Your first sign of the new Nepalese restaurant Himalayan, should you approach from downwind, may likely be the aroma — a light, sweet curry scent mingling with fresh-baked bread.
The scent might well draw you in to Himalayan, the most recent in a line of restaurants to inhabit 2401 E. Franklin Ave., the longtime home of Big Olaf’s. Himayalan owner Naveen Shrestha brings experience to the revolving-door space. It is the second new restaurant he has opened in the past year — Shrestha also owns the Highland Café and Bakery on Ford Parkway in St. Paul — and he was formerly the principal cook at Keys Restaurant on Raymond Avenue.
2401 E. Franklin Ave.
11 a.m.–9 p.m. (9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday)
The new restaurant is not Shrestha’s only Bridgeland connection. Originally from Kathmandu, he lived for a while on the West Bank and now lives in Prospect Park with his wife, lifelong Prospect Park resident Andrea Sahlin. The two live in a house on Emerald Street with their son, 3-year-old Milo.
Shrestha said that Himalayan was born out of requests for Nepalese food by friends and customers at his year-old bakery, which concentrates on American cuisine. The few Nepalese items added to the bakery menu were very popular; “People wanted more and more variety,” he said, so he expanded to Seward.
Himalayan opened in late April — just months after the disappearance of the short-lived Kilimanjaro — with a new look: new carpeting and lighting, a remodeled kitchen, and a décor dominated by artist Shirley Hollencamp’s painted mural of the Himalayas that give the restaurant its name. The makeover was very important, Shrestha said. “If you don’t have a clean place, how can you make good food?” he asked.
He also brought in a tandoori oven, one element of the fusion of foods from Nepal and nearby India. The menu features some Nepalese favorites such as momos (steamed dumplings) with yak meat imported from Nepal; wo (lentil pancake); and vegetarian, fish or meat entrees. If there is one spice that defines them, Shrestha said, it is the turmeric that flavors the curry and colors the pullau rice a golden yellow.
Some American dishes round out the menu, like the large salads. The menu will continue to expand, Shreshta said, starting with a tofu dish, but he believes that simple is good when it comes to the menu.
A few reviews have come in, including a favorable one on the Prospect Park e-list, noting that food can be ordered mild, medium or hot. “If you want spicy, you can ask for it, and you’ll definitely get it,” said Shrestha. (Although not a seasoned food critic, this author has enjoyed and recommends the Chicken Tikka Masala.)
The lunch buffet, 11 a.m.–2:30 p.m., is a great opportunity to try several of the dishes at once, and it is different every day. Himalayan offers catering, and Shrestha hopes to add beer and wine soon.
With less than a month under his belt, Shrestha said it will take a while for people to catch on to his new restaurant. “When you follow a dream, no one says it’s going to be easy,” he said. “I just want you to try the food I grew up on. This is my dream, trying to serve the Nepalese food my mother used to cook for me.”
— Linda Lincoln contributed to this article