Tasting Tibet Without Airplane Tickets
Ventura’s Himalaya Aces Exotic Far East Cuisine
Compared to the nearly 8,000 miles between here and Kathmandu, it’s merely a stone’s throw to get to Ventura to enjoy the new restaurant Himalaya. Opened last July on West Main Street, this former Taco Bell has been transformed into an entrancing spot to enjoy exotic Eastern cuisine that’s not very available on the Central Coast, particularly the Nepali and Tibetan specialties. “Nepal is right between India and China, so it’s influenced by the foods of both,” explained owned Anup Rimal, a native of Nepal. “Sometimes it’s with the spices, and sometimes it’s with the cooking methods — there are various ways of fusion.”
The end result is a subcontinent-sized menu, full of familiar Indian dishes like samosas and tikka masala, but then also offering Tibetan momos (similar to a Chinese pot sticker) and dishes full of yak meat. “It took four or five months to find a source,” Rimal said. “Yak can only survive over 12,000 feet, but it turns out Telluride, Colorado, has a place, so we get it from them.”
No matter the style of the dish, Rimal stressed, “We make everything from scratch here.” That care is evident on every plate — you won’t find richer or deeper sauces anywhere, clearly simmered for hours to reach such tantalizing complexity. You also need to go hungry, for it’s easy to dine just on appetizers (pakoras, while fried, are not in the least bit greasy; tandoori shrimp are tender and coated with just enough luscious sauce). And you’ll want to try dessert, especially the house-made Indian ice cream called kulfi, which is thicker (as it’s not whipped), cut in little squares, and flavored with either pistachio, mango, or coconut.
Rimal, who also works as a financial officer at Horny Toad, has returned to the food industry where he first worked after college. In 2007, his wife, Pushpa Rimal, opened the still-going-strong Annapurna Store in Ventura, a market for food products from the subcontinent, but they both kept thinking they might like to open a restaurant. “Then I ran into Ganesh Gharti at a party by chance — he worked with me years ago in Chicago and had been in L.A. for two years and wanted to get out of there,” said Rimal, who then joked about opening a place before realizing it might work. “Gharti said yes and had a team of five people together in a week.”
Himalaya has been a success since it opened, partially because of clever menu additions thanks to Rimal’s daughter. “Whenever we went out to eat, she always wanted pizza, or burritos, or tacos,” he said, “so I got to thinking there are probably a lot of parents who want to go to Indian food but don’t because the kids don’t want it.” Hence the tikka masala pizza (naan with homemade sauce and chicken tikka-style) and burritos wrapped in naan were born. Even for the kids, fusion is the name of the game at Himalaya.
Climb the culinary heights at Himalaya, 35 West Main Street, Ventura, (805) 643-0795, himalayacuisine.com.