The description printed on the menu at Himalayas Aroma of India is, “A fine dining experience where earth and sky meet.”
It’s a notion that bravely ignores the fact that the place is tucked between I-35 Bingo and an empty, available storefront in a suburban strip mall where the tenant mix is rounded out with a Western wear outlet store. But Himalayas seeks to transport diners to India.
The real culture clash was revealed by a menu on which vegan and vegetarian plates outnumber those with meat.
A test of any culture’s culinary repertoire is if you could be tempted to make an entire meal of its bread alone. France and Italy, I’m looking at you.
There are nine different breads, or naan, on the menu. Pan-fried naan stuffed with caramelized onions or filled with dried fruits and nuts are among the varieties. Hot naan dripping with honey was among the evening’s best tastes.
Himalayas features both a lunch and a dinner buffet ($8.95 and $10.95 on weekdays, a little more on weekends) along with a full menu. There are around 30 choices on the buffet.
Most dishes familiar in American- Indian restaurants, such as chicken tika masala, beef korma and chicken biryani, are on the buffet. What shouldn’t be overlooked are the small chutneys and obscure dishes that show off the chef’s regional or ethnic background.
Inspired lemon-pickle chutney was a revelation of citric intensity. Pineapple halwa and tamarind and tomato soup were also full of bright personality. Southern India’s cabbage poriyal spiked with coconut, shallots and black mustard seed was truly fit for a Raj.
The menu featuring eggplant baingan bhurtha ($9.95) and veggie dumpling makhni kofta ($10.95) also reveals pizza served with French fries ($4.95) and chicken nuggets ($4.95).
Although Himalayas’ chefs are champs with the rice, lentils and spinach dishes, they’re also no slouches preparing food with a face. Chicken in various spicy gravies are winners in particular. The tandoori chicken with its peculiar brick-red color appeared to be overbaked to dryness but turned out to be moist and flavorful. Chicken biryani, the old war hen at any American-Indian joint, was boldly flavored with ginger and cumin.
Dessert includes unadorned fresh fruit and cardamom-flavored vermicelli pudding with the best being creamy mango custard.