The opening of Himalayan Kitchen in March marked one more step in the sloooow diversification of Honolulu’s restaurant scene. In the cozy Kaimuki second-floor nook that was once Days of Aloha Cafe (I still miss their tuna sandwiches and homemade guava jam), Himalayan Kitchen serves a menu of Indian and Nepalese food—a first for O‘ahu.
Back in April I walked in, saw a familiar face and blurted, “Hey, didn’t you used to work at Bombay Restaurant?” Owner Suman Basnet said he did—he was one of the original servers when the restaurant opened in 2006. He left there to work in a relative’s restaurant—in Omaha, of all places. Jaipur Brewing Company (!). I wonder if Jun Kaneko eats there.
Basnet has learned well from his mentors, working hard to burnish goodwill when early-days glitches happen, apologizing for dishes that haven’t been completely worked out. He tried to dissuade me from ordering momo, the Nepalese version of shumai, cause he felt they weren’t ready for prime time. (He was right.) But his winning personality makes me want to go back to see how the restaurant progresses.
I’ve been only once so far, and stuck with Nepalese dishes. (When I lived in Switzerland, my Nepalese colleague Devendra Rana would have me over for homecooked dishes such as dal bhat, and I looked forward to tasting them again.) Nepalese food is a product of geography—a mildly spiced hybrid of Indian, Chinese and Tibetan cuisines. Bamboo shoots give texture and an earthy accent to potato curry, and a mixed vegetable dish has a distinct sweet-sour flavor. It’s high-altitude comfort food. So grab some Asian beer from Tamura’s (bummer, they don’t have any Gorkha beer!) and grab one of the outdoor umbrella-covered tables. Basnet says once the restaurant is running smoothly, he wants to make it a real Himalayan Kitchen—by adding Tibetan and Bhutanese dishes to the menu. I look forward to that. Chili cheese curry!
Himalayan Kitchen, 1137 11th Ave between Wai‘alae Ave and Harding (behind Big Shitty Diner), 735-1122 www.himalayan-kitchen.com
Note: I have a crappy camera and didn’t get any good shots of the dishes. I’ll add them after next visit. But who knows when that will be. That’s also when I’ll try the Indian offerings. A former newspaper colleague told me she’s kind of jealous of my blog. I think it’s because I can write things like “crappy camera” and an editor won’t censor it. I could even write the f-word if I wanted! And I don’t have to worry about offending an advertiser or a possible advertiser, then having a sales dweeb from the sales department pressure me about doing a fictional re-review. Newspapers say they don’t let advertising affect editorial, but it is not true. OK, I said it! And for those of you who still don’t know, those special dining sections with the ukubillion ads—that is advertorial. They are part of the advertising department, not editorial. Those run-of-the-mill restaurants on the cover pay for the coverage. Shock horror!