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Nov 12, 2006 10:50 PM

Himalaya Restaurant Houston report

A very interesting place. The owner is a character! Their samosas could be addictive. Their goat and mutton (it's not entirely clear if the terms are used interchangeably in spite of the traditional differences in animal origin) curries are superb. They love ghee and grease, and so do I. Their food smacks of hand-made-from-scratch all down the line.

The sort of place that says "This is Us" without shame or adaptation to popularity. I liked it. I also liked the Indian shop across the way where Brit's can get supplies they crave like Heinz Tomato Soup and Heinz Baked Beans, Marmite, Cadbury's Flake, Turkish Delight, Branston Pickle and HP Sauce. And lots more.

But Himalaya is a place not in danger of becoming a standard blah Indo-Pakistani place. It sets its own agenda and I suspect will do always.

Hours: Closed on Monday Tues-Thurs: 11.30 AM to 11.00 PM; Fri-Sun 11.00 AM to 12:00 PM
6652 SW Fwy Houston TX 77074 713.532.2837

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  1. An excellent place bishopsbitter. I had been thinking of doing a report after one more visit. I discovered it about 2 months ago and have been 3 times and will probably go again this week. So far I have just availed myself of the daily lunch special. The sign in the window says $6.99 but I have been charged from $6.50 to 7.50 and have not complained.

    The place seems to be catching on. A few weeks ago, the lunch special included 3 meats and what was probably a veggie samosa in a curry sauce; last week, the lunch special one day was just 2 meats with a big pile of plain basmati rice and on that visit the place was packed; there've never been more than one or two other patrons when I was there before. Much of the business is take-out.

    There is no printed menu, just a sign board over the counter. You can sit at a table and they will come to take your order. I have had, as best I understood it, Chicken Tikka Massala, Chicken Karhai, Karhai Gohst (always described to me as goat), Chicken Biryani and Lamb Chapli - a grilled, chopped or ground lamb patty on top of a big pile of the Pakistani version of pilaf, pullau I think it's called. All excellent. The only thing I wouldn't go out of my way to order again was the vegetable thingie.

    Chef Kaiser can be hard to understand and sometimes just says 'in a gravy' in describing a dish. There is liberal use of peppers and cilantro. The chicken biryani is a mountain of food - skinless, falling off the bone chicken pieces baked in a mountain of basmati rice flavored with about a dozen herbs and spices including coriander, cinnamon, garlic, red and green chile powders, etc. It's a quirky place - the only eating utensil I was given for that was a tablespoon.

    A Pakistani salad has accompanied the daily lunch special 2 times consisting simply of thin slices of onion, carrot and cucumber with a yogurt based dressing. The first time I never got the dressing and didn't know it should have been served so didn't ask for it.

    There is another Pakistani restaurant across Hillcroft in the corner of a center there, Sabri Nihari, that has a luncheon buffet ayce for $7.99 but the food doesn't compare to Himalaya.

    Oh yes, Himalaya has awesome naan.

    There is an old review in the Houston Press from 2005 still on line. The decor has been improved since then; there are now linen tablecloths topped with glass but the owner still has his desk with a big computer in the dining room. The Press named it 'best greasy spoon' for 2006; I was there when the chef/owner discovered it and he was not pleased. It's due to the liberal use of ghee in Pakistani cooking. You can request your food be less oily and less spicy but I look at it this way -- this will probably be the only meal I'll eat for the rest of the day.

    It's in a shopping center in the SW corner of the intersection of US 59 and Hillcroft. Here's a link to the website menu but be advised dishes and prices served at the restaurant may not correspond exactly.

    1 Reply
    1. re: brucesw

      Yes, I really loved the owner's office desk being actually stuck in the middle of the dining room.

    2. Agree on Himalaya. Enjoyed it more than Sabri Nihari, and much better than Royal.

      The owner told me he went to Univ. of Houston undergraduate and also the master's program for hotel restaurant management. He's friendly and helpful, and the food's always great. Service is always quirky but well-intentioned.

      1. The original comment has been removed
        1. The food at Himalaya is average for Indian cuisine compared with other similar restaurants in the Houston area and overpriced for the quality. Leftover menu items prepared for lunch are served again for dinner, albeit much drier and less appealing for the wear.

          There is absolutely no ambience. The owner (chef Kaiser Lashkari) has his cluttered desk placed prominently within the dining area where employees take turns reclining in a chair while rubbing their eyes and faces.

          Worse, the proprietor can be a real jerk as was the case during our visit with several guests.

