Niles restaurant bridges the gap between Indian, Nepali food

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Hungry Hound: Himalayan Restaurant

Indian food is fairly well-known in Chicago, especially in Rogers Park and Schaumburg. But the food of its northern neighbor - Nepal - isn't represented nearly as much. There's a restaurant in Niles, however, that is bridging the gap between the two countries on its menu - and managing to cook within the seasons as well.

The first impulse, of course, is to think of curries and unfamiliar terms like tandoor, biryani and garam masala. But the gap in understanding is made easier at Himalayan restaurant, in a quiet Niles mall, where Indian and Nepalese dishes can be adjusted to your preferences.

On most afternoons, customers at the Himalayan Restaurant - located in the Four Flags Shopping Center in Niles - make the easy choice, and go with the buffet. But don't be afraid to crack open a menu, where you'll see similarities between northern Indian and Nepalese dishes.

"We do use the same spices, but yeah, momo is distinctively Nepali. It's probably one of the most popular comfort food right now back home," said Kiran Byanjankar, owner of the restaurant.

Momo are the delicate, handmade dumplings traditionally served with bison, but here, it's chicken and vegetables seasoned simply with cilantro and ginger, served with dipping sauces of fiery sriracha-tomato, or milder tomato-and-sesame.

Tomatoes and onions are the basis for several dishes, like the seasonal okra - briefly fried then sauteed with vegetables. The cook has an arsenal of toasted-and-dried spices to choose from, even adding a bit of cardamom powder to a thick, autumnal soup of pureed butternut squash.

"We roast it first, then grind it to make a puree out of it, and basically that's it, we do not use a lot of spices in it," he said.

One of the best dishes from the menu, loaded with spices of course, is the basmati rice-based biryani, containing well over a dozen ingredients, including cloves. If it tastes a bit too hot, there's always yogurt-based raita to cool things off. But the kitchen makes it clear that they can customize, since everything is made to-order.

"Usually Indian food has the stigma of spicy. It's not spicy, it's spiced, but we do customize the spice level according to the customer's choice," Byanjankar said.

Himalayan Restaurant
Four Flags Shopping Center
8265 W Golf Rd, Niles
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