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Aug 24, 2004 11:50 PM

Shangri-La: Nepali in Rohnert Park

  • m

Now open for three months, Shangri-la is located in a newish strip mall across from Sonoma State. Business has been slowly building and the proprietors are hoping things will pick up when the students return for the start of school. They deserve chowhound support. The owners are Nepalese and the menu includes dishes from Nepal, Tibet, and Northern India. But not from Bhutan . . . I asked.

This is the third Nepali restaurant I’ve tried in Sonoma County. Maybe we’re becoming the epicenter for Nepalese food in the Bay Area – hope so! The room is more basic and casual than the other two painted in saffron, tumeric and cinnamon tones with black granite tabletops. Prices are lower too. I enjoyed the quiet and restful chants playing in the background. Some outdoor seating is available.

Dishes sampled included:

Pani puri, $3.99 – the garbanzo and potato blend to assemble oneself was very spicy hot and complex with cumin and cardamom, the cilantro water was fresh-tasting, none of the tiny puffs leaked, and the tamarind dipping sauce was gingery hot. Really enjoyed these.

Samosas (2), $2.99 – a pair of pyramidal-shaped turnovers with a deep-fried crispy pastry shell stuffed with roasted spicy potatoes were a manageable size and decent, especially liked the bed of organic local salad greens

Lamb chhoela, $7.99 (depicted below) – creative presentation in a papadam “bowl” for one of the most delicious "tostadas" I've ever had, tasty marinated strips of tender grilled lamb tossed with scallions cut in fronds, sweet red onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, garlic, and cilantro, fresh sweet vegetable flavors and crispness

Vegetable momos, $6.99 – round steamed dumplings with a top knot like xiao long bao, thick skinned but not doughy, delicious filling of pristinely fresh spinach blended with scallions, red onions, tofu and spices, nice spicy tomato dipping sauce

Meat momos, $6.99 – half moon-shaped dumplings with thick skins, coarsely chopped lamb and beef, too gamey for my tastes

Palak paneer with white rice, $6.99 – made with fresh spinach in the ultra-pureed and rich creamy style, mildly in heat yet intensely seasoned with the spices overtaking the taste of the spinach, generous portion of fresh paneer cheese with each cube meticulously seared on all sides, rice is too soft for my taste but made from top quality very long-grained fresh Basmati scented with cardamom and coriander seeds

Butter naan, $1.99 – a long slipper-shaped leavened flatbread that’s twice the size of a regular round, a bit doughy in some parts but a good effort, also available dry or with flavorings

Mango lassi, $2.49 – tart-sweet mango flavors are overtaken by the richness of the housemade full fat yogurt, next time I’ll just get a regular sweet or salty lassi to enjoy the creamy taste of the dairy

Kheer (rice pudding), $2.99 – the least of the desserts, nicely flavored with cardamon and almonds, barely sweetened in a lighter style, but seems made from leftover long-grained rice, rather than the slow-cooking together of ground and whole rice

Lal mohan, $2.99 – two thimble-sized fried milk balls (like gulab jamun) that were overly firm and dense in texture for my taste, in a pool of warm honeyed rosewater syrup sprinkled with coconut

Ras malai, $2.99 – my favorite of the desserts, rubbery cheese balls with moderately tender texture and satisfying squeakiness bathed in moderately sweet creamy milk syrup with fragrant spices and pistachios

The hallmark of the cooking here is freshness - very fresh produce (organic where possible) and cooked-to-order bright flavors. The kitchen can make some of the recipes vegetarian or vegan upon request. Grilled items from the tandoor are also available although I didn't get a chance to try them.

Over three visits in a month’s time, the service has gotten faster, smoother and more confident. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that the spice level has come down during that time, so it’s worth specifying if you want your food very spicy. Taj Majal and King Fisher are available, as well as other beers and wine.

Shangri-La Café and Grill
“Food from the Himalayas”
1706 East Cotati Ave.
(behind Taco Bell)
Rohnert Park
11:30am-2:3pm and 5:30pm-9:30pm
Closed Mondays

While not that close to the highway for wine country day-trippers, access is very easy. Driving north on 101, exit at West Sierra. Turn right onto West Sierra towards Cotati (to the east), continue past the intersection with Old Redwood Hwy. where the road becomes East Cotati Ave. Another three miles or so, it's on the right-hand side. If you continue east and go too far, you'll dead-end into Petaluma Hill Road shortly.



