Easy to overlook amongst the brightly colored, sparkling window displays of Shakti and Pop Deluxe, not to mention the Grecian columns of Parthenon Gyros, the storefront of the tiny Nepali restaurant Himal Chuli spans but half of its neighboring businesses. Boasting not but eight tables of two diners each, this gem of Himalayan cuisine evokes a cozy, convivial atmosphere especially welcome during the blustery Wisconsin winter. Its authentic menu, however, warms even further with richly flavored vegetable stews, steaming brown rice, and (my absolute favorite) smoky dal.
Lisa, my vegan compatriate, and I tucked into Himal Chuli’s happily cramped dining room on a sunny yet bitingly cold afternoon, eagerly anticipating the tarkari—a blend of fresh veggies simmered in Indian spices that rotates everyday, described on a small laminated card at each table. While Himal Chuli devotes an entire two menu pages to vegan entrees, soups, and salads, their light yet deeply flavored tarkaris never disappoint me when I patronize the mini eatery. Today’s tarkaris featured the Cauli Bodi—a bright yellow (thanks to the turmeric) medley of cauliflower, potatoes, carrots, and peas—and the Yogi Jogi—a spicy mix of eggplant, zucchini, broccoli, onions, and potatoes. Himal Chuli offers a menu choice that includes the daily tarkari served with brown rice and a cup of dal, all for an incredibly reasonable price, (one which I can’t specifically recall, but can attest to its frugality!) in which Lisa and I avidly partook.
While I’ve previously declared the dal at Dobhan as the tastiest in the city on multiple occasions, I may have to retract my statement. A unctuous, smoky broth adorned with black sesame seeds and razor-thin basil chiffonade hides the tender lentils and white beans sitting at the cup’s bottom, creating an astoundingly comforting, simple, and downright delicious soup. Lisa mentioned her appreciation of the actual soupiness of Himal Chuli’s dal, finding the dals of many restaurants often too thick for her liking. I certainly don’t consider myself an expert on dal, but I will admit my yearning to relish in a bowl (or trough) of Himal Chuli’s lentil soup every day.
Both tarkaris proved perfectly seasoned and rife with non-mushy vegetables. The Yogi Jogi had a bit of heat and a lovely texture thanks to the eggplant, but Lisa and I agreed that we preferred the Cauli Bodi, especially with a bright squirt of lemon, the popping color of which nourished my hope for springtime.
Meal Checklist: Protein—lentils and white beans in dal. Whole Grain—brown rice. Vegetables—cauliflower, potatoes, carrots, peas, eggplant, zucchini, onions. Leafy Greens—broccoli. I would perhaps consider cauliflower since it, while not green, belongs to the cruciferous family of vegetables.
The menu at Himal Chuli renders fulfilling every aspect of my meal checklist incredibly easy, as they offer an enormous array of vegan dishes ridden with vegetables, legumes, and tofu all served with brown rice. My only complaint regards their portion sizes: after a small cup of dal, a scoop of brown rice, and half of an appetizer-sized plate of tarkari, my appetite as well as Lisa’s remained quite active—so much so that we opted to order another cup of dal each and to split a plate of both tarkaris (no brown rice). However, Himal Chuli’s wonderfully low prices easily allow double ordering—4 cups of dal, two plates of tarkari with brown rice, and one plate of two tarkaris without brown rice added up to a mere $35, give or take a couple of cents. Not too shabby for Himal Chuli’s high quality, delectable Nepali cuisine.
My conclusion: I don’t pay visits to Himal Chuli nearly enough and plan on adding the tiny Indian goldmine to my repertoire of regular restaurants.
Until next time, Ali.