Nepalese, Indian & Tibetan Restaurant
“Namaste.” A greeting given to you as you walk through the front door of the restaurant Himalayan Cuisine in La Mesa, meaning, “I bow to the divine in you.” Since opening in 2007 by husband and wife team Khem and Hema Kharel it has become one of the most popular ethnic restaurants in La Mesa, and even San Diego.
My introduction to the Himalayan Cuisine restaurant was a couple of weeks ago at the “Taste of La Mesa.” This event is one of the many neighborhood events around San Diego that bring together restaurants to showcase their food and allow the people of the community to experience what is available to them in their own neighborhood.
The Himalayan restaurant table at the event was impressive. Although he was placed in the very back corner of the room, he had the longest line. People were raving. After waiting about 15 minutes myself I understood why. The flavors were amazing. As I reached the front of the line Khem was explaining the differences between Nepalese, Indian, Tibetan cuisines, and how the main difference between them all was that Nepalese cuisine was healthier and lighter, using less fat, cream, and butter, incorporating more herbs and spices that not only flavored the dishes but also promoted good health. It was at that point I felt I needed to, and wanted to encourage as many people as I could to go to Himalayan Cuisine and experience what I had briefly.
I thought this was a good opportunity to take my wife, as always, and two young kids to experience a different culture through food. Especially my children, as I always want them to be adventurous and open to new and different things.
A familiar face greeted us at our table, it was Khem. He smiled from ear to ear and welcomed us to his restaurant. His enthusiasm was palpable, gracious, knowledgeable and helpful with recommendations from the extensive menu.
Complimentary Himalayan Daal Soup, presented to each guest as a precursor to the meal is a traditional lentil based soup seasoned with garlic, ginger, cumin seeds, coriander, Nepalese black salt and parsley. Well rounded subtle flavors combine to create this wonderful beginning to what was to come.
No. 14 on the menu: Kukhura Ko Momo. Made to order, these steamed dumplings are filled with minced chicken, onions, cilantro and spices. Moist and flavorful, the chicken is encased in a thin, chewy casing that bursts as you take the first bite, the juice and spices sealed inside the dumpling coat your tongue leaving you wanting more. Served with Momo Sauce; an earthy roasted tomato sauce seasoned with garlic, ginger, coriander, and turmeric. These dumplings, although taking about 20 minutes to prepare, are worth the wait.
No. 26 on the menu: Tama Ra Bodi. This is a typical Nepalese curry (Tarkari), lighter than the Indian version, so do not expect any coconut milk in this dish. The vegetables were cooked in and coated with a generous amount traditional Nepalese curry spices and served with fragrant, floral Basmati rice. The curry spices in this dish were so pronounced that the lack of coconut milk was not missed.
No. 60 on the menu: Mixed Tandoori. Chicken, lamb, and shrimp marinated according to ancient tradition in garam masala, garlic, ginger, cumin, cayenne pepper, and turmeric cooked in a Tandoor oven; a cylindrical live-fire clay oven that can reach temperatures of up to 900 degrees Ferinheight. This dish has a bit of everything. Colorful and flavorful. You will enjoy this or any of the other seven choices of Tandoori items on the menu.
The most impressive item on our table, Mixed Pickle. Spicy, pungent, salty, fragrant, and grainy. A combination of mango, carrot, bell peppers, vinegar and spices. I’ve never been sucker punched but this is what I imagine it would be like. It is so strong that you only need a little at a time. I liked it best spooned onto a piece naan, a traditional flatbread. The naan mellowed some of the stronger flavors of the pickle but did not take anything away from the delicious flavor. I asked for seconds.
It is my duty as a writer to get people out of their comfort zone and try new and exciting food and restaurants that they may not have thought of before. I know you will be amazed and stunned at what you have been missing and gain the confidence within yourself to venture out and experience new things. I encourage you to expand your exposure to ethnic restaurants to learn about other cultures and the unique flavors and contributions they make to the culinary world.
Located at 7918 El Cajon Blvd. in La Mesa. The prices range from $4.75-$19.95. Open for lunch and dinner. If you want to visit them online: www.himilayancuisineone.com.