Himalayan Bistro Spices Up West Roxbury
Boston's first Nepali restaurant is closer than you think.
Overview: Himalayan Bistro, nestled between Thai Basil and The Upper Crust on West Roxbury’s Centre Street, is the first Nepali restaurant in the greater Boston area. The chef, Dammar Thapa, serves Indian cuisine as well as signature dishes from his native Nepal. While similar, the two cultures boast dishes that are distinctly, if subtly, different in both flavor and preparation.
Atmosphere: The restaurant comfortably seats patrons in private booths lining the walls or open central seating in a spacing dining room with high ceilings. A string of Tibetan prayer flags hangs over the entrance/exit and Himalayan artwork boasting images of Hindu deities adorns the walls. The music, while ‘ethnic,’ sounds more like Spanish guitar than Hindustani sitar. Comfortable, low-key and somewhat dimly lit, Himalayan Bistro provides an environment suitable for a private dinner for two or a larger, more animated dinner party.
Drinks: Himalayan Bistro offers several domestic and international bottled beers and a variety of wines, as well as soft drinks, teas and fruit shakes. Indian beers include Flying Horse and Taj Mahal (both $6.95). Budweiser, Singha (Thailand), Buckler (non-alcoholic), Magners cider (Ireland) and a handful of others are all available for $4.25. A wine list offers red, white and sparkling options by the glass ($5-$9) or bottle ($19-36). Pistachio and piña colada shakes as well as a Himalayan slushie (another version of a fruity milkshake) provide tasty, exotic beverage alternatives.
Appetizers: The lengthy menu offers a plethora of small dishes from both India and Nepal. The chef’s appetizer specialty is the vegetable momo, which is a Nepali steamed dumpling (8 for $9.95). They are also available in chicken ($10.95) and lamb ($11.95). Other starters include mulligatawny soup (an Indian lentil soup made with lemon, $2.95); vegetarian and meat samosas (crispy turnovers stuffed with potato and peas, $3.50; or ground lamb, $3.95); and aloo ko achar (diced potatoes spiced with sesame paste and Nepalase spices, $3.95). Diners can choose from an array of breads, as well. They include seven different types of nan, ($2.95-4.50), Tandoori roti (whole wheat bread cooked over charcoal, $2.50) and poori (crispy, deep-fried puffy bread, $3.50).
Entrées: Meat, seafood and vegetarian dishes abound on both the Nepali and Indian menu, although with more concentration on the latter. The standard Indian kebab, curry, korma (cream or yogurt-based), paneer (cheese curds/cottage cheese), saag (spinach), dosa (crispy crêpe) and aloo (potato) dishes (all served with basmati rice) are ubiquitous. Lesser known entrées include the Nepali quanti (bean stew with Ajwan seeds, $11.50), rayo ko saag (mustard leaves with dried chili and whole cumin seeds, $11.50), and aloo simi (Nepalese-style potatoes and string beans, $12.50). Spiciness levels are tailored to taste and the waitstaff courteously asks before orders are placed.
Desserts: Several Himalayan sweet treats are available to top off a hearty meal. They include Kheer (homemade rice pudding, flavored with cardamom and nuts, $2.95), gazarko ko haluwa (minced carrot cake with sweetened milk, $2.95) and gulab jamun (lightly fried pastry ball from northern India, $2.95). Ice cream and sorbet comes in several flavors (including mango, pistachio and ginger, $2.95). Also, lassis (yogurt drinks sweetened with honey and sugar) are available in plain, sweet, mango and salty flavors ($1.95).
Service: The overall experience is authentic, as all of the employees are Indian or Nepalese. The staff are competent and knowledgeable, asking about spiciness level preference and promptly answering questions about the cuisine. The slight delays in service came as a surprise, given the sparse Monday night dinner crowd. I waited longer than expected, but not extensively, for both the appetizer and entrée. I wasn’t in a hurry, though, and the extra time allowed me to kick back and relax to the tunes of the Spanish guitar.
Contact: 1735 Centre Street, West Roxbury
Chef: Damman Thapa