To sample the colorful cuisines of Nepal, India and Tibet, you can head due west for about 7,000 miles and climb another mile straight up, or you can simply drive into Bergen Park for an elevating repast at Cuisine of Himalaya.
Located in the Bergen Village Shopping Center across the patio from Camp Grounds Coffee, the Far Eastern-flavored eatery opened last week. It reflects the decades of culinary experience possessed by Nepali brothers Khagendra and Yubraj Gurung. Both men come from a long line of Himalayan chefs, and both spent the last several years perfecting their craft at Nederland’s popular Katmandu restaurant under the expert guidance of their sister, Resham.
“My sister’s restaurant is a family business, and Cuisine of Himalaya will also be a family business,” says Khagendra, an earnest young man with an easy smile and a warm, natural candor. His English is excellent but thickly spiced with the musical pronunciations of his distant homeland. “Much of the menu will be the same. We will have foods of the whole Himalaya. We picked Evergreen for our restaurant because it looks so much like the lower Himalaya.”
Khagendra’s pleasingly diverse menu reflects a vast region embracing dozens of cultural groups and three major religions that, between them, manage to hold at least one well-fed feast or festival on every day of the year.
Appetizers run from savory “pakora” (vegetables, fruit or meat fried in flavorful chick pea batter) to mildly spiced lamb wrapped tightly in pastry leaves and baked to crispy perfection. The Gurungs will also offer a wide variety of “naan” — India’s universal loaf — including garlic, sesame, cheese and veggie incarnations.
In harmony with its theme, Cuisine of Himalaya is vegetarian friendly with nearly two dozen meat-free entrees echoing central Asian culinary traditions from Kangmar to Kanpur to Katmandu. One’s delicious trek might begin with zesty Aloo Gobi, a Nepali staple made with seasoned potatoes and cauliflower, or with Panir Pika Masala, featuring hearty chunks of homemade panir cheese swimming in piquant cream sauce. More traditional palates will appreciate heaping portions of that oriental noodle-and-veggie favorite, Chow Chow.
Of course, those who’ve rambled among the pillars of the sky will recall that lamb holds a place of special honor on Asian dinner plates. At Cuisine of Himalaya, guests can choose lamb sauted in curry sauce, buried under a coconut and cashew avalanche, or cooked up with onions, peppers and fiery hot chilis.
“In Nepal, people eat much hot food, very spicy,” Khagendra explains. “We will make some dishes hot and some dishes mild, or make any dish only as hot as you want.”
Chicken and shrimp round out the main-dish leg of the Eastern tour, including rich Chicken Tandoori slow-cooked in a clay oven and Shrimp Palung bathed in a tangy spinach cream sauce. For gastronomic homebodies, the Gurungs will offer a handful of New World items like tuna steaks, hamburgers and grilled cheese sandwiches, and those too young to qualify for a passport will be more than satisfied with chicken fingers, macaroni and cheese, or chicken dumplings with tamarind chutney from the children’s menu.
For dessert, just try to choose between “kheer,” a time-honored Nepali rice pudding seasoned with cinnamon, clove and nutmeg, and an Indian-style cheesecake pastry called ras-mali. And those who can’t bear to wash everything down with anything so commonplace as a tea or a soft drink can order a tall, cool Lassi instead, an Indian-style fruit drink made with yogurt and flavored with a choice of mango, strawberry or rose.
From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Cuisine of Himalaya will offer a lunch buffet featuring up to 22 tempting choices. From 3 o’clock through dinner, it’s table service and a heaping helping of storied Nepali hospitality. And, on Evergreen’s many sunny days, guests can dine beneath a blue sky and take in the magnificent peaks to the west.
“We are making Evergreen our home, because it feels like our home,” says Khagendra, smiling. “When our customers come here, we want to make them feel like this is their home.”
Contact staff writer Stephen Knapp at email@example.com or 720-261-1665.