We spent a fabulous four days in Rome, which went by like a dream, and the city was everything we thought it would be, and more. One evening, we marvelled at the colonnades and dome of Tempietto del Bramante, a 16th century Spanish martyrium hidden inside a museum. Then, we walked to a viewing point at Gianicolo Hill, the highest hill in Rome, to gaze at an extraordinarily intense sunset leaking over the sandy rooftops of the ancient city. A little after 6, it was entirely dark, and we decided to take a bus to Himalaya Palace at Via Agrigento, where a dinner reservation awaited us.
From the outside, the Indian restaurant looked quite unassuming, although we admit to a warm glow emanating from within. Pleasing Italian taste palettes since 1993, Himalaya Palace doesn’t need much of an introduction. But they were the first to introduce Italians to the Indian tandoor oven.
As the evening advanced, the place grew steadily fuller until there wasn’t a single table left! True, it was a Friday, but the restaurant’s popularity among Rome’s gourmands is unquestionable. The food was of course fantastic, but if we had to name one thing that really stood out for us – it would be the unfailing hospitality of Anil Gupta, the proprietor. In the country since three decades, Mr. Gupta speaks fluent Italian, and his smile never wears, even as he greets every single guest in person.
We were the first to arrive at 7 PM, and found ourselves a table in the inner section. Fried papad (crisp Indian crackers) magically appeared on our table as we perused the menu. The decor was understated, with embroidered Indian cushions lining the ceiling, contemporary instrumental Indian music playing softly, and not much else to detract from the focus of the experience – the food and drinks!
Himalaya Palace has a decent wine and beer list, featuring both Indian and Italian brands. Mr. Gupta recommended the Santa Cristina Toscana 2016, a full-bodied and fruity red wine. We also ordered samosas (vegetarian pastries with savoury filling), paneer tikka (grilled cottage cheese in tasty marinade), and mix veg pakoras (fried onion, potato, and eggplant fritters).
The starters reached our table in no time at all, and our hungry tummies couldn’t be thankful enough. The samosas were crispy but only mildly spicy, while the paneer tikka was succulent and brimming with that creamy flavour that only paneer can have. We also thoroughly enjoyed the pakoras (the eggplant ones were amazing) with three different kinds of dips: a green coriander chutney, sweet mango sauce, and spicy pickle.
The portions were ideal for two people; if you visit as a family, be sure to order two of every starter or a platter that lets you taste everything. For those who can’t be bothered to order a la carte, the restaurant has a wonderful vegetarian or non-vegetarian signature menu. That said, the menu isn’t overwhelming at all, and features only the very best of North-Indian cuisine.
For mains, we went with paneer tikka masala and malai kofta as curries, and cheese naan and laccha paratha as breads. A bit of an aside here: we spotted a cute Italian girl holding her roti like a baguette, and chomping away at it! It was comic, but quite understandable, given the fact that western bread is always eaten that way. However, if you want to do it right, remember to break off pieces of your roti (with your hands, ideally), and use them to scoop up the curry so you get both in your mouth at the same time.
Getting back to our meal, the super cheesy and soft naan and the perfectly done paneer tikka masala were exemplary. The latter wasn’t too spicy but as delicious as any counterpart you’d find in India. The malai kofta consisted of fried potato dumplings in gravy, and the layered laccha paratha was good to mop it up with. We got complimentary raita (spiced yoghurt with chopped tomatoes and onions) and steamed Basmati rice, which went superbly with our meal.
We could’ve probably stuffed in a few bites of dessert as well, but we’ve learnt to heed our stomachs in this matter, and stop when nearly full. That way, we have something to go back for! Next time, we’ll definitely try the mango kulfi (Indian ice-cream) or gulab jamun (fried cream cheese balls in sugar syrup).
Himalaya Palace is a long-trusted North Indian restaurant in Rome with moderately priced food (20 euros for the signature menu, approx 40 euros for two a la carte) served with great love and care in an unassuming yet comfortable ambience. The veg pakoras, paneer tikka masala, and cheese naan are must-haves. The meat curries also come highly recommended. Make sure you reserve a table in advance as the place can get quite full.
Value for money: 4/5
Address: Circonvallazione Gianicolense, 277, Rome 00152
Reservations: (+39) 06 5826001 | (+39) 347 5933376 | email@example.com