What the devil are fajitas doing in a Nepalese restaurant? Ample cilantro, onions, charred chicken, tomatoes — sure, the oven’s a tandoor and the tortilla is a big piece of naan, but it’s downright eerie how much Himalayan Restaurant’s chicken choyala ($11.95) resembles a Tex-Mex favorite, even though it’s a case of evolutionary convergence. It’s also downright delectable — the spices are applied in a moist rub that almost recalls Southern BBQ, and the overall impact is simultaneously comforting and stimulatingly new. Portions are generous; one order serves two moderate eaters.
With very little fuss and a relaxed ambiance, the year-old Himalayan is serving up some highly stimulating ethnic eats to a neighborhood crowd — this kind of vegetarian/vegan friendly grub seems like a good match for Seward, which boasts a strong contingent of gastronomically and politically progressive folks.
Himalayan dodges the problem that dogs many Tibetan/Nepalese places — namely, the tendency to serve what tastes like wan retreads of Mughal Indian favorites, minus the lush, deeply spiced sauces that make them so irresistible. Although Himalayan’s cuisine is light on its feet, it feels fresh and distinct, offering some flavor combinations and ingredients (yak dumplings, anybody?) that will surprise all but the most cosmopolitan of palates.
Kataar Aaloo is a dish comprised of jack-fruit buds cooked with potatoes and spices. Never had a jack-fruit bud? It’s well worth the effort — in Himalayan’s capable hands, it comes off as a happy marriage between artichoke hearts, tofu, and bamboo shoots, tender and yielding and light.
Even the more conventional dishes (from an Indian/Chinese buffet standpoint) have surprises to offer. Momo — dumplings — are elegant and dextrous, blessed with a hit of orange and herbal lightness that helps them transcend their often leaden genre. Likewise, the restaurant’s version of chicken tikka masala is different enough from the norm to stand out. Notes of yogurt and fruit dominate, as opposed to cream and tomatoes; this is a chicken tikka masala that chats conversationally as opposed to singing opera.
Himalayan does a daily lunch buffet for $7.75, and while it’s not a bad introduction to what the restaurant has to offer, it suffers the typical shortcomings of its ilk — the food tends to sit, and you miss some of the exotic nooks and crannies of what is a truly thoughtful and creative menu.
Friendly, pretense-free service completes this picture of neighborhood dining at its finest: the Himalayan Restaurant offers locals the opportunity to walk around the block, eat dinner in Nepal, and really enjoy the people they interact with while they’re doing it.
Nepalese in Seward
2401 E Franklin Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55406
OWNER/CHEF: Naveen Shrestha/Sarala Kattel
Tue-Sun 11am-9:30pm (buffet from 11am-2pm)
BAR: Bar + Wine
AVERAGE ENTREE: $11