Taste of the Himalayas – Wonderful, Fresh and Interesting Tibetan Food…

Taste of the Himalayas

Wonderful, Fresh and Interesting Tibetan Food…

376 Soscol Avenue • Napa | (707) 251-3840

OPEN Tuesday thru Sunday 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. – 10.00 p.m.

By John and Dorothy Salmon

We had the pleasure of dining with our good friend, Diane Aigaki, at Taste of the Himalayas Restaurant. The restaurant is located on the corner of Soscol and the Silverado Trail in the former Old Adobe, the oldest standing Mexican Land Grant structure in Napa County. Built in 1840, it was the home of Don Cayetano Juarez. Now, it’s the home for fabulous Tibetan, Nepali and Indian food, where chef/owner, Pemba Sherpa spends his days and nights cooking delicious meals for locals who want to try spicy, interesting Tibetan, Nepali and Indian food.

The outside of the former Old Adobe looks pretty much like it has for the past 172 years, with the exception of the Tibetan Prayer Flags blowing in the wind and the new signage. The interior of the restaurant is lovely and warm, with Tibetan art, Thankas and background Tibetan music that John and I remember fondly from our trip to India in 2000. That trip changed our lives, and gave us long-lasting friendships with the Tibetan Monks who visited us in Napa later that same year. Diane Aigaki was our tour leader on that trip- of- a lifetime and she continues to help Tibetan communities all over the world, while also teaching nonprofit organizations all over the world to write compelling and successful grant  requests.

Diane has a beautiful home in Dharamsala, India, the home of the Tibetan Government in Exile for over 50 years. We would need the entire Marketplace Magazine to recount our India story, but the short version is that in 2000, we took a single trip to countries that began with I (Ireland and India), and towns that began with D (Dublin and Dharamsala). We went from the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin to the home of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama in Dharamsala.  Sitting in Taste of the Himalayas with Diane lead to fond memories, recalling that trip, our friendship, and all the great times we have shared together over the past twenty years. That’s what friendship and great restaurants bring out in people!

We began our meal at 6:00 p.m. and the place was half-full on a week night. By 6:30, it was packed. We saw lots of locals we knew, and several visitors, all good signs that the economy is coming back. For Chef/Owner, Pemba Sherpa, it is a great sign that people love his food. Pemba Sherpa was born and raised in Nepal, and went to school in India. He came to the United States and completed a bachelor of science in Business in Indiana. After college, he moved to Sonoma to open a restaurant, where he realized his passion for cooking. After attending the Professional Culinary Institute in Campbell, he worked under Nick

Ritchie in Michael Chiarello’s Bottega in Yountville, and opened a Taste of the Himalayas in Sausalito in 2012. He moved to Napa to open Taste of the Himalayas at the Old Adobe in 2011. He had wanted to open a restaurant in Napa since 2004, because he has a loyal group of patrons here who appreciate his passion for great Tibetan food.

We began our meal by ordering Momos, the Traditional Tibetan dish we ate almost every day in Dharamsala.  Diane ordered the steamed vegetable Momos and Dorothy ordered the natural Chicken Momos ($8). John ordered the Beet Salad with baby spinach, roasted beets, mozzarella and a fabulous cumin dressing ($7). Pemba brought out his Samosa-Chat, crushed samosa, chole, red onion, tamarind chutney, and yogurt, apple and sev ($8) for us.  It was really good. The Momos were better than the ones we remember eating in India and evoked memories of walking up, what seemed like, really steep hills in the high altitude of Dharamsala to eat dinner at the Shangri La Restaurant operated by the Monks from the Gyumed Monastery. Since we were reminiscing about our trip to India, Diane and Dorothy ordered Chai Tea ($3) and a Peppermint tea ($3).  John ordered a Mustang Micro Beer ($5). We all loved Naan (Tibetan and Indian flat bread) from Dharamsala, so we ordered both the Garlic and Garlic Cilantro Naans ($3 each). The Momos were very filling and the beet salad was fabulous. For our last orders to share, we ordered the Shrimp Tandoori with citrus curry marinated shrimp, roasted in a Tandoori Oven, served with a rice noodle salad ($17) and the Lamb Tandoori ($18), a fabulous ,marinated leg of lamb, roasted in a Tandoori oven.  Pemba asked that we  sample his signature dish, Khashi, twice cooked, pulled- goat curry ($14). It was tender and spicy and very interesting and, by this time, we were stuffed.

If you like curry, there are several selections to choose from. Alu Bhanta, with potato and eggplant curry, Chana Masala, garlic and ginger- sautéed chickpea curry, Churi Pama, ground beef, red onion, bell peppers and blue cheese curry, or Lamb Vindaloo, marinated lamb cubes and potato curry, just to name a few. There are several Tandoori’s to choose from as well; Fish, Shrimp, Lamb, Chicken and Vegetable Tandoori. The salads are wonderful, the portions large and filling, and the atmosphere is relaxing and warm

We really enjoyed our meal and had a great time catching up with Diane and were happy seeing Pemba’s dream come true in Napa. By the time we were served his signature dessert, Kulfi, a milky pistachio-flavored Popsicle, drizzled with a delicious mango puree ($4), the place was buzzing with people and the parking lot was full. All a great sign that Taste of The Himalayas is a success, and Pemba’s tenacity is paying off.. Please stop by and say hello to Pemba, and bring the entire family for dinner. The prices are more than reasonable, the place is interesting and kids will find it fascinating, Taste of the Himalayas.

RECIPE

~PAKORAS ~

Something that anyone can make at home and enjoy. It’s simple, easy, and fun. PAKORAS are mixed vegetable fritters served with mint chutney.

This dish allows you to use vegetable trimmings that you don’t use most of the time. Vegetabales such as broccoli stems, cauliflower stems work best. You can use vegetables, cooked beans, spices of your choice and make it a little more exciting. All the ingredients in this dish are readily available in any kitchen.. No broccoli stems? No problem, go without them.  No coriander? Add some cumin, or some chili flakes, and spice it up.

Pakoras
1 med white onion julienne
1 cup cabbage julienne
1 cup broccoli steam julienne
1 cup potatoes julienne, skin on
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed in half
2 cups chickpea flour
Oil for frying
1 cup regular yogurt
1 bunch mint leaves, separated
1/2 clove garlic

1. Cut the onions julienne, separate in a large mixing bowl, sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon salt, mix well with fingers and set aside for 10-15 minutes while cutting the rest of the vegetables.

2. Mix all the julienned vegetables along with the salted onion
and mix well, add crushed coriander seeds, then add chickpea flour, 1/2 cup at a time and mix well, add some water if necessary, please remember to not make the batter watery. The end result should be sticky.

3. Spoon out a tablespoon of mixed batter and fry in 325-350*F until golden-brown and crispy. Use teaspoon if smaller size of Pakoras are preferred. These typically take about 2 minutes to fully cook.

Mint Chutney
Puree mint leaves & chopped garlic.. Add the puree into the yogurt and mix slowly; add salt to taste. Store chutney chilled in an air- tight container until ready to serve.

Serve hot with mint sauce on the side. Enjoy Pakoras with a chilled Riesling, a dark beer or a hot chai.

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