Smile Politely

Check out Himalayan Chimney for a winter meal with friends

Himalayan Chimney's reshmi chicken kababs beautifully plated on a wooden stump platter with a smear of a white sauce. Photo byRashmi Tenneti.
Rashmi Tenneti

I’ve always loved Himalayan Chimney, and it is my go-to spot for Indian food in Champaign. The modern interiors, fun drink options, and a menu covering pan-Indian and more Americanized-Indian food make it an easy choice. I’ve celebrated the birthdays of friends, special occasions, and most recently, the beginning of the spring semester as I start teaching again here. I had to go twice to write this review because the first time, we demolished the food before taking any pictures — but I guess any excuse is a good excuse to try some of their delicious, beautifully plated, and flavorsome food over and over again.

The group I went with included friends who are originally from India, visited India, or just love Indian food. We tried a variety of appetizers, meats from the tandoor, curries, and rice dishes.

On the second round, our appetizers included momos ($9.99) and lasooni gobi ($9.99).

Rashmi Tenneti

The chili sauce on Himalayan Chimney’s momos was a tangy Indo-Chinese sauce that vividly reminded me of street food in India. The first time we had the paneer chili appetizer, and the cubed cheese was a great vehicle for the same chili sauce. This time, we got the momos, northeast Indian/Nepalese dumplings filled with vegetables and tossed with bell peppers and onions to feed our post-work hunger. 

Rashmi Tenneti

The lasooni gobi (garlic cauliflower) was still the reigning king with its crispy cauliflower and garlic sauce.

With my dinner, I had sweet lime soda, a nostalgic delight from my 90s childhood that always delights me even in the winter. Each sip took me back to the Indian summers, and it paired very well with the food to cleanse the palate as we switched between flavors.

Rashmi Tenneti

From the tandoor (clay oven), we got the Reshami kebab ($14.99); I always get this one because my name is in it. The kebabs were plated artistically on slate and came out sizzling with dipping chutneys on the side. The delicately flavored Reshami kebab had minced chicken kebab with garlic shaped into a tube like a sheesh kebab and had an even roast on all sides from being in the oven.

Rashmi Tenneti

We also ordered the eight-piece tandoori chicken ($17.99). The tandoor chicken was a great second option with bolder flavors, bone-in meat, and the distinctive tandoor red color. It would be great option for those who like chicken wings. 

For entrees, we checked out the chicken kurma, malai kofta, and lamb chop masala. My friend’s mom who was visiting from India got the lamb biryani.

Rashmi Tenneti

The chicken kurma ($14.99) had a cashew-based gravy that really warmed me up with its bold flavors of ginger, garam masala, and cardamom. The malai kofta ($13.99) had a cream-based gravy with dumplings made with cheese and vegetables. The dumplings were delicious and were claimed — and consumed — in seconds. All of the curries were beautifully decorated with delicate edible flowers.

Rashmi Tenneti

The lamb chop masala ($20.99) came bone-in, and my friends who tried everything mentioned that it was the boldest curry with heavy hints of coriander pods, pepper, and a tamarind-flavored gravy. The lamb chops were paired with a spritz of lime to balance the heavy flavors. 

Rashmi Tenneti

The lamb biryani was fragrant with well-cooked lamb and heavily seasoned rice. The pairing of the spicy biryani with the cooling raita was a hit!

The dishes we tried the first time — when we demolished the food before taking any pictures — were delicious and beautifully plated, too. One appetizer was an order of samosas, a staple of Indian snacks, and Himalayan Chimney’s were deep-fried dough pyramids stuffed with spiced potatoes and peas.

For entrees, I love the shrimp curries at Himalayan! The Goan shrimp and the malai shrimp are both coconut-based shrimp curries with delicate but well-balanced flavors. They are a great intro to Indian food if you haven’t tried any before.

On our first visit, we also had the vegetarian kurma and shahi paneer. The vegetarian kurma shared the same cashew-based gravy as the chicken kurma, and it was exquisite with peas, carrots, onions, and beans. The shahi paneer (roughly translating to royal cheese) was a crowd-pleaser with its sweeter notes and caramelized onion-tomato base. Like the malai shrimp, the shahi paneer was a great introductory dish for children and those who are new to Indian food.

All in all, Himalayan Chimney is perfect for an end-of-the-day winter pick-me-up with its satisfying, flavored, and well-presented options.

Himalayan Chimney
134 W Church St
M-Sa 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. + 5 to 10 p.m.
Su noon to 3 p.m. + 5 to 9:30 p.m.

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