          There is constant grinding chaos in this restaurant. Service is slow and inadequate. It was an effort obtaining basics such as silverware and napkins. Two of us never received requested glasses for our beer brought in deference to the restaurant's BYOB policy.

          Dealing with the proprietor was akin to haggling with a used car salesmen. The proprietor attempted to increase his profit margin by aggressively suggesting additional food items and by substituting complimentary naan bread which accompanies many of the entrees with garlic naan bread at an undisclosed additional cost. This and other costs were not shared with patrons until a careful examination of the meal's bill revealed problems.

          The final bill was not itemized consisting only of a confusing jumble of numbers and letters in place of food and drink items thereby making it impossible to determine how much each person owed for their portion of the meal.

          The owner was reluctant to disclose how the bill was calculated. We ended by paying what the owner described as being due for each diner. However, it was apparent that the amounts quoted were far in excess of the actual cost of the food ordered by each person.
          Worse, an inexplicable "service charge" was added to each person's bill which further inflating each diner's final cost.

          Unfortunately, our dining experience became substantially worse.

          While paying at the front counter, the owner unexpectedly began loudly screaming at one of our female guests who was in the process of paying for her meal.

          The owner claimed that she was insulting the waiter by her decision to tip only 15% rather than a 20% tip then demanded by the owner. The owner continued to angrily insist on a 20% tip per person in spite of there being only four individuals in our small party. According to the printed menu, only parties of 6 or more pay a mandatory 20% gratuity.

          The poor woman attempted to calmly explain to the owner that her order was not correct, that she never received her complimentary naan bread after several requests, and several other small issues that contributed to her decision to tip (in my opinion based on the poor service a generous) 15%. The owner continued to shout angrily at the woman, preventing her from expressing her concerns. The owner directed so much abuse at the poor female patron in the open dining area that I was forced to intervene on behalf of our guest.

          We discovered the next day that the owner had also surreptitiously added an extra $1 to our already 20% tip without disclosing his actions to us. He added the extra amount when processing our credit card at the counter. We discovered the discrepancy when we compared our receipt with the listed charge for our meal on our credit card statement.

          Due to the extremely ugly abuse directed at our female guest by the owner (and our party in general) and the outright dishonesty pertaining to the bill, tip and credit card charge we will never return and recommend that others with any self-esteem consider dining elsewhere as well.

          Better Indian food at more reasonable prices accompanied by a more genial ambience can be found at too many other Indian restaurants making it unnecessary to tolerate the abuse and dishonesty of the owner of this particular dining establishment.

          Himalaya Restaurant & Catering
          6652 Southwest Fwy, Houston, TX 77074

          7 Replies
          1. re: AlainHarvey


            I've never been there, but it was definitely on my list.

            I had heard that Lashkari was "a character" but that is beyond absurd. Thanks for letting us know.

            1. re: AlainHarvey

              I know the story above sounds crazy, but I completely believe it. I had a very, very similar experience about six weeks ago. We were given paper menus that we ordered from and asked for separate tickets and they said ok. We asked about this several times at the beginning of the meal. At the end of the meal we were given one handwritten bill with a bunch of numbers scrawled on it. None of the amounts listed on the bill, with the exception of one number, matched the amounts of any items listed on the menu - 2 people checked. We asked the owner and he told us that we were looking at the wrong menu - I told him that we were looking AT THE MENUS HE GAVE US. Another menu with the prices on our bill was also not produced. He then became very confrontational about the bill and refused to run multiple credits cards or let us pay separately. The meal ended with a friend threatening to call the police because it became so crazy. I have never had such a crazy experience at a restaurant with the bill and payment.

              I thought the service during the meal and the food itself was good, but I would never go back. If you want to make more money you should just put higher prices on your menu instead of giving people incomprehensible bills that do not match the prices on the menu.

              Himalaya Restaurant & Catering
              6652 Southwest Fwy, Houston, TX 77074

              1. re: joydreamz

                Wow (Redux)!

                Thanks y'all. I appreciate the heads up.

                I love "characters", (especially Chefy Characters), but these stories are incredible.

                1. re: DoobieWah

                  I realize the story is incredible but unfortunatly true. I've provided a number of accurate positive restaurant reviews in the past. I also love chefs with personality but in Chef Kaiser's case his behavior is less an amusing variation on the Soup Nazi theme and more simply downright absusive not to mention dishonest. It gave me no pleasure to provide a negative review of our experience at Himalaya but I felt it was important to offer our experience so that others could weigh the reviews and reach their own conclusion.

