FOOD- DISH- Cultural symbols: Mall gets Himalayan Fusion
Himalayan Fusion– the new Tibetan/Nepalese/Indian restaurant sandwiched between the Discovery Museum and Baggby's on the Downtown Mall-– appears to be a reflection of its owner, Rekha Mukhia. In fact, when asked how she came up with the concept for the restaurant, Mukhia reflects on her heritage.
"I'm from Darjeeling," she says, "where we've always had food from Tibet, Nepal, and India." One of Himalayan's specialties, says Mukhia, is momos, a Tibetan dumpling cooked with onions and ginger.
Of course, they also have the large open Indian ovens to bake Indian naan and tandoori dishes, as well as sekuwa, a boneless chicken appetizer cooked with fresh Nepali herbs. Indeed, even the décor reflects this "fusion" of cultures. Local artist Christy Baker has created three murals: a red and orange dragon to represent Tibet, a pair of beguiling eyes for Nepal, and a painted elephant for India.
Although this is Mukhia's first restaurant, her reason for opening one is refreshingly simple. "I have always enjoyed eating out and entertaining people," she says.
Apparently, people have been entertained. Mukhia says business since the restaurant's June 23 opening has been "awesome."
"We've already had people come in three and four times," she adds. "I think Charlottesville is so different than other small cities. A lot of people here know what Tibetan and Nepalese food is about. It's the right place for this kind of concept. If we tried to do this in Harrisonburg, it wouldn't work."
If Himalayan Fusion turns out to be as warm and welcoming as its owner, the east end of the Mall just got a little more welcoming.
McClure brothers make the basics better
In the summer of 2001, UVA grads Andy and Patrick McClure took over The Virginian on the Corner. For most folks, running such a storied Corner landmark might have been enough, but the McClure boys had other plans.
After about a year, the two bought the old Awful Arthur's space on West Main and renamed it the West Main Restaurant. On June 21, they added Jaberwoke to their holdings. "Our goal was always to start a restaurant group in town that focuses on making the basics much better," says Andy McClure.
So are there plans to buy more local favorites? "Oh, absolutely," says McClure. "We love this town, these places, the customers– because they're the type of people we are."
This "making-the-basics-better" strategy seems to be paying off. West Main just recently revamped its menu, décor, and lighting. "We're trying to bridge the gap between the Corner and the Downtown Mall," says McClure, "by inventing a bar and grill that's a little more upscale, but not quite as upscale as the Downtown Grille."
They've also added a few things to the menu, including a baked gouda mac and cheese that McClure calls "unbelievable," and bar foods like Buffalo wings, chicken tenders, and potato skins.
Jaberwoke will see changes as well, says McClure. "There's 4,000 square feet in that place and only one bar, which often made it difficult for people to get a drink," he says. "So we're going to put in a second bar on the other side of the room."
The McClures will also introduce something called "crusties," a kind of rolled-up pizza chopped into cinnamon bun-like pieces. "These are going to take the town by storm," McClure predicts. Well, even if their crusties don't take us by storm, it appears the McClure's just might. Got a restaurant you want to sell?
Kudos to L'etoile
Last week, Dish dished on L'etoile's new patio menu, including a quote from chef/owner Mark L Gresge about watching Wild Wings' "colorful" guests from the perch. Gresge was concerned that his quote seemed to be making fun of Wild Wings and called Dish to set the record straight.
"I'm a Wild Wings customer myself," he says, "and we've always had a great relationship with them. I consider myself a good neighbor and would not want to insult their business or their guests in any way."
Well, Dish is impressed. In a town where the restaurant business is so competitive, this kind of civility is a rare thing indeed.
The east end of the Mall's new restaurant, Himalayan Fusion, blends Tibetan, Nepalese, and Indian offerings.
PHOTO BY DAVE MCNAIR