by Mike Sula
I don't know about you, but when I'm eating Nepali momo and chicken choila, there's nothing I like better than to pair it with a plate of penne alla vodka and maybe some tiramisu for dessert. The craving doesn't hit often, but boy, when it does . . .
That's why it took me a while to hit up Himshikar Restaurant, a Sauganash storefront offering the . . . uh, interesting combination of Nepali, Indian, and Italian food. Before it opened back in May, across Cicero from Whole Foods, owner Amit Sherchan cooked in Italian restaurants in both Paris and Australia over a 16-year period. But by the time I got there he'd scuttled the two pages of Italian dishes, telling me they'd just "confused" his customers.
Oh well. The Nepali stuff is pretty good, though like Curry Hut and Cumin, there's a very short selection of it relative to an all-encompassing Indian menu that spans the canon from biryani to tandori-grilled stuff, karahai cooked lamb and poultry dishes, and vegetarian things like chana masala, baingan bhartha, and mattar paneer.
But it was the half-dozen Nepali dishes I was after. The chicken choila is a composed plate of tender chunks of chiled ginger-garlic chicken breast, with the flattened "beaten" rice known as baji or chiura and fried soybeans lending it a snacky texture that makes it something quite a bit better than the protein choice would indicate. There's also a fiery potato-cauliflower curry (tarkari), a milder yellow lentil dal, and of course momo, the traditional Nepali dumpling, recognizable to anyone who loves pot stickers and Korean mandu. These are pretty remarkable, stuffed to order with herbed ground chicken, steamed in a tender, almost translucent wrapper, and served with a blazing hot tomato-chile chutney.
There's also rice pudding and another chicken dish—and that's about it. But Sherchan promises his repertoire is vast, and if there's some particular Nepali dish you have a hankering for, he'll make it with a few days' notice.
Incidentally, "himshikar" means "top of the mountain," says Sherchan.
Himshikar Restaurant, 6031 N. Cicero, 773-481-2003 . Closed Wednesdays.