Shangri-La gives students a taste of Nepal

Shangri-La is a Nepalese restaurant offering a broad range of curries including fish, chicken, lamb, vegan, vegetarian and gluten free dishes. Clay oven baked naan and Tibetan/Nepali momos are also served. 

Co-owner Meenakshi Sharma is from Nepal and opened her restaurant at 1706 East Cotati Ave. in the Wolf Den Plaza across from Sonoma State University more than 12 years ago. 

“The faculty and students at Sonoma State are my genuine customers,” Sharma said.

Shangri- La offers lunch specials Monday through Friday and includes vegetable or chicken curry. 

“The lunch specials are for everybody but especially for students” said Sharma. 

On Tuesdays, chicken or vegetable tikka masala is added to the lunch specials. Thursdays include butter chicken. Cost for each lunch special is $8.99 and is served with rice and Naan. 

“Most students now come for Tiki Tuesdays,” said Sharma, explaining that they usually get together here. “I really appreciate the students...I created the chicken masala for students.” 

She described how one of her customers from Sonoma State that came everyday for years to eat chicken masala and naan. One day she asked the student which day of the week worked best for him. He told her Tuesdays. As a result the lunch special on Tuesday now includes chicken masala.

Sydney Swan is a customer that has been coming to Shangri-La for more than three years. 

“I’ve tried everything on the menu. I definitely love the food...I’m there all the time..my favorite [dish] is the chicken chilli,” Swan said.

Chilli is a Shangri-La special offered with choice of tofu, veggie or chicken for $12.99.

If you’re looking for a light meal, soups and salads are also offered. Lentil soups start at $4.99 or choose an organic mixed salad for $6.99. Every effort is made to select vegetables that are organic or chicken that is free range.

“You get really healthy food…salads are always organic,” Sharma said.

The name for Shangri-La was influenced by Sharma’s view of Nepal. The country is known for the highest mountain, Mount Everest, and Kali Gandaki Gorge, considered the deepest gorge in the world.

“Its amazingly beautiful, [somewhere] you can feel heaven,” Sharma explained. “Nepalese food is influenced more from the northern part of India.” 

Shreebhadra Dhakal is the sous-chef trained by Sharma and he said he likes to eat the traditional dal bhat-tarkari. The traditional Nepalese meal consists of lentil soup and rice with vegetable curry, but his favorite dish is often chicken curry.

Sharma said customers helped create the Shangri-La special’s. These include fish tikka masala, bhanta chicken or pumpkin curry. The dishes range in price from $7.99 to $12.99

Sharma uses a variety of spices from India in her dishes including coriander, turmeric, cumin, and ginger. The spices are integral part of her most basic ingredients.

According to Sharma, most cooks from Nepal are influenced by their mother. When she was a student living in Berkeley, she enjoyed eating with others, and often found herself cooking for five or six people. 

After being told that she should open a restaurant of her own, her own family began pushing the idea. Eventually her brother convinced her to open her restaurant. 

Shangri-La offers snack appetizers including samosa, aaloo tikki to meat and vegetable momo that use Indian spices. Prices range from $4.99 to $9.99. 

Samosa are fried pastry shells stuffed with mashed potatoes, roasted cumin and served with chutney. Aaloo Tikki are potato patties served with chutney. Meat Momo is minced lamb, mixed with green and red onions with spices wrapped in dough and served with tomato sauce.

Many neighbors, students and faculty agree that Sharma takes pride in her work and this makes her feel that she is doing something good. Graduates often come back with their families and kids.

“I feel like I have a growing family,” said Sharma. “I am so happy here.”

Shangri-La might be a mystical place one can find in a novel, but in Rohnert Park it’s a place for anyone who is hungry. 

Restaurant hours are from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch and 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. for dinner Monday through Saturday. Shangri- La closes between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. for food preparation. 

Reservations are encouraged for large groups. Students on a budget are welcome. Anyone interested can find more information at www.shangrila-cafe.com or by calling (707)793-0300.