Chef Chat, Part 1: Kaiser Lashkari of Himalaya Restaurant

Categories: Chef Chat

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Photo by Mandy Oaklander
Kaiser Lashkari, owner and chef of Himalaya Restaurant
In a special Diwali version of Chef Chat, we visit Kaiser Lashkari of Himalaya Restaurant, a North Indian and Pakistani refuge in the Mahatma Gandhi district. The chef and owner, a colorful character, is 11 tables deep today at lunchtime. Although some complain about the desk in the middle of the restaurant (it's actually pushed semi-discreetly to the side), customers here have a fierce loyalty to Himalaya.

EOW: How long have you been in Houston?

KL: Thirty-one years.

EOW: Was that when you moved to the U.S.?

KL: My first semester of schooling was in University of Kansas in Lawrence. It was too cold, so I came to Houston after one semester. Besides, they didn't have a hotel program, in which I got my bachelor's and master's.

EOW: Where did you move from?

KL: Karachi, Pakistan.

EOW: When did you start this restaurant?

KL: I moved here in 2004. In 1992 I started Kaiser Restaurant, a little bitty take-out place on Beechnut and Kirkwood. I was catering for weddings. People liked the food so much they said they want to sit and eat. So after ten years -- no, 12 years, '92-2004 -- I came here and started Himalaya Restaurant.

EOW: Is your old place still around?

KL: No, it's a laundry place. (laughs)

EOW: When did you start to cook?

KL: In 1979. I was 18. I was in med school in Pakistan.

EOW: What? So what happened?

KL: I thought that was not for me. Destiny, I guess.

EOW: Tell me about the first time you cooked.

KL: I was bragging about my cooking to somebody when I had not even cooked at all. I was very fond of eating, actually. They said, "Okay, now we're going to take you up on it. We're going to ask you to make this dish called karahi ghosht." So I put a little bit of this and a little bit of that and a little bit of this and a little bit of that. It turned into something absolutely magnificent. So I said there might be something here. That's when I started really cooking.

EOW: How did you trick them?

KL: I knew that I would be able to cook. Although I hadn't cooked until that time on any scale in a formal way, something in me always told me that I could do it.

EOW: Were you around your parents a lot when they were cooking, growing up?

KL: No. In fact, my mother was not a good cook. She did not like cooking at all. My aunt was a good cook. She was a professional caterer.

EOW: As a self-starter, what's your advice to people who want to learn to cook Indian food?

KL: If you don't have patience, then don't do it. In any kind of cooking. Patience and dedication. If you don't have that, you'll only be someone mediocre. And if you don't have an understanding life partner or spouse, who can understand this is the demand of the business...you'll be gone a good part of 10-12 hours, unlike other professionals who come home in the evening and spend time in the evening at home. There is no such thing in this business. All of the time is occupied by work. If you don't have an understanding spouse like I do -- in fact, she is my rock.

EOW: Does she cook?

KL: She does a few non-veg dishes. The grilled fish masala is her recipe.

Come back tomorrow to learn what Lashkari says is his secret edge against competition, and to hear the saga of his infamous restaurant desk.



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Location Info

Himalaya Restaurant & Catering

6652 Southwest Fwy, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


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13 comments
Hitachi7
Hitachi7

Must be a competitor posting these negative comments - ur food n service both are great.  HK

Francesco Orodinapoli
Francesco Orodinapoli

In the 5 plus years that I have been dining at Himalaya, I have NEVER EVER witnessed the behaviour described by several of these commenters. The owner is one of the most personable people whom I have crossed paths with. The food is wonderful.

Kaiser Lashkari
Kaiser Lashkari

We have a printed menu with prices available in the restaurant ,as well as printed to go menus r available upon request. In addition, a very large menu board is hung on the wall in a prominent place above the cash register counter .After a group of customers (who have repeatedly stiffed my waiters) get a 15% service charge added to their bill....they start accusing me of dishonesty. By the grace of God v have a very loyal customer base who trust us implicitly. Its very difficult to hold on to the waitstaff and prevent employee turnover in my restaurant because a SELECT group of people consider TIPPING COMPLETELY ALIEN TO THEIR CULTURE.

Jenny Wang
Jenny Wang

I love Kaiser and I love Himalaya.

BeeLargus
BeeLargus

Sorry to see these negative comments. We consider Chef Kaiser and his wonderful food a true gift. He and his staff have always treated us with kindness and concern. If you need anything, just ask. He can make it happen. It may not be the quickest service, but we never leave unhappy. The food is amazing so it's worth the wait. We have taken friends who have lived in both DC & NYC to Himalaya --- even they judge it as some of the best food they have eaten, EVER. And I would have to agree.

ec
ec

While service is bad, I don't really thing the food is anything special.  I did like the heat, but the flavor was mediocre.

LW
LW

The food is good here, but Mr. Kaiser Lashkari's business practices leave something to be desired. I have been upcharged more than once at this establishment, and misled by menus that flat out lie about stuff that's included with the meal.

LW
LW

I must be different from your regular group of customers who stiffs your waiters. I haven't stiffed anyone's tip since I was broke in high school back in 2001. Notwithstanding my ability to tip according to societal norms (you'll just have to trust me on this), I implore you to review your Godd*mn menus and what you decide to charge for consistency.

Bruce R
Bruce R

Such lofty praise is beyond the threshold of belief.

sbterry
sbterry

I have heard this comment more than once from this place.  Will be interesting to see if EOW asks about this since it seems to be more than common knowledge.

Beelargus
Beelargus

Well after eating there religiously for almost five years, what can I say? We are BELIEVERS! Order a paratha with the Haleem and you may believe too. Have worked our way through the menu and the only thing that didn't shine for us was the Chicken Tikka Masala. Not that it was a bad dish, it was just missing the many layers of flavors present in some of our favorite items. It's our guess that the Chicken Tikka Masala must be the dish for people who are "afraid" of spices... or maybe those who are new to Indian or Pakisatni restaurants?

BTW - the chicken seekh kabob is to die for!!!

Beelargus
Beelargus

Opps... I meant Pakistani (type-o)

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