Himalayan. . . .Just Go Already!

Over the weekend, John and I went to a new restaurant on Franklin and 24th called simply Himalayan. To be honest, we didn’t have great expectations going in.

Our experience with Tibetan and Nepali food in town has been lukewarm at best. There’s Everest on Grand, which is. . . .fine. And there used to be a place on Hennepin Avenue called Tibet’s Corner that had wonderful, haunting music but food that tasted strange, Americanized, ketchup-y, and bland. (It was no surprise to us when it closed.)

Last month — while in Madison, WI, with our son — I ate at a modest but terrific little Nepali cafe called Himal Chuli and mourned the fact that such simple, clean, authentic ethnic fare had not found its way to the Twin Cities.

Well, now it has!

Himalayan is, perhaps, the most Spartan restaurant I’ve been inside in my adult life. There was zero investment in creating ambiance: no beaded curtains or pewter elephants or colored lights. This is a small, white box of a room with windows on only one side. There is a buffet table next to the cash register, a smattering of booths and tables, and a single photo of Mt. Everest on the wall.

Yet, it is comfortable. We chose a booth and settled in. There was a lovely, light scent of lamb and spices coming from the kitchen. We ordered two cups of Masala Chiya (spiced tea with milk) and appetizers.

We liked the Kathmandu Momo with meat ($6 for half a dozen), which were soft and savory. But even better were the Wo: lentil pancakes with ginger and fresh cilantro (a steal at four for $4.50). These reminded me of latkes — only meatier, with flavors from the mountains rather than the steppes.

For our main course, we shared a platter of Choyala with chicken ($11.95), a platter of grilled-to-nearly-blackened meat with peppers, onions, and herbs, and an extra-spicy order of Aaloo Cauli ($9.95): stir-fried potatoes with cauliflower and peas in a rich red sauce. Both were served steaming — which improves a spicy meal ten-fold for me — with white rice. It was a cold, rainy night and this meal was filling and satisfying and hot.

Ours, however, was the only table in the place. And this is tragic.

While Himalayan won’t win any David Shea design awards, it’s exactly what we need in this town to diversify our ethnic food offerings. It’s inexpensive and family-owned, serving the simple, traditional food of a region that gets short shrift. But it’s also in a location (2401 E. Franklin Avenue) that has some sort of curse over it: restaurant after restaurant has failed to make a go in that spot. Don’t let this one be another casualty on the list.

Just go. Now. Shake off that Chipotle habit. Whatever you’re doing, stop, put on your shoes, pick up your wallet, and drive over to Seward with a mind to eat something more interesting and support a local businessman who wants nothing more than to make you a great meal.

Or, you can call: 612-332-0880. Himalayan also does takeout.