June 15th, 2011

Himalaya Restaurant: Don’t Go Naanless Anymore

In 5 Words: Naan, Tandoori, Kofta, Chargha, Vibrant

There’s a standard script that drones out every Sunday afternoon around my house.

Me: Where are we going for lunch?
Husband: I don’t know. You want to get Indian?
Me: No. I was thinking Mexican. (or) No. I was thinking Burgers. (or) No. I was thinking Vietnamese.

I have an endless supply of alternative suggestions, but the prefix is always the same. “No” to Indian. And that patient man of mine inevitably forgoes his favorite food genre time after time, having resigned himself to a naanless ever after with me.

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But we recently underwent a massive re-write.

Me: Where are we going for lunch?
Husband: I don’t know. You want to get Indian?
Me: Sure.
Husband: Huh?
Me: Yeah. Let’s get Indian food.

I was finally ready to let go of my long-held bias against Indian cuisine. Or, maybe, I was just feeling generous or guilty after years of letting my husband sacrifice his desires on the altar of my culinary pickiness. Apparently uninterested in the motivations behind my sudden change of heart, he sped down 59 toward Himalaya before I could change my mind, muttering to himself about Tandoori and grinning the whole way.

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Himalaya is tucked into a nondescript shopping strip off the Southwest freeway, not far from the faux designer handbag troves of Harwin. With an unexceptional exterior and several competing Indian restaurants flanking it, this place is unlikely to be stumbled upon by any means other than pure luck, process of elimination or a word-of-mouth recommendation. For me, it was the latter. It was high time to see what all this Himalaya fuss was about.

The interior was bright, with sherbet and lemon coated walls, a mural depicting a vibrant market scene, and framed clippings of the restaurant’s good press. There were a lot of those. Good sign. A friendly server let us take our pick of the tables before handing us our menus. Relief washed over me as I found tidy descriptions beneath each of the unrecognizable dishes, some complete with helpful fun facts. I settled on the Malai Kofta ($10.25), vegetable dumplings in a buttery sauce that was “prepared in the same way as in Taj, India.” Hmm. Good to know.

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Owner and chef Kaiser Lashkari was making his rounds to the occupied tables, offering helpful suggestions regarding how the guys sitting in the back should best enjoy their Dal Gosht (goat curry, I think) and informing obvious newbies (such as my husband and myself) about Himalaya’s BYOB policy. “Bring your wine, next time.” More of a command than a suggestion, really. But good news, nonetheless. I had previously heard about some alleged pushiness in the Himalaya staff, but I can’t see how anyone objects to people passionate enough about the food they serve to actively make recommendations and constantly check in on patrons’ beverage and satisfaction levels. What some call pushy, I call damn good service.

Our table was soon covered with heaping plates of colorful mystery as the waiter delivered our orders. My husband managed to keep the whining to a minimum while I hoarded the dishes and took my obligatory food porn pics. “Okay,” I put away my camera. “Dig in.” The next few minutes consisted of me mumbling sweet-nothing clichés of “Where have you been all my life” and “Why didn’t we do this a long time ago” at the graceful flavors of the food. My vegetable dumplings were little balls of stuffed, savory goodness, sunken in a rich sauce with just the right amount of spiciness. The garlic naan and basmati rice were light and flavorful, offering a perfect balance for the spice of the entrées. My husband’s Chicken Chargha ($11.25) was literally seasoned to the bone, juicy, kicky and… certainly plentiful. Enough for two, and then some. We managed to make a respectable dent in most of the mounds of food; I managed to completely polish off my Malai Kofta, washing it down with a shot of my pride as my husband asked me, “I was right, huh? You’ve just been eating the wrong kinds of Indian food. You liked this, right? Right?” I played it cool, shrugged it off and took the waiter up on his desert suggestion.

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Labeled “Almond Custard” ($5) on the menu, Himalaya’s signature desert is what would happen if Mexican flan and French crème brulee got together and had a baby. Somehow managing to be both caramelized and soft at the same time, this little gem is just the right amount of sweet after so much spice. A picture of this Almond Custard would be nice, I know. But it’s an elusive little dish that somehow vanished before the thought of documentation even crossed my mind. Sneaky little custard.

My husband offered me a told-you-so smirk as we gathered up our neatly bagged leftovers and headed out. We could both sense that Indian food was officially back on our Sunday lunch options list, and probably somewhere very near the top. To Himalaya and to my husband, after many years of enduring my avoidance and bad attitude regarding all things curry, I offer you my rarest declaration: (deep breath) “You were right. And I was wrong.”

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Where – 6652 Southwest Freeway, Houston, TX 77074
What – Cuisine of India & Pakistan
Wear – Whatever. Just bring your wine.
How much – $9 to $14 for a generous entrée. Bring friends or clear fridge space for leftovers.
Hours – Tues-Thurs: 11.30 AM to 11.00 PM; Fri-Sun 11.00 AM to 12:00 PM; Closed on Mon.

— Kerri

Comments

Alain Harvey — Wednesday, April 23, 2014 11:08 pm

Repeat offender Himalaya made the local news again recently because of rodent droppings, food being stored at improper temperature, equipment and utensils being stored in unclean conditions, and other unclean kitchen conditions. Two of the six violations were repeat violations. See the Health Department’s full report online dated February 12, 2014.

This establishment is a pit. The food is actually below average, there is zero ambience, poor service, inflated bills and an abusive, arrogant owner. Run, don’t walk to a better establishment. You have been warned. Do your research before deciding for yourself.

http://www.click2houston.com/news/money/restaurant-report-card-roaches-rodents-leftover-rice/24584574

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