Okay I am going to get straight to the point, what is the general consensus on Indian food? Like it? Don't like it? Personally I consider Indian food one of the most satisfying cuisines available, not because the dishes are rich with spices or the naan bread is freshly made and warm to the touch when it comes to the table. Even though those are very valid reasons to love Indian food, one of the most inviting aspects of the Indian cuisine is how homey the dishes are, perfect for when fall sets in, the scarves come out, and the colds need to be kicked in the bud with spicy foods.
In a strip mall off Midway lays a small family run establishment that serves belly-warming curries, stir fried dishes with spices, and the popular masalas with any protein. Entering from the crisp cold air outside, warmth envelops each patron, dissipating the chill and filling the air with the flavors of the Himalayas as the name of the restaurant suggests. Taste of the Himalayas fills a small space that probably seats 20 people comfortably, but the small wiggle room does nothing to detract from the comfort that the room emanates. Because the restaurant is so small, there is no hiding the spices that make up each dish or the mouth-watering scents being crafted beyond the rich burgundy curtains leading to the kitchen. If one ever wants to take a journey to the Indies, this place should be the first stop so to as prepare you for the artfully crafted homemade food that makes up a beautifully complex culture.
The first stop on any culinary journey is the drinks, but unlike most restaurants in the US and in Europe, the most popular beverages at Indian restaurants are lassis, yogurt-based drinks that are sometimes mixed with fruit, or warm tea. The lassis are a perfect drink to offset the spiciness of some dishes, while adding a different set of spices, like cumin or cinnamon, to the palate. If anything can be said of Indian cuisine, there is no lack of flavor as everything is made with some spice combination that draws people in salivating for just one taste. Some of the most popular dishes that the majority of people know are the masalas, in particular chicken tikka masala; roasted chunks of chicken are stir fried in a creamy and spicy sauce that is typically orange in color. Other favorites are the tandoori dishes, which are any type of protein: chicken, lamb, fish, etc., marinated in yogurt and spices then baked in the tandoor oven and served sizzling with assorted vegetables. Dishes such as Tofu Saag, a spinach based stir fry dish, are also very good as well and incorporate a different set of flavors, although it is important to note that the spice level of the dish is determined upon ordering; no dish is one set spice level, so the choice is up to the patron.
While the main dishes are delicious, the star of Indian cuisine is naan bread, traditionally baked bread in the tandoor oven. The flavor of this bread is almost indescribable in its simplicity, as the richness of flavor it seems comes from the expertise in making it and the warmth of the thin pieces when it arrives at the table. Plain naan is delicious, but at Taste of the Himalayas I would highly suggest the garlic version, which adds a bit more depth to every bite when combined with one’s main dish. The naans are available as a side dish, but ordering it on the side isn’t necessary unless you want more to take home, because each entrée comes with either basmati rice or plain naan. So then the debate becomes rice or naan: a word of advice, get both and enjoy the nuances of flavor that come forth with each bite when either side is combined with the spiciness of your main dishes’ sauce.
Another inside secret, don’t bother ordering a soup because after putting in the main dish order, a waiter will bring you a cup of the house lentil soup. An bonus before dinner and a chance to experience the cuisine of a country and culture you may never get to visit, so enjoy the experience and eat a spicy bowl of tikka masala. That cold you got last week will be gone before you decide what to get next time!