Taste of the Himalayas, Sonoma Town Square

Upon first glance, the Sonoma Town Square offers exactly what one might expect to find within California wine country: quaint little clothing boutiques and artisanal jewelry shops line the streets, while restaurants like Cafe La Haye and The Girl and the Fig provide visitors with an über-Californian menu. But beyond these tourist-friendly facades, the Sonoma Town Square is not entirely predictable in its scope. Case in point: Taste of the Himalayas, a cozy little gem dedicated to curries and tandoori.

Located directly across the way from Murphy’s Irish Pub, along the northern edge of the square, Taste of the Himalayas is barely bigger than a hole-in-the-wall, with four or five tables in the dining room and about half as much seating on the patio. In many ways, the place is an oasis of ethnicity, offering a small menu that operates outside the boundaries of wine country chic. The tightly focused menu is the harbinger of honest and delicious food — quite simply, a menu that does not try to do too much.

In its astute simplicity, Taste of the Himalayas offers about five or six versions each of curry and tandoori. Upon my first visit, I ordered the lamb curry with basmati rice, but felt a slight sense of regret when a friend was served with a sizzling plate of tandoori chicken, which hissed dangerously, long after it was placed at our table. Although the lamb curry lacked the same dramatic entrance as the tandoori, it did arrive in style, with the basmati and the curry each being delivered in charming little serving pots.

The lamb curry — which I ordered spicy — featured a pleasant heat that was easily mitigated by the fragrant basmati rice (a small side of raitta also helped to allay the dish’s spiciness). It is worth noting that the curry at Taste of the Himalayas does not feature the typical “curry” aroma (which comes mostly from fenugreek powder) that many might associate with Indian cuisine. In contrast, the Taste of the Himalayas version of curry is much more subdued in style, although it remains both rich and satisfying in its execution.

The entrees at Taste of the Himalayas each come with a small bowl of lentil soup, and again, this dish may be different than one might expect. This daal is not thick, hearty and French; instead, it is sublimely thin, the color of Chinese mustard sauce, and pureed to perfect smoothness. The soup captures the essence of lentils, and for me, it is a terrific antecedent to a meal that will feature plenty of starch along the way. I say this, because the naan at Taste of the Himalayas is warm, pliant and irresistible; a meal without this terrific flatbread would be woefully incomplete.

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