And he’s landed on the coast in the Midway District, having recently opened Himalayan Palace Restaurant for lunch and dinner at 3760 Sports Arena Blvd.
His new location is something of a food mecca, with Phil’s BBQ, Red Lobster and The Pho Shop nearby.
Kharel has five other Nepalese-Indian restaurants scattered throughout San Diego County in La Mesa, Mission Valley, Mira Mesa and Chula Vista.
A Nepal native who came to the States 32 years ago, Kharel was studying to be an accountant in 1990 in Los Angeles. But he changed his career choice after getting homesick for his homeland cuisine.
“When I came here I eat around the restaurants and I didn’t like … there was nothing around,” he said. “I wanted to do something unique. And my customers said, ‘Let’s do it.’”
Kharel was ultimately displaced from Los Angeles to San Diego after the 1993 Northridge earthquake, after which he opened his first San Diego restaurant in La Mesa.
“All my restaurants are pure, authentic Nepalese cuisine,” he said. “Everything is fresh.”
Kharel explained the difference between Nepalese and Indian cuisine.
“About 75 percent of the spices we use in both is common,” he said. “But we use way less oil, less cream (in Nepalese), less butter, less spice. But it’s still flavorful. So it’s healthier, lighter. Our food takes longer (to cook). But it’s freshly made.”
A typical Nepalese restaurant does not carry pork or beef, noted Kharel, adding those meats are replaced by lamb, chicken and goat. There are also vegetarian and vegan choices on the varied menu, which includes soups and salads, Basmati rice Biryani dishes, a host of vegetarian options, traditional Nepalese Naan flatbread, a wide assortment of chicken and lamb options, as well as several seafood and Tandoori choices. Indian beer and wine are also served.
Himalayan Palace’s all-you-can-eat buffet is served daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at a cost of $11.95 plus tax. “The buffet is different items every day,” said Kharel, adding he’s offering special deals during his ongoing grand opening.
Kharel is also something of a tour guide for Nepal. Anyone who’s interested in going to that Himalayan nation, he’s more than willing to advise them on the best places to go — and eat.
The restaurant accommodates large groups, as well as doing catering and delivery. “We do a lot of pickups,” said Kharel, adding he remodeled the entire large restaurant space. “We improved this so that people are like, wow, when they come,” he noted.
The restaurateur takes special pride in his lamb dishes.
“Our lamb is tender and lean,” Kharel said. “People drive miles to get our lamb.”
Himalayan Palace Restaurant
3760 Sports Arena Blvd.
Hours: Sundays-Thursdays11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Fridays-Saturdays 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Info: himalayanpalacesd.com, 619-510-4966