Himalyan Indian cuisine
Review by Ann Thurlow
When the Himalayan opened a few years ago, it was to the delight of lovers of Indian cuisine. But initially the place was spotty, the service slow and the food erratic. Then it suddenly found its groove and became a fun and reliably delicious spot to eat.
So I’m always surprised when I meet someone who hasn’t tried it. I’m afraid that they’re afraid the food will be unfamiliar or too spicy. Allow me, then, to be your spirit guide and to tell you that none of that is true.
For one thing, the sweet and cheerful server will ask you every time whether you like your food mild, medium or hot. Mild is about the spice equivalent of ketchup. And rest assured there’s butter chicken, that gateway dish to Indian food so ubiquitous that it became a potato chip flavour.
So you can tuck in to the bright and cozy room and have that. Or you could be just a little more adventurous and have a peek at the menu. Indian food isn’t just one thing; India is a huge country full of diverse foods. The Himalaya’s chef and owner, Amuj Thapa, is actually from neighbouring Nepal and its cuisine and that of neighbouring Tibet is also featured. In fact, Tibetan Chile Chicken, which comes with sweet red peppers and an addictive sauce, is one of the best things on the menu. Ditto Momo, plump little dumplings stuffed with chicken and vegetables. They’re a popular lunch in Tibet and Nepal and a plateful will cheer a person up on a Canadian winter’s day.
There is also tandoor, which is food that’s marinated and cooked in a tandoori oven. The cooking style concentrates the flavour and tenderizes the meat. A half plate of chicken tandoor is two big pieces of chicken that arrive at your table sizzling and fragrant on a cast iron platter; a full platter with some rice and a vegetable dish on the side, would feed four.
Speaking of which, a vegetarian could eat happily and well here. Indian food generally relies heavily on vegetables. There are vegetable samosas and pakoras, an intriguing looking Kachumbar salad, lentil soup and several meatless mains. And for some reason Aloo Acher—PEI potatoes marinated in sesame and lemon—touches my heart; east meets west in the most delightful way.
There’s also naan, the Indian flatbread that goes with everything. You can get it with garlic, you can get it stuffed with potato, you can get it with mozzarella cheese, which will equal the best grilled cheese you ever had.
Most of all, you’ll just enjoy yourself. The food is interesting and exotic. The room is full of warm, lovely colours. As winter drags on, it’s just the kind of vacation you need.
Himalayan Indian Cuisine is at 39 Eden Street—in the little mall behind Source for Sports. They’re open 11–10 and do take-out.