Houston – Halloween and Himalaya Restaurant…

My second day in Houston happened to fall on Halloween.  Fortunately, I encountered no tricks…only treats.

My day started out at the Toyota dealer near my Pearland hotel, which is southeast Houston.  Roy, the service manager who was helping me out, was really great.  Even though these dealerships are already booked up for service work, they were able to make time to check out my trusty ’06, bruised and battered, Camry.

It took a few hours to get it in to get looked at, but they checked it all out and determined that it was actually the A/C condenser, that sits in front of the radiator, that took the brunt of the retread impact.  It was damaged and would need to be replaced.  The radiator, which sits just behind the condenser, and which was my biggest fear, was either bent slightly, or had a minor dent, but passed the crucial pressure test with flying colors.  Amazingly, there was no other mechanical damage to my car.

Roy said it would take at least a couple of days to get a new condenser, and that a replacement radiator was back-ordered at least a couple of weeks.  So, getting my car repaired in Texas really was not an option.  But, Roy said that since the radiator had passed the pressure test, I would be fine to drive my car all the way back to CT, where I could get it repaired at my convenience, and should not have any problems, other than possibly losing my A/C, which wasn’t an issue, since I would be heading into cooler weather, anyway.  I felt like the luckiest guy on the planet.  That was my first Halloween treat.

So, I was good to go.  Next stop…the Himalaya Restaurant in “Little India”.  In Anthony Bourdain’s Houston episode of “Parts Unknown”, he focuses on Houston’s ethnic diversity.  I believe he said that Houston is the most ethnically-diverse city in the U.S.  I thought that was very cool, and decided to try to stop at Himalaya as part of my trip.

It turned out that Himalaya is located in a small shopping area that appears to be entirely Indian businesses…very cool.  I have never been to a Little India and I love Indian culture.

Himalaya is not a big restaurant.  But, it looks like they do a huge take-out business on top of dining in.  There were literally stacks of huge take-out orders ready for pick-up.  And the walls?  They are covered with framed awards, magazine and newspaper reviews and other accolades.

I arrived toward the end of the lunch rush.  In my usual fashion, I volunteered to my waiter…a somewhat formal Indian gentleman who barely spoke any English, but was a really good guy…that I had seen Himalaya on Parts Unknown, but that I could use some help ordering.  He pointed at a rectangular, subdivided plate with a different dish in each compartment that nearly everyone at the next table had, so I said, “Sure!  That looks great!”

I had no idea what I had just ordered, but I was just going with it, like so many things on this trip.  This sort of sampler also came with amazing house-made round flatbread, similar to pita bread that you tear off pieces from to either stuff with the sampler dishes, or dip in the curries that the dishes were cooked in.  I didn’t know what I was eating, but everything was amazing.

And as I was enjoying this meal, I noticed an Indian gentleman, dressed very casually, chatting with a few of the customers.  He even had his photo taken with one of them.  So, I had a hunch that this was the owner.

At some point, I caught his eye and he came to my table.  Again, I explained that I had seen his restaurant on TV.  He introduced himself as Chef Lashkari, the owner.  How cool is that?

I explained that everything was delicious, but that I didn’t know what any of the dishes were.  So, he told me what each dish was.  Here’s a snapshot of my lunch.  I don’t remember exactly what each dish was, but starting from the bottom-left…a chicken curry…a lamb dish…a chick pea dish…Chef Lashkari’s own Indian take on Shepherd’s Pie…and finally, Biryani, a seasoned long-grain rice dish with meat:

While we were chatting, I noticed what looked like a package of some sort of fried dessert dough balls on a counter.  I asked Chef Lashkari if those were for sale.  He smiled and said, “I’ll give them to you.”  I tried to politely decline, saying I’d be happy to pay for them, but he wouldn’t hear of it.  I was thinking of getting them to go.  This was too funny.

I also asked Chef Lashkari if I could get a photo with him, and he was more than happy to.  So, my waiter came over and took a couple with my cellphone.

Then, Chef Lashkari really surprised me by asking if I could email him the photo.  He gave me his card, which had his email on it.  He is such a nice gentleman.  I was honored.

So, to top things off, after our conversation, my waiter came over with a serving of these fried dough balls.  They were soaked in syrup that reminded me of caramelized flan syrup.  They were so out of this world…you can’t even imagine.

When I got back in my car, I emailed the photo to Chef Lashkari with a nice thank-you note.  Himalaya…my waiter, who was so great…and Chef Lashkari, had already made my day.  So, that was my second Halloween treat.