Chef Chat, Part 2: Kaiser Lashkari of Himalaya Restaurant

Between disappearing into the kitchen and answering phone calls at his prominent desk, owner and chef Kaiser Lashkari continues our chat from yesterday about Himalaya Restaurant.

EOW: When you go home, do you cook?

KL: No. We never cook at home. On our day off, we always eat out and see how others are doing.

EOW: How is your restaurant different from other Indian or Pakistani restaurants in Houston?

KL: First of all, we don't offer buffet. In buffet, food that is not sold on one particular day is recycled over and over again. Mostly. I'm not saying all of them, but most of them. We don't do that. We believe in preparing fresh food every day. We don't use pre-made spice mixes. All of the spices are mixed by me. I don't use packet masala recipe.

EOW: I know a lot of people have talked about you having your desk in the restaurant...

KL: Yes. I have no other choice. I have 1,800 square feet. This used to be a Colombian restaurant with one burner and one fryer. And we have added 300 percent more equipment than what we inherited! I know it's my cross to bear in life, this desk which has made me so infamous. But I have no other choice. I am seriously thinking of digging a hole and going into a hole. Where would I put my paperwork? A restaurant as busy as this has a lot of paperwork to be juggled. There are regulations to be followed. I know it's a thorn in the side, it's an eyesore, but I think I compensate that by working so much harder than any of my counterparts.

EOW: Do you ever want to go back to Pakistan, or are you in Houston for a while?

KL: No, no. This is home and will be home 'til I kick the bucket.

EOW: What's your favorite thing to prepare here?

KL: Anything new that becomes a hit becomes my favorite to prepare.

EOW: Is there a recent favorite of yours?

KL: The recent dish is the Mirchon Ka Salan, which has got 67 ingredients. This is a time-tested recipe. But because it's so involved, nobody does it on a commercial basis the way it should be done. It's not my dish, it's been here for over 100 or 200 years...we have done it the way it should be done. That's why it tastes that good.

EOW: What else should people know about Himalaya?

KL: The thing that sets me apart from others is we make all the food from scratch. We don't do any sauce cooking. 99.999999 percent of Indian restaurants, they do sauce cooking. Like they have onion sauce, tomato sauce, korma sauce -- there are four or five sauces that they have, they throw in the boiled meat, put in some fresh herbs and spices, and complete it in a frying pan. That's not how we cook. We cook it the way it's supposed to be done, step by step with all the different spices added at different stages.

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