Thursday, October 05, 2006

Fresh Flavors and Fine Service at Himalayan Bistro

My sister, who is a discriminating diner, has recently been singing the praises of Himalyan Bistro, a new Indian and Nepali restaurant in West Roxbury. She and her husband love it so much they have been going there several nights a week. With that kind of review, I had to go there myself and find out what was so fantastic about this place. So I ventured out of my normal Cambridge/Boston stomping grounds and hit the road to West Roxbury.

When I walked into the restaurant, I knew this was not your typical Indian restaurant. They definitely went the extra mile designing a soothing, Zen-like space. It's very open. High, saffron-colored wood-beamed ceilings. Warm red and yellow color palette and Himalayan tapestries and photographs hung sparingly throughout the restaurant. Easy to breathe. Good for the digestion.

Our waiter was very friendly and recognized my fellow diners from their frequent visits. We were immediately served some warm, nicely spiced and crispy Papadum (lentil/chickpea flat bread), one of my personal favorites. Great start.

For an appetizer we ordered vegetable Momos, a steamed Napali snack that, according to the menu, are readily available on the streets of Kathmandu as well as in the homes of Nepal. I hate to say it but they were quite a bit better than the ones at Om. They were so fresh! And the dough was very light. We ran into a couple on the street afterwards who were very excited about these Momos. The guy had just moved here from Colorado where he said there was an incredible Nepali restaurant so he was so happy to find a place with great Momos here as well. I promise I did not initiate (and barely participated in) this animated conversation about Momos that took place on the street. I'm not the only one who loves food clearly. Anyway, it's a tribute to Himalayan Bistro's Momos. They're a huge hit.

For dinner, my sister suggested ordering something that was new to me - the Himalayan Dinner Thali, which includes Mulligatawny soup, a choice of 2 vegetarian dishes (a non-vegetarian option is also available), Raita and a choice of dessert. All for a very reasonable $13.95.

The soup was absolutely delicious - rich lentil flavor with a hint of lemon. I haven't had a lot of Mulligatawny soup in my lifetime so I can't compare it to others but definitely no complaints. The two vegetarian dishes we ordered were the Dal Maharani and the Saag Poneer. Dal Maharani consists of slow-cooked black lentils tempered with garlic, ginger, onions, tomatoes and spices. Saag Poneer (which I've also seen spelled Saag Paneer) is a blend of fresh spinach, ginger, onion and cubes of homemade cottage cheese, cooked in light spices. Both of these dishes were above and beyond anything similar I have ever ordered in an Indian restaurant. It just tasted so much fresher - like it's made seconds before it reaches the table. What you must order along with this is some of their Naan so you don't leave any of those delicious sauces behind! They have seven different kinds ranging from onion and garlic to those stuffed with ground lamp or nuts & raisins. This may actually be the first time I've ever ordered a purely vegetarian dinner and it was absolutely delicious. I didn't miss the meat at all. Having lentils, I think, replaces the hankering for meat. It's stick-to-your-ribs kind of food.

My sister and brother-in-law were very concerned that I get a good idea of how all the desserts tasted so they insisted that we order, well, all of them - Gazarko Haluwa (Indian carrot cake), Rasmalai (cottage cheese-like cheese in sweetened milk), Gulab Jamun (basically donut balls in sweet syrup) and Kheer (rice pudding). They also offfer mango and coconut ice cream but you have to draw the line somewhere. My personal favorite was the Gazarko Haluwa - much more carrot-y and a lot less sweet tasting than the American version. For some, it might be an acquired taste but I loved it. The Rasmalai tastes much better than it sounds. The creamy texture of the cheese with the milk is very nice. Only version of this I've had that was better was made by my friend, Preethi. The Gulab Jamun is one of those desserts you feel really guilty eating. Donuts in syrup. Hello. It's a little rich for my blood but a nice treat. I love pretty much any rice pudding and theirs was delicious although I like the Portuguese version better personally because I love the lemon and cinnamon that's added. Overall, again, better than average Indian food across the board. I hope you'll give it a try sometime.

Himalayan Bistro is very easy to find even for a person who is primarily a pedestrian such as myself. Here are some directions for my Boston area friends. It's worth the trip.

From Boston (from Brookline Avenue)
- Get on the Riverway (right near the Best Buy, EMS, Staples shopping area in Fenway).
- Riverway becomes Jamaicaway.
- Jamaicaway becomes Arborway.
- Enter next roundabout and take 1st exit onto Centre St.
- Pass Faulkner Hospital on the right, continue down Centre Street until you reach the rotary.
- Go through the rotary, and take the second right, this is still Centre Street.
- Himalayan Bistro is about 100 yds on the right.

Himalyan Bistro
1735 Centre Street
West Roxbury, MA


Blogger Carol said...

I sooo love this place. The food is consistently excellent and the owner and staff are always warm, friendly and attentive. Anything I've had on the main menu has been fresh and delicious but I return to the Momos and Thali (with Garlic Naan, my personal fav) again and again. Admittedly, I love all the desserts but my current favorite is Rasmalai, the spiced, sweetened milk and the rustic texture of the cheese patties... mmmmm, dreamy! Great thing is though, with so many varied choices, there's a dessert for everybody's taste. Enjoy it with a cup of Himalayan Masala Chiya to end a delicious and relaxing dinner. Oh yeh!

1:04 PM  
Blogger mini-me said...

perfect timing. think i might head there tonight...

4:14 PM  
Anonymous Norman said...

This is my favorite restaurant! I feel great after eating this food, which undoubtedly is made with high quality ingredients, with care, by highly qualified chefs. I love the vegetarian Thali. The lentils are the best I've ever had. In fact, everything is made so well to my liking that I never get tired of it. Even their lunch buffet is great and never tastes like it's been sitting out forever. Also, beautiful atmosphere and wonderful staff!

6:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Momos are of Tibetan origin. Just like many other things, the culture or rather the food momo has spread widely throughout the Himalayan belt. Yes in Nepal, out in the streets, Momos are the best quick meal. Usually Nepalese momos tend to be smaller than the Tibetan ones. It can be prepared with all kinds of stuffings. In the diaspora Tibetan commmunity these days, they have momos stuffed with cottage cheese too but the favourite still remains The meat or beef ones. My favourite is meat and lemon grass stuffings and they are great when the cook manages to leave some juice in the inside. Mmm... yummy

10:18 AM  
Blogger Lynne said...

thanks so much for the insight, anonymous. the meat and lemon grass stuffing sounds amazing. lucky you.

4:58 PM  

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