OK, so I should probably clarify up front that the name of the restaurant is Taste of the Himalayas (TOH) and they have several locations around San Diego. The Carlsbad location is in the center courtyard of the Carlsbad Village shops and definitely has an East Indian look and feel that stands out among the mix of touristy and more mainstream stores and restaurants in the complex.
Their website describes the cuisine as giving us “A glimpse of the inherited culture and tradition of the sub-continent and serve you the exotic flavors and authentic tastes of the finest cuisines from Nepal and India.”
I needed a refresher on the geographic area described, namely the Himalayas which is the mountain range that separates the plains of the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau. The range has some of the highest mountain peaks in the world including Mount Everest but include over 50 mountains over 23,000 feet.
Himalayan cuisine covers all ends of the Himalayan borders and includes a wide variety of flavors and ingredients. It can include Chinese, Nepalese, Indian and Tibetan favorites. Cooked lentil soup (dal) is a staple throughout the region and is brought out prior to our dishes arriving at TOH. It was an unexpected treat and so good. It was more of a pureed variety and some of the best lentil soup I’ve had anywhere. Dal with some fresh baked naan bread with some charred edges is one of those perfect dipping combinations. In fact, most of our dishes were made for dipping and scooping with naan bread so it’s good to keep plenty on hand.
As you may be aware, there is a dumpling craze happening in San Diego at the moment. I encourage you to read Troy Johnson’s recent recap in San Diego Magazine. I’m a huge fan and count the Dumpling Inn on Convoy in San Diego as one of my favorite places anywhere for them. So it was a very nice surprise to be turned on to Himalayan Momos at TOH. They are steamed dumplings with either minced veggies, lamb, chicken or a mix of any of them. We went with the lamb and, oh yeah, they are as good as they look in the photo.
Momos can now be easily found throughout the subcontinent and with obvious Chinese influences they are often compared to the popular Baoxi buns of China and also have much in common with the dumplings of Japan. Regardless, I would highly recommend them.
We also started with the Vegetable Samosa and Sadae Ko Aloo ra Kakara. The Samosa is a delectable deep-fried patties stuffed with spices and the Sadae is a salad with cucumber, potatoes and green beans that are marinated Himalayan style.
Aloo is one of the must have Himalayan foods and perfect for fans of curry. TOH has it in many varieties including one of my favorites Aloo Cauli Ko Tarkari. It combines potatoes and cauliflower with onion and tomato sauce and Himalayan spices.
One of my visits was at lunch where there is a very popular lunch combination special where you can get your choice of a limited selection of two dishes on one plate for $8.95. I found the variety more than enough and did the Chicken Chilly and Chicken Vindaloo combo and had more than enough food. The Chicken Chilly is a simple mix of chicken strips with bell pepper and onion while the Chicken Vindaloo is chicken in a fairly typical curry gravy.
It should be noted that most of the dishes are offered on a heat scale from 1-10. I went with a 5 and could not imagine going much hotter as that packed some heat. That said, my dining companion is a heat seeker and went with 7 which had him in a full on spice sweat, something he enjoys evidently.
Most of your favorite Indian staples are represented including Tandoor and Masala along with dessert favorites like Kheer, the delicious rice pudding. There are plenty of flavorful vegetarian options and the place has always been bustling when I’ve visited which is always a good sign. I’m thinking it’s my new go-to joint for that type of cuisine.