                  Normally I have had good experiences with several Houston Press recommendations for dining venues. I had read a glowing Houston Press review praising Himalaya restaurant for it's food, reasonable prices and BYOB policy. As a result we arranged to dine with several friends at Himalaya without ever having actually set foot in the restaurant prior to our initial visit.

                  None of us could have anticipated the combination of issues that arose during our dinner. It was an extremely unpleasant experience and wildly out of the ordinary. I profusely apologized to our poor guests who bore the brunt of the owner's abuse who appeared shell-shocked afterwards.

                  Since our own eye-opening experience at Himalaya we have noted a number of less than glowing reviews from a variety of seemingly credible people at such sites as (body contradicting the extremely positive reviews provided by the Houston Press. After reading of a few of the other diners experiences we joke that at least none of us needed to use the restroom thereby avoiding the issue of having to pay either $5 or $10 to the owner for the privilege as some reviewers report. That added detail would have made our already extreme story even more incredible.

                  Now I take more time in reading reviews from several sources before making a final deicsion on some lesser-known restaurants.

              2. re: AlainHarvey

                This story makes me sad. I've put up with some less than ideal attitude and service in the name of food, but this takes the cake. Chef Kaiser is going to rub the wrong person the wrong way one day.

                1. re: AlainHarvey

                  i never understood all the praise heaped on this restaurant,, touted as "real indo-paki" cuisine... I found the restaurant dirty in appearance, service abrupt, the food average at best, and greasy! Two visits one before the allison cook review and one after sealed the deal for me, that i would not be returning. I'll take Indika, Pondicheri (had breakfast there this morning), Kiran, Bombay Brasserie when I want my Indian fix.. These restaurants are spotless, the quality and taste of the food is exceptional, serivice is courteous, and prices are fair...

                  516 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77006

                  Bombay Brasserie
                  3005 West Loop S, Houston, TX 77027

                  1. re: AlainHarvey

                    I bet the $1 added on is for the credit card fee. What he is doing may very well be criminal. Maybe the DA should be interested. We love to eat at London Sizzler, and people have suggested we try Himalaya ("people" sometimes meaning the Houston Press). Egads, someone's gonna get hurt. But it won't be me. I'll be watching from London Sizzler, being pampered by my favorite, gracious, helpful, smiling waiter.

                  2. I wouldn't call the owner just quirky! He's plain rude. AlainHarvey we had a similar experience about the tip! We believe that at most of these Indian/Pakistani restaurants the tips go only to the owners. So, we make it a point to keep the tip in cash on the table when we leave (even if we pay for the food with a cc) Anyway, the owner directly added the tip to the card and wen my husband asked him about it, he became very accusatory about us not wanting to tip!! I think in some more time he will only be running a to-go place if he continues this with customers! who would want to eat there? I surely think it's not worth it! If u liked the food (which I like), take out!!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: DPTHouston

                      My original report was takeout. The surrounds are not IN ANY WAY conducive to a relaxing meal, and certainly not more than token tips for this is not a "white glove service" type of place in any way shape or form. While I like a little degree of "colorful character" in owners and proprietors (I have not been back since my original post) it certainly sounds as though this guy's wheels are coming off. Even a place with the best food in the world . . . if I get treated disrespectfully that is the ultimate disqualifier for ever returning.

                      1. re: bishopsbitter

                        I had lunch there yesterday with 5 others, and truly enjoyed the food and friendly treatment we received from Kaiser. Yes, he is a colorful character - he IS the reason we go there. Thanks to generous portions, I had the rest of my chicken tikka masala for lunch today. He directed all our servers himself (in spanish) and we held down a big table for more that two hours. We were never rushed, and I believe he even comped our shared desserts (the flan is really unique). When the bill came we divided it among the 6 of us, and even with gratuities, it was $18/person. It will be interesting to see if things run as smoothly when he is on vacation in the next two weeks - the first time since 1999 he's taken any time off.

                        I understand how people can be put off by their experience there. This restaurant is deep in Indo/Pakistani territory, and its not a white-tablecloth kind of place, with obsequious servers and overly attentive busboys. Local custom prevails, and sometimes communication is, well, garbled. I see my friend Joydreamz upthread - I know her experience was less than favorable, but hope she'll give them another try. My suggestion to anyone who has not yet been there is to go, and make friends with Kaiser. He's a great fellow, and treats his friends like family. Mutual respect is a win-win in that cultural situation.