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Review of The Himalayan (Nepalese Cuisine)

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Summary: A great date place / family restaurant for those looking to try a fusion of Indian/Chinese cuisines, friendly service, and more importantly, good food.

Calgary has a dearth of Nepalese cuisine, so when Kent found a Groupon for this restaurant, it was a no-brainer.The Himalayan is tucked away in a tiny strip mall in the west end of 17th Ave, but don’t let the location and outer facade fool you. It felt like we had stepped into another world as soon as we had walked in – the interior is in complete contrast to the exterior. The owners have clearly put a lot of thought and effort into tastefully decorating the place. The mood lighting, in addition to enhancing the ambiance, accentuates the Nepalese inspired artwork on the walls. Definitely a great date place, if you don’t mind the families.

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Upon seating, we were immediately greeted by our very friendly server. While shooting the shit with him, we found out out that his father was a former part-owner of the other Nepalese restaurant in town: Everest Kitchen. However, due to irreconcilable differences, they had decided to part ways. It will be interesting to cover Everest Kitchen as part of our next outing and compare the differences between the two establishments.

Nepali cuisine is a very interesting mix of Indian/Chinese fare and is reflective of Nepal’s geographic location nestled between the two Asian giants. The intermingling of these two ancient cuisines is clearly evident in their offerings and reminded me of Hakka cuisine, which is Indian/Chinese cuisine hailing from the East Bengal region of India. Our server, being related to the owners, was very knowledgeable about the menu and was able to steer us through the vast offerings.

Kent and I didn’t order anything to drink but decided to get the mouth-watering momos ($6) as appetizers (while waiting for the perennially late Richard). The latter are a traditional Nepali dumpling made from a mixture of vegetables, mozzarella cheese, and “Himalayan spices and herbs” all wrapped and steamed in shell made from flour dough. That is a lot of words to describe a delicious little appetizer – I could eat this sh*t all day and not feel satiated. The outer shell was moist but not too sticky. The vegetable filling was delicious but a tad salty. The tomato sauce was milder than I would have liked as the momo filling definitely overwhelmed the sauce. Overall though, highly recommended. Definitely, a “must try.’

I ordered the Himalayan Roasted Eggplant ($13) tarkari as my main course. Tarkari, of course, is the Nepali version of curry, but not as liquid-y. Richard ordered a thuk-pa and Kent went with an old standby dish, dal (lentils).The tarkari dishes came with a side of naan and rice. Our dishes took a long time to arrive so we were comp’d with a side of papad served with sweet yogurt and mango dipping sauces. The sauces were sweet and tangy and provided a great contrast to the savoury papad.

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Kiran’s Thoughts

Given the vastness of the vegetarian offerings at The Himalayan, I was hard-pressed to select just one dish to order. Now I know what most people feel like when they go to a restaurant. Ordering something off a menu is typically a simple affair for me, given that I usually have only one or two options. I was sorely tempted to order something I knew would taste good, but in the interests of expanding my mind and palate, decided to go with the roasted eggplant tarkari. It turned out to be not such a good call. The dish was flavourful with a sweet and sour finish, but in general, too salty. The eggplant was also unevenly cooked as some pieces were tough when chewing. The salad accompaniment was just a filler with the ingredients not being very fresh. In fact, I seem to have been so disappointed with this dish that I didn’t even bother to take any photos.

The dal, on the other hand, was an excellent call on Kent’s part. It was a perfect dish for a cold, rainy day like it was that particular evening. It was perfectly spiced, with just the right amount of salt and spices. You could tell it was clearly home-made from a family recipe. The combination of dal and naan, although not typical, was what I needed on that cold, clammy day.

The Himalayan didn’t seem to have much in the offering for desserts, but Kent and I decided to go with server-recommended cassava root cake. This turned out to be a delicious choice. The cake itself had the texture of oatmeal, but was spongy like, well, sponge cake. The drizzle of chocolate and raspberry sauces only served to enhance the dish overall. My only complaint was it was a bit too small: Kent and I managed to destroy the dish in two seconds. But it was worth it.

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Richard’s Ruminations

Namaste, b*tches. I wasn’t too sure what to expect from their place after seeing the questionable aesthetics of their website,(yeah, it’s pretty fucking terrible; crashed my browser once – Kiran) but it turned out to be quite a pleasant venue. After ordering drinks, I perused the menu looking to see if they served yak. Sadly (or happily?) no, but they did offer quite a large variety of Nepali dishes, including several with shrimp (which I found slightly amusing considering Nepal is rather landlocked). I had originally intended to try the mis-mas rice (a mixture of rice, saffron, raisins, and meat), however the waiter rather vehemently turned me away from it, stating that they were working on removing that from the menu (yikes!). Instead, I settled for a mutton thuk-pa, a noodle soup with carrots, cabbage, parsley, onions, chilli, and small chunks of mutton.

Mutton Thuk-paThe starters were pretty good in general, with the papad standing out in my mind as being particularly tantalizing. To me, it tasted like a mix of Indian-style lentil crackers and Chinese-style fried puffed-rice crackers. My main course (thuk-pa) was simple but decent, though the flavours/textures evoked thoughts of cheaper fare – the meat reminded me of cha siew (Chinese BBQ pork) and the vegetables in the soup made me think of instant-noodle ramen packs (though I imagine the vegetables in this soup were actually fresh and not reconstituted from dehydrated husks Winking smile). I also had a pineapple-coconut juice, which is a tropical-paradise-dream of a drink – I would definitely recommend this drink, and I’m not even much of a fan of coconut.

I was greatly impressed with the service and speed that the food came out, though we did arrive before it really got busy -  I’m not sure if they would have been quite as attentive with twice the crowd.

Kent’s Two Cents

I really enjoyed the Himalayan, and its a shame there aren’t more of these Nepali restaurants in the city. The service is exceptional in this family run restaurant, mostly staffed by native Nepali who can explain what’s on the menu. Ever since eating dal bhat (lentils & rice) everyday for a month in Nepal, I have considered it to be healthy and hearty comfort food. The Himalayan makes a good dal, but it wasn’t what I originally expected. Its consistency is on the watery side like a soup. I always thought it was supposed to be like a stew or porridge. Not really a bad thing, it still tasted great. Now if only I could make this stuff properly at home.

Summary

I am glad to see another ethnic eatery getting its sh*t together and share its culinary offerings with the rest of Calgary. Although I was disappointed with my own dish, I really enjoyed the two vegetarian options that Kent had ordered. There are far too many options to choose from to visit this place only once. Although this is contrary to my own personal philosophy, the Himalayan might just be the one place that I could see myself visiting again. The friendly and knowledgeable server also helped. In short, this is a great date or family outing place that shouldn’t be missed.

Peace out.

-Kiran

Ranking

  Kiran Kent Richard
Ambiance 4.5/6 5/6 5/6
Service 4.5/6 5/6 5.5/6
Plating 4/6 4.5/6 5/6
Authenticity 6/6 5.5/6 5/6
Taste 5/6 5.5/6 4.5/6
Value 5/6 4.5/6 4/6
Overall 29/36 = 80.5% 30/36 = 83.3% 29/36 = 80.5%

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