Updated: Feb 2
Open daily 12.00-22.00. Address: Zwierzyniecka 30, 31-105 Kraków. Phone: +48 12 287 1555
It's starting to get a bit much. Monsieur, with all these new curry houses you are really spoiling us. I am a huge fan of Indian food as I've stated on many occasions and of the fad for restaurants from the sub-continent in this city which shows no sign at all of abating; indeed there is no saturation point on the horizon. Which all beg the questions: why are they so popular these days? And are they offering something that other, longer-established places don't? There are now two curry houses on Zwierzyniecka alone – hardly a main tourist thoroughfare in Krakow. Attempting to keep up with this frenzy of Indian interest, last Friday night I found myself in Himalayan Treasure (opened October 2018).
Zwierzyniecka is becoming a bit of a culinary dark horse; as well as Tandoori Flame, another respectable Indian joint, there are a few other reasonable eateries on this street now, including Greek (Real Greek), Sushi (Yana Sushi), Vegan (Vege To Tu) and fine dining (Milk & Co). That's only about half of the total number of restaurants on a 500m stretch of road which wouldn't necessarily get too much tourist foot traffic; a sign of how the food scene is absolutely booming in Krakow now. No doubt this has been bolstered by the recent award recognizing Krakow as the gastronomic city of 2019. Himalayan Treasure, run by Govinda Chaulagain (a relative new-comer in the business but who has previous experience at the excellent Taste of India), hails from Nepal and hopes that this does indeed fill a gap in an increasingly crowded market: “Our chefs cook food from northern India and Nepal, and we include several Tibetan and Nepali dishes on our menu. Momo, chicken and vegetable Thukpa, Chowmein..we aim to offer something to everyone.” Indeed, the menu is long, and chock-full of all the Indian classics we know and love – Biryani, Jalfrezi, Tikka Massala, Madras, Vindaloo – as well as finding space for intriguing dishes you're unlikely to have heard of. It's as close to a full Indian menu as you're likely to get.
I ordered a couple of papadum which came with some excellent sweet sauce and eyed the décor. It's a low-key, basement diner with about thirty covers. Modest, and one expects an upsizing if it gets popular. At the moment, Friday nights don't require a reservation – only a few other diners were there when we arrived, and we were on our own for much of the evening. Atmosphere: very pleasant. A few stock Indian pictures on the wall, some Hindu elephants and other sub-continent knick-knacks. Some Indian chanteuse drifting from the speakers. Nothing flashy but what do you need in an Indian? It's all about the food. And the beer of course. Three Indian ones are on offer: Cobra, Kingfisher (11zł) and Goa (15zł). I went for the Goa, the only one available in a 500ml bottle. It was served ice cold. Fresh and light, a great beer for a curry. I kicked off with an almond soup (16zł). Not exclusively an Indian dish, but also not a soup I've tried before. It was thick, creamy, full of a very rich almond taste and very slightly sweet and spicy. It was a great entree and also, I'd imagine pretty healthy – a great source of protein.
I was confused what to order next because there's a fair selection of appetizers on offer. There are ten tandoori starters alone, and another twelve non-meat – bhaji, pakora and so on. The latter are mostly modestly priced, 10-15zł. I went for prawn pakora with a sweet/spicy sauce. The prawns were served without any garnish and there were eight of them, so the price of 32zł did seem somewhat steep. Nevertheless, they made a fine appetizer, were crunchy and well-cooked, and went well with the dip. Kasia had ordered Haryali Malai Tikka and this looked far more interesting; a sizzling dish of the skewered paneer with onion, peppers and tomato looked mouth-watering, and I wish I'd gone for a tandoori dish myself.
For my main though, I was to make no mistake. Lamb is my go-to Indian meat of choice, and that is because it just tastes so damn good if it's been marinated and cooked in a curry by a cook who knows what they're doing. There are actually eleven lamb or mutton dishes on offer here (30-42zł) – a record by my reckoning in Krakow curry places – so the choice wasn't an easy one. That is in addition to thirteen fish and seafood, twenty vegetarian and twelve chicken ones: there are over a hundred dishes on the menu in total. I went for one I hadn't heard of before, and definitely not tried – Lamb Rara Gosht (42zł). Why Rara? It's named after a legend apparently – it was the name of a witch who was guarding a princess from a lustful prince, and was persuaded to let her go because the prince cooked her this tempting dish..or so the story goes. The dish itself consists of succulent pieces of lamb together with lamb mince slowly cooked in a rich gravy containing countless aromatic spices. It's a medium-spicy dish, and the over-riding flavours are of garlic, ginger, chilli and black peppercorn. Certainly not 'Polish spicy' as curries here are sometimes derisively termed.
I even had a mild sweat on. The richness of the sauce is everything here though, and I was absolutely delighted with it - as I was with the quality and texture of the meat. The vegetable pilau rice I had to go with it was an excellent partner, but a special word has to go to the naan bread. There are even seven types of naan to choose from, and I went for Kashmeeri, since Peshwari wasn't available. It was stuffed with crushed almonds, cashews and cherry paste – and the taste was spectacular. Several fluffy pillows of this delicious bread came in a basket, so one to share is advisable. My partner, though, had already ordered her own Garlic Rotti to go with her excellent Shahi Mirki (fried, stuffed peppers in sauce, 28zł).
After this absolute winner of a main course, it was always going to be downhill for dessert, and of course it was. I'd never normally go for one in an Indian (or indeed in any Asian restaurant) except in a review but hey..I had a couple of Galub Jamun (12zł), a fairly unimpressive and standard dessert whatever you say about it, and Kasia had something called Kulfi (12zł). A frozen dairy dessert, it's India's answer to ice cream, although unlike ice cream the milk is not churned. Denser and sweeter than ice cream, it's also harder to eat as it takes an age to melt. Which was unfortunate because by this stage the chef and owner were probably wanting to go home. While I'm not going to shout from the rooftops about it, it made a nice palate-cleanser if nothing else. What did finish the meal off in style for me though was a really good Mango Lassi (12zł). Rich, creamy, full of mango flavour and served ice cold, it was as refreshing and delicious as any I had when spent a lazy couple of months backpacking around northern India in my youth.
Is this the answer we fussy foreign curry lovers have been looking for then? Judging by this meal, I have to say yes, emphatically so. There is just so much choice on this menu that it will have any curry aficionado coming back for several repeat visits, and I've absolutely no doubt that this will become a firm favourite for many expats who are already loyal to one of the many excellent places already here. There is just so much more choice here than most places I've seen in Krakow, and I get the impression that quality is high in all the main dishes. That's a hard feat to pull off. If you're a meat-eater or vegetarian, you're not going away from here dissatisfied, and whether you're looking for a signature dish or something new, you're unlikely to be disappointed here. A big thumbs up from me – a hidden treasure indeed - this place scales the peaks of Indian cuisine in Krakow, and may indeed have reached the pinnacle.
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