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  1. I've eaten at Shangri La three times and loved it each time. They just started offering a "lunch special" that is a great deal. For $6.99 you get rice; tomato chutney (which is SOO good); chicken or vegetable curry (you can get lamb curry for an extra dollar) which you can order mild, medium or hot; a generous piece of naan; and kheer. I had the vegetable curry version last Friday and again yesterday. I was impressed that the vegetables had changed in just a few days. I assume that they chose the best vegetables because both Friday's primarily cauliflower and yesterday's primarily green bean curries were both wonderful and very fresh tasting. I too have noticed that the service has greatly improved since Shangri La's opening. This is a great new lunch alternative to those of us who work at Sonoma State and need to find lunch close by but want something other than fast food!

    1 Reply
    1. re: Kathleen

      Thanks for the confirmation and additional intelligence, Kathleen! There was a post a little further down the board asking for some vegetable choices after the Cotati accordian festival, and I thought this would be a good choice.

      The other part of the menu are the "wraps" of either veggies or meat grilled on the tandoor...I haven't tried that either.

      Here's a picture of the samosas.


    2. I had lunch there today, their Chicken Curry lunch special ($7.99). It was all quite good, lentil soup, naan, rice, and the chicken curry (more of that than is obvious in the photo). I ordered it "medium" and I thought it was very mild. Next time I'll order "hot" and see how that is. The tomato chutney I see mentioned here for the lunch special was not present.

      A few photos:

      2 Replies
      1. re: Malcolm Ruthven

        I'm happy to hear that Shangri-La still satisfies. For a brief period of time, it had a branch in the City, but it closed before I could get over there.

        Did you see this report for Yeti in Glen Ellen? Thought you might like another Nepalese target in southern-ish Sonoma County.

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          I saw that and have known about Yeti probably since they first opened, but every time i was nearby for lunch I couldn't tear myself away from Olive & Vine. But Olive & Vine stopped serving lunch quite a while ago but now I don't think about Yeti. Thanks for the reminder!

      2. When Shangri-la first opened 10 years ago, I went the three times reported above, and never managed to return even though it would set the standard for Nepalese food for me. Then this past May, a friend and I were in need of a quick bite on our way back to the City and I suggested we stop here.

        The place looked the same but busier with more customers. I was happy to see the same lady proprietress on duty who had fed me so well before. The menu was a bit different. No more lamb choela and though the splash page on the site leads with daal bhat tarkari, it is not on the menu any more either.

        To start, Meat momos served with a tomato chutney dipping sauce. Now made with lamb (instead of a combo of beef and lamb), these tasted as exquisite as they look. Much better wrappers, deftly pleated, and squirting with savory juices and well-seasoned meat.

        We tried one of the new dishes, Kale saag, obviously an invention of this kitchen that we were told was inspired by requests from customers. I’m glad we did, as the sautéed whole leaf kale was very tasty with chiles and South Asian spicing.

        Naan was not bad, still not lofty enough for my tastes.

        When I lamented the disappearance of daal bhat, the owner said she’d put it together for us if we’d pick a curry. We went with the lamb curry which had more subtle and nuanced flavors than the typical house curry at a North Indian restaurant. The unthickened juices made for a sheerer and non-muddy expression of the tender lamb. The soupy daal accompaniment was lovely too.

        This felt like a homecoming and a very rewarding one foodwise and to see the owners’ hard work pay off. As a bonus, they gifted us with 10th anniversary t-shirts for coming back to the fold.
        Closed Sundays

        2 Replies
        1. re: Melanie Wong

          Well now you've inspired me to move this up my list of places to try.

          1. re: MRich

            I'll be interested in what you think. The odd thing is that the naan was just ok and what I forgot to mention is that the rice was off with a musty aroma. Not perfect but if I lived closer, I'd probably have this in my regular rotation.

            Everest in Petaluma is also good for Nepali cooking though I've only been there this one time.