About five years ago, we crowned Himalayan’s lunch buffet our favorite in the Twin Cities. Ever since, we’ve been faithful lunchtime regulars. But recently, we’ve begun to cheat on our beloved … with its sister restaurant! Scandalous, we know.
Last spring, Himalayan opened a location in Dinkytown, with a Chipotle-style format. Like other local independents — Moroccan Flavors, Catrina’s Cerveza and Grill, Pimento, World Street Kitchen, PinKU, and One Two Three Sushi — Himalayan is targeting diners who want customized, quick, quality food. It is an ideal format for weekday lunch — perhaps even more ideal than a buffet for workers denied the digestive benefits of a post-meal siesta.
The concept is simple: Choose bowl or roll, main, accompaniments, and sauce. There are enough options to keep things interesting and to appeal to customers with varied tastes and dietary restrictions. The bowl comes with white, brown, or yellow rice, the last flavored with turmeric and saffron. We strongly recommend the yellow option. For the roll, diners select between roti, pita, and naan. Yes, you’re reading that correctly: A frickin’ Nepalese / Tibetan / Indian naan or roti (forget the pita) burrito!
Himalayan sticks with classic mains. There’s a solid mix of vegetarian (Chana Masala, Palak Paneer, and Tofu Choyala) and meat (Chicken Tikka Masala and Chicken or Lamb Choyala) options. All three mains we sampled (Palak Paneer, Chicken Choyala, and Lamb Choyala) were excellent. As we’ve come to expect from Himalayan, the food is flavorful, well-balanced, and not the least bit greasy.
The accompaniments and sauces take the bowls and rolls from good to excellent. The “pickle salad” (tomato, cucumber, celery, and onion) and tabbouleh offer a zingy boost while cutting the richness of the mains. Large cubes of feta and briny kalamata olives are great with Choyala, and a thin layer of hummus is a nice addition to the rolls. As regulars of the original Himalayan can attest, the house sauces are dynamite. We especially enjoyed tahini mint with Lamb Choyala, and the luscious tomato chutney paired well with Palak Paneer and yellow rice.
Pricing should keep the newest Himalayan competitive. The bowls and rolls range from $6.50 (Chana Masala, Tofu Choyala) to $8.75 (Lamb Choyala); the other options are $6.95. Specialty accompaniments — hummus, feta, tabbouleh, and olives — are 75 cents each. Faced with a choice between similarly priced alternatives like Chipotle, Noodles and Company, or Panera, we’ll take Himalayan’s food every time. But the new kid on the block will have to share our affection with its older sibling, especially on lazy nap days.
Casual Tibetan, Nepalese, and Indian in Dinkytown
1415 4th St SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes
ENTREE RANGE: $6.50-$8.95
NOISE LEVEL: Moderate
HOURS: Daily 11 a.m.-11 p.m.