Dining review

Authenticity shines at Himalayan Bistro in Federal Hill

For The Baltimore Sun
If you're looking for great Indian food in Federal Hill, Himalayan Bistro deserves your attention.

In a crowded dining area along Light Street in Federal Hill, the authenticity and fresh ingredients at Himalayan Bistro give the restaurant an edge.

Himalayan Bistro brings an assortment of Indian dishes to Federal Hill with an emphasis on vegetarian fare. In the kitchen, chef-owner Danny Lamichhane orchestrates Indian and Nepalese favorites like chicken tikka masala, saag paneer (creamed spinach with cheese), and tandoori shrimp.

Lamichhane knows what he's doing. Born in Nepal, the chef has been cooking in the United States for 20 years. He sharpened his skills in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Texas before he landed in Baltimore and at Himalayan Bistro, which opened in April.

The restaurant is BYOB with no corkage fee. When our waiter saw our bag of wine, he asked if it was red or white, so he could bring us the appropriate glasses — a thoughtful gesture.

There's a daily lunch buffet ($9.99, Monday through Thursday; $11.99, Friday through Sunday) if you want to sample a range of Himalayan Bistro's fare. The dinner menu is divided into categories like vegetarian and nonvegetarian entrees, kormas (braised meat or vegetables in a spicy sauce), baltis (curries) and biryanis (rice dishes).

The portions are generous, and we ended up with enough leftover boxes to merit a bag.

Our visit was mostly serene except that we were seated toward the front of the restaurant, where a steady stream of delivery orders was being picked up. But it wasn't intrusive. We thought it spoke well for the quality of the food.

Scene & Decor The dining room is tranquil with taupe walls, elegant lighting fixtures, and comfortable banquettes and rattan chairs. Low-key indie music wafts from the sound system.

Appetizers Complimentary papadum — India's thin, crisp crackers — were great nibbles, served with three respectable chutneys: tamarind, tomato and cilantro. We also indulged in a pleasant appetizer platter ($7.95) that included two vegetable samosas stuffed with potatoes and green peas, two pakoras (crunchy fritters made with cauliflower, spinach, potatoes and onion) and three aloo tikkis (deep-fried potato patties). They were good, though the plate was dominated by fried food.

Entrees Our bhindi masala ($11.95), from the list of vegetarian entrees, was delicious. Fresh okra, onions and tomatoes partnered with aromatic spices for a spicy melange accompanied by basmati rice to soak up the juices. You can pick your heat level; the medium range offered just enough of throat tingle for us. The shrimp korma ($17.95) also won our favor. Five plump shrimp mingled with a zesty curry sauce and benefited from the addition of basmati rice.

Drinks Beverages include several lassis (chilled yogurt drinks), chai tea and a nonalcoholic Shirley Temple cocktail.

Service The quiet servers in their white shirts and black vests add formality, but they're polite and attentive.

Dessert The soupy kheer ($3.95) was a disappointing rice pudding. Other sweet endings include gulab jamun (fried dumplings in rose-scented sugar syrup), vanilla ice cream and New York cheesecake.

Himalayan Bistro

Backstory: Chef Danny Lamichhane opened Himalayan Bistro in April with several partners, and he cooks his native Nepalese and Indian food.

Signature dish: The shrimp korma

TVs: Two TVs

Where: 1030 Light St., Federal Hill

Contact: 443-708-3157, bistrohimalayan.com

Open: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday 0 AM - 11:00 PM

Credit cards: All major

Reservations: Accepts reservations

Bottom line: If you're looking for great Indian food in Federal Hill, Himalayan Bistro deserves your attention.

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