Chef Kaiser Lashkari of Himalaya has consistently attracted the attention of both Houston foodies and national names in the industry (most recently Andrew Zimmern) for his immaculately executed Indian and Pakistani fare. The most recent iteration of Lashkari’s menu even utilizes a (Anthony) Bourdain “thumbs-up” icon to designate those items (e.g., steak tikka, chicken hara masala) officially approved by the late food writer during his trip to Himalaya.
As an unapologetic Bourdain fan, I was tempted to construct my recent meal based on those particular entrees, perhaps as a sort of edible homage to my culinary hero. However, upon perusing the other offerings in preparations for a group dinner with friends, I decided to go an entirely different direction by having quesadillas and shepherd’s pie.
Not the traditional version, mind you, but Lashkari’s South Asian inflected versions as well as some of his other hybrid plates, i.e., the chultz-chicken fried steak listed under the “Friendly Fusion Revolving Weekends” section of the menu. This category of dishes is technically a weekend special with limited availability, so call ahead if you have your heart set on trying any of them.
The Paratha-dilla, an amalgam of the Tex-Mex staple made with the Indian bread paratha, instead of tortillas, comes with your choice of chicken or lamb. We opted for the latter in the spirit of fully embracing the fusion theme. While I appreciated the novelty of the subcontinent-style quesadilla and have no qualms with its components (tender, well-seasoned meat, buttery, flaky parathas, a generous garnish of sour cream), I was far more smitten with the other fusion experiments.
Lashkari’s chicken fried steak was appropriately well-battered and deep-fried such that the corrugated crust became remarkably crispy while the underlying protein remained tender. What transformed the “chultz” from pedestrian to sophisticated was the coconut masala gravy, whose contrasting creamy sweetness and fragrant notes of pepper and cumin significantly elevated the complexity of the flavor profile.
Even more impressive was the “Indi-Pie,” Lashkari’s upside-down riff on shepherd’s pie, in which four lightly fried potato patties are doused with a heavy ladle of rich curry thick with ground lamb. The soft pillows of vegetable starch serve as wonderful sponges for the unctuous sauce, though the curry is so addictive you will nevertheless find yourself, as we did, mopping up the scant remaining traces of liquid with naan.
Such aforementioned takes on Texan and British classics may not be what necessarily draws you to eat at Himalaya. Maybe sometimes they should, if only as a reminder that imitation, at least in the culinary world, is not just sincerest form of flattery but also proof that originals can always be improved upon via some well-chosen tweaks in preparation.