by Clifton Tolboe
With the recent onslaught of new restaurants opening downtown, there seems to be an endless variety to all the different types of ethnic food that can be had within a short three block radius of the Lab. Everything from Thai cuisine at the Thai Lotus, to homemade pasta at Michelangelo’s, to Spanish tapas at Martine’s can all be had through a short jaunt on foot. Many times recently though, perhaps due to all the commotion in the area, we have found ourselves venturing northward ho in search of adventurous cuisines- sometimes to the lack of our amusement and taste buds (see: The Other Place). Knowing this we set about finding time to visit some of the newly minted Salt Lake City ethnic restaurant classics and yesterday gave us our first chance to revisit one of our favorites for regional Indian and Nepali food- Himalayan Kitchen.
Any visit to Himalayan Kitchen begins with a cheerful visit from the super-efficient staff. Personally, I have been to this restaurant over 20 times and have never had anything less than supper quick (especially for a restaurants serving Indian food) friendly and efficient service. We began our meal with two order of the tandoori oven fired bread otherwise known as naan. The naan comes in both garlic and plain variety but I tend to prefer the plain (although others in my own group would differ) to the garlic simply because of the fact that the garlic has a tendency to burn and become bitter. Another awesome bread from the tandoori that we did not enjoy this time around but which is known to be done expertly by Himalayan is the paratha. Paratha is butter layered whole wheat flat bread and is ever so flaky, crunchy and delicious. For appetizers we decided to start with the somosa which are green peas, minced lamb and spices wrapped in homemade pastry dough and deep-fried to golden perfection and also the vegetable pakora Seasoned mixed vegetable and chick pea flour fritters deep fried and served with tamarind sauce. It’s spicy, tangy, sour and oh so delicious.
One thing that you may want to pay attention to when dining at Himalayan is the tendency to over order easily as the food comes in enormous portions! Taking no regard to this however, the Lab group seemed perfectly content to carry many boxes of takeout homeward so onward we ordered! Lamb tikka masala, one of this authors favorites and served with spicy boneless lamb barbecued in tandoor oven, then cooked with onions, tomatoes, cream and spices is one of the best versions around! Another voted table winner was the chicken coconut kurma which is boneless chicken cooked with coconut milk, tomatoes, onions, cashew nuts and spices and provides a nice sweet counter punch to the fiery nature of many of the dishes at Himalayan kitchen. One dish that we ordered this time that we did not find particularly appealing was a rice dish called chicken birayani. The biryani usually has rice that is light and fluffy and packed with flavor but this time around seemed lifeless and bland. I suspect that the rice, which is usually cooked in homemade chicken broth to enhance its’ flavor and texture was simply cooked in water thus giving it the bland taste. Hopefully this was simply due to running out of stock as I have ordered the biryani many times before with excellent results.
Himalayan Kitchen is open 7 days a week from 11:00 am to 2:30 pm for its outstanding lunch buffet and from 2:30 to 10:00 pm for the nightly dinner seating. The restaurant in owned by Surya & Carmen Bastakoti and serves variations on Indian, Nepali and some Chinese cuisines. The restaurant is loud, but family friendly and serves a full beer and wine menu. The food is also available in generous portions for takeout- something we will definitely be ordering to the Lab for dinner when we have another late night.