, where curries, chapattis and pakora are as familiar as haggis and deep-fried sausages. But when I heard that the latest restaurant on the Honolulu dining scene is one that serves food from Nepal, I thought it time to call in the help of an expert.
Prestine Padon, a stylist at the Paul Brown Salon at Ward Center, lived in India for 10 years and loves the country. She’s also a talented and passionate cook, making her the perfect companion for lunch at Himalayan Kitchen.
Upstairs at the site formerly occupied by A Taste of New York Deli in Kaimuki, in a small room with lanai seating front and back, the simple décor and burnt sienna colors of this charming restaurant make for an immediately warm ambience.
“Well, it smells great,” said Prestine as we sat down and inhaled the intoxicating aromas of spices and tandoor cooking.
The menu, at first glance, has much in common with Indian restaurants. Breads are featured prominently on the first page - everything from naan (soft, fluffy, white leavened bread), to poori (deep fried whole wheat flat bread) and paratha (slightly salty, buttered whole wheat bread). Nepali variations are listed too. At lunch there are a number of specials including Chicken Tikka Salad ($8.95), a Boka (ground lamb) Kabob Wrap ($9.95) and a selection of Himalayan thalis.
In a thali there’s usually a vegetarian dish, a meat or two, dahl, rice and naan bread,” said Prestine as we ordered from the choices of chicken, lamb and combination plates. The thalis are definitely the way to go if you’re new to Indian food; they come with a choice of vegetables and provide an easy map for the road ahead. The chicken was fabulous - tender, not overcooked, lots of subtle flavor and enough of a portion size to share. Side dishes are equally impressive. Do ask for spicy, if you like a bit of heat as all dishes are served mildly spiced.
The dinner menu has a host of dishes I know I’ll be back to try, including specialties cooked in a tandoor oven. The Himalayan influence can be seen in subtle variations on the theme, but there are enough truly Nepali dishes, such as the combination of bamboo shoots, potatoes and black eyed peas that make up the Aloo Tama Bodi, and the Chicken Chow Chow (Chinese food influences Nepali cooking) to have the curious diner seeking more. We smiled at the spelling mistake that lists “cheek peas” as an ingredient in the Chana Aloo (a combination of chick peas, potatoes and tomatoes with spices), just one of the many small things that give the restaurant its distinct charm.
Himalayan Kitchen is owned by a young couple originally from Nepal, braving the economic climate to begin their dream. Suman and Rebecca Basnet are welcoming, attentive and willing to explain every dish to interested customers. You can’t help but wish them well. They are charming and sincere and are already attracting the word-of-mouth foodie crowd.
I found the entire Himalayan Kitchen experience a delight, and can’t wait to go back again. Prestine agreed. “This is very close to the Indian food that I know,” she said. “I’ll be back.”
Here’s some advice when you go: The restaurant is small and a family run operation, so don’t expect five-star service. Do call and make a reservation - you’ll do yourself a favor letting them know to expect you. It’s BYOB, and there’s no cork-age fee.
1137 11th Ave.
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