My wife tagged along with me one day last week when I was showing homes in Old Saybrook. It was around 2pm and asked her what she’d like to have for lunch before we headed home. Because we both are known to be pretty fair scratch cooks and bakers choosing a restaurant is always a challenge. She was loath to choose a burger place, one of the ubiquitous seafood restaurants or asian food and was undecided. I decided looked at my Yelp in the hopes we find something new and fresh and did we ever hit a pay dirt. 

 

 

Opened just 7 months, I found Himalaya Cafe…slated as an Indian Bistro & Lounge. It had a menu that lined up with our sensibilities and mood! We headed that way…they were open just 30 minutes more.  

 

 

Himilaya Cafe, the vision and creation of Sanjay Odedra, is conveniently located at 1456 Boston Post Rd. in Old Saybrook. Don’t let the modest façade fool you…when you enter you’ll be impressed! Sanjay created an inner sanctum that’s both interesting and unique. It’s a space that is true to his vision which is a destination where people could come to relax, be casual, memorable and a departure from restaurant norms. In my humble opinion he made he more than accomplished this.

 

He designed all the furniture that was handcrafted in India which used reclaimed lumber from a decommissioned fishing boat. The finishes vary from clear finishes over uber-thick Koa wood juxtaposed with the whimsical & wonderful tropical colors of the bygone fishing boat that provides a warm, well-worn patina that only time and the sea could provide. I loved the lower table height at table for two by the window where I could take in all the wonderful artifacts Sanjay has collected during his travels...each telling its own story. 

 

  

I stopped by one day to talk to Sanjay but he was out for the day and instead had the pleasure to speak his sister Sima Odedra who clearly runs the show. One can tell Sima loves whats she is doing as she just exudes a happy and welcoming energy. She works tirelessly to realize the vision Sanjay had for Himalaya Cafe. 
 

I quickly learned during our conversation that the Himilaya Cafe as I experienced it in month 7 was more an evolution than the original plan:  a cozy, warm, inviting space where one could come relax and converse over drinks and small plates. 

 


Deepak Sanap, Chef Extraordinaire

 

Enter Deepak Sanap (my new best friend;) and the executive chef! With 20 years experience, Deepak is the creator of the very wonderful menu that changes often and never disappoints. He just didn’t fall into the culinary world he pursued it beginning with graduating as pastry chef at just 17 from YWCA Mumbai. He got lucky at age 18 with a 5 year stint at Taj, the 5-Star Hotel chain owned by Sheraton. He was then head chef and baker on a British cruise line before migrating to the USA. He’d then spend his next decade plus honing his skills and talents owning and operating his own restaurants alone and n partnership in Ohio and New Jersey until he returned to India for a short hiatus. When he returned to the USA he came to be Himalaya Cafe’s venerable, talented and deft executive chef. 

 

Deepak Sanap making papadam 

 

The menu is admittedly limited so they can concentrate on the quality and scratch preparation of each dish using the finest local and imported ingredients. Oh man is it the right game plan. As I returned for a third time eating off both regular and their specials menu I was transported to another world yet again. Sima spoke of their plans to slowly expanding their fair into gluten free offerings as well. They do so much in such a small space. 

 

Everything we tasted was over the moon and unlike any other Indian restaurant we’ve had the pleasure of trying. Starting with the simple papadam normally offered at such restaurants you’ll Immediately you notice a difference. 

 

Theirs are prepared on premises as they arrive to the table rolled, not flat, with some flame charred spots for extra flavor. It’s with a mango chili pepper chutney to dip as opposed to the trite trio of tamarind, green sauce, and pickled onions offered elsewhere. The Paneer Tikka, a seasoned cheese and baked in the tandoor oven was unique. The onion appetizer special incredible! 

 

The Korma is other worldly packed with flavor, texture, complexity and depth. The long grain jasmine rice is delicate, fluffy, aromatic, moist…perfect.  There delicious naan a perfect companion to the aforementioned offered plain, garlic or sesame seed,  my personal fav.  

 

  

 

The mango lassi is not out of a jug as I’ve caught some other places pouring…it too is made from scratch. The chicken vindaloo is also remarkable in its depth, flavor and texture. 

 

When I returned to do the interview for this blog I had to have the Chicken Korma again. If it could be, it seemed better than the last time as did every bite I enjoyed. I am swept away when dining there. Even Deepak’s kheer, their rice pudding,  is over the moon with it’s rich, creamy texture, and the wonderful addition of chewy blonde raisins perfectly sautéed into chewy candies and nuts makes it all that more memorable.

 

I loved eating at the bar and seeing Deepak work in the open kitchen as Alyse, our friendly and competent waitress, met our every need. For me I never once needed to ask for at thing. 

 

 

If you love Indian food and seek a different experience along Connecticut’s shoreline I whole heartedly recommend Himalaya Cafe. You will not be disappointed. I noted a Salvatore Dali quote on the wall...”Don’t fear perfection. You’ll never achieve it!”  Deepak has shown Dali he was wrong. If Deepak’s food isn’t perfection it’s as close as you’ll ever experience.

 

 

When you go please tell them Mick & Lizzy sent you!

If you do Sima promises you a free desert!

 

Don't you love their sense of humor? Being married it's more correct than a joke!