Now open for three months, Shangri-la is located in a newish strip mall across from Sonoma State. Business has been slowly building and the proprietors are hoping things will pick up when the students return for the start of school. They deserve chowhound support. The owners are Nepalese and the menu includes dishes from Nepal, Tibet, and Northern India. But not from Bhutan . . . I asked.
This is the third Nepali restaurant Ive tried in Sonoma County. Maybe were becoming the epicenter for Nepalese food in the Bay Area hope so! The room is more basic and casual than the other two painted in saffron, tumeric and cinnamon tones with black granite tabletops. Prices are lower too. I enjoyed the quiet and restful chants playing in the background. Some outdoor seating is available.
Dishes sampled included:
Pani puri, $3.99 the garbanzo and potato blend to assemble oneself was very spicy hot and complex with cumin and cardamom, the cilantro water was fresh-tasting, none of the tiny puffs leaked, and the tamarind dipping sauce was gingery hot. Really enjoyed these.
Samosas (2), $2.99 a pair of pyramidal-shaped turnovers with a deep-fried crispy pastry shell stuffed with roasted spicy potatoes were a manageable size and decent, especially liked the bed of organic local salad greens
Lamb chhoela, $7.99 (depicted below) creative presentation in a papadam bowl for one of the most delicious "tostadas" I've ever had, tasty marinated strips of tender grilled lamb tossed with scallions cut in fronds, sweet red onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, garlic, and cilantro, fresh sweet vegetable flavors and crispness
Vegetable momos, $6.99 round steamed dumplings with a top knot like xiao long bao, thick skinned but not doughy, delicious filling of pristinely fresh spinach blended with scallions, red onions, tofu and spices, nice spicy tomato dipping sauce
Meat momos, $6.99 half moon-shaped dumplings with thick skins, coarsely chopped lamb and beef, too gamey for my tastes
Palak paneer with white rice, $6.99 made with fresh spinach in the ultra-pureed and rich creamy style, mildly in heat yet intensely seasoned with the spices overtaking the taste of the spinach, generous portion of fresh paneer cheese with each cube meticulously seared on all sides, rice is too soft for my taste but made from top quality very long-grained fresh Basmati scented with cardamom and coriander seeds
Butter naan, $1.99 a long slipper-shaped leavened flatbread thats twice the size of a regular round, a bit doughy in some parts but a good effort, also available dry or with flavorings
Mango lassi, $2.49 tart-sweet mango flavors are overtaken by the richness of the housemade full fat yogurt, next time Ill just get a regular sweet or salty lassi to enjoy the creamy taste of the dairy
Kheer (rice pudding), $2.99 the least of the desserts, nicely flavored with cardamon and almonds, barely sweetened in a lighter style, but seems made from leftover long-grained rice, rather than the slow-cooking together of ground and whole rice
Lal mohan, $2.99 two thimble-sized fried milk balls (like gulab jamun) that were overly firm and dense in texture for my taste, in a pool of warm honeyed rosewater syrup sprinkled with coconut
Ras malai, $2.99 my favorite of the desserts, rubbery cheese balls with moderately tender texture and satisfying squeakiness bathed in moderately sweet creamy milk syrup with fragrant spices and pistachios
The hallmark of the cooking here is freshness - very fresh produce (organic where possible) and cooked-to-order bright flavors. The kitchen can make some of the recipes vegetarian or vegan upon request. Grilled items from the tandoor are also available although I didn't get a chance to try them.
Over three visits in a months time, the service has gotten faster, smoother and more confident. Maybe its just me, but it seems that the spice level has come down during that time, so its worth specifying if you want your food very spicy. Taj Majal and King Fisher are available, as well as other beers and wine.
Shangri-La Café and Grill
Food from the Himalayas
1706 East Cotati Ave.
(behind Taco Bell)
11:30am-2:3pm and 5:30pm-9:30pm
While not that close to the highway for wine country day-trippers, access is very easy. Driving north on 101, exit at West Sierra. Turn right onto West Sierra towards Cotati (to the east), continue past the intersection with Old Redwood Hwy. where the road becomes East Cotati Ave. Another three miles or so, it's on the right-hand side. If you continue east and go too far, you'll dead-end into Petaluma Hill Road shortly.