Au Palais de l’Himalaya. Illustration by Lucy Dixon.
The search for good Indian restaurants in Paris goes on. This week I tried Au Palais de l’Himalaya on the recommendation of a friend. A great advantage of this Montmartre restaurant during the hot Paris summer is its terrace on a quiet, narrow street only a block away from Rue Steinkerque, where endless torrents of tourists stream up and down the hill as they head to or leave the Sacré Cœur. Rue Briquet itself is blessedly car-free, although the occasional motorcycle goes vrooming noisily by.
Like Kirane’s, reviewed here in April, the Palais is a family affair and has been in business in Paris for a couple of generations. The origin of the cuisine at both is Punjabi, but the Palais is a halal restaurant.
We were a group of seven the other night and, as we had done at Kirane’s, we skipped the starters. Each of us ordered a main dish, and for the table to share we got three servings of rice, two naans (one garlic, one cheese), two chapattis, a couple of servings of raita (a yogurt and cucumber condiment great for cooling down the heat of a curry), one of dal makhni (a mix of various types of lentils cooked with spices) and one of sagalou (spinach and potatoes). It turned out to be the perfect amount (those unused to Indian food have a strong tendency to over-order; I remember eating with friends at a fantastic Indian restaurant in London once and embarrassingly discovering that we could barely eat half of the mass of food we had ordered).
Among the main courses at the Palais, my vote for the best goes to the butter chicken, which Brian had ordered, requesting that it be “really hot, Indian hot.” It wasn’t, even though it was the hottest of the dishes served (Punjabi dishes are not generally as hot as those prepared in the south of India and make great use of dairy products, which explains the use of crème fraîche in many of the Palais’ dishes). I loved the fragrant sauce of this dish made with tandoori chicken, butter, raisins, crème fraîche and spices.
I ordered the house lamb dish, a curry with coconut, raisins, cashews, broccoli, lentils and a hard-boiled egg. It was lovely, but I really preferred that butter chicken. Bonnie reported that her geenga Kashmiri (shrimp curry with cashews, raisins, crème fraîche and spices) was delicious. Lucy, who made the lovely drawing of the restaurant at the top of the page, had her favorite, the Himalaya biryani (lamb, chicken, shrimp and vegetables with black rice, cashews, raisins and spices). The secret here seems to lie in the chef’s savvy dosage of those mysterious “various spices,” as the menu puts it.
The breads (perfectly soft and crisped) and the sagalou were especially good.
For dessert, we sampled the house-made kulfi, an ice cream made with almonds, pistachios and coconut, an acquired taste because of its somewhat odd texture, and a fresh fruit salad, which was fine, but not special.
The service, by the way, was perfect, offered with smiles and kindness. We were even rewarded with a free bottle of rosé. It is also worth noting that the restaurant offers home delivery seven days a week anywhere in Paris.
I would unhesitatingly recommend Au Palais de l’Himalaya, but I am still searching for that Indian restaurant that goes above and beyond into culinary invention. Next stop: MG Road.