For years, residents in near north Houston have complained about living in an Indian food desert. We enjoyed an abundance of other fare: Italian, Mexican, bar-b-Que, Chinese, even Thai – but no Indian. In 2016, that changed with the addition of Govinda’s at the ISKCON Temple on 34th Street. Today, we have at hand, what may be the best Indian restaurant in Houston.
Govinda’s, which means “one who brings pleasure to the senses,” is located on the property of the Hare Krishna temple on the edge of Garden Oaks. The structure’s beautiful blue and gold spires reach 90 feet skyward, making it impossible to miss.
The vegetarian and vegan cuisine served at Govinda’s is created from the freshest possible local ingredients under the care of the husband and wife team of chefs, Joynitai and Jamuna Dasadhikari. The couple brings years of experience with other Govinda’s restaurants to the table. Amar Singh Bishwakarma is the former executive chef at 5-star Bombay Brasserie in India and works as Govinda’s chef de cuisine. General Manager and President of the ISKCON temple, Syamsunder Das keeps a watchful eye over all.
The restaurant is spotless, and serves heavenly lunch and dinner all-you-can-eat buffets daily. Krishna values and traditions guide the chef’s hand in the creation of each meal – good food, good friends, and healthy dining are at the core of every dish. The recipes represent an 8,000-year-old collection of multi-cultural melding, similar to India itself.
“When we first visited Govinda’s, it was mostly out of curiosity,” stated Oak Forest resident Patrick McDougle. “I thought ‘How good can a vegetarian restaurant really be?’ We were completely blown away by the flavors. It was that good. The saag paneer (cooked spinach, milk and cheese) and roti with ghee (flat wheat bread with butter) alone are worth the visit.”
“We are proud that we can offer something so healthy to the community,” stated General Manger Das. “People like our food, and our welcoming attitude. We first thought we would rotate the types of fare: Italian one day, Mexican the next, and so on, but our customers asked us to serve Indian food everyday. They really enjoy it. We have some who visit three or four times a week.”
The restaurant operates as a non-profit, and the recipes are the result of thousands of years of holistic study and practice. Each is a blend of flavors and spices designed to create health and harmony in the body, a balance that Krichnas believe then reaches to the human spirit. Attainment of peace and harmony are at the very foundation of Krishna teachings.
ISKCON is a good citizen in our community. The temple serves 600 local, under-privileged children’s lunches each week. And Govinda’s recently added a new program. Schools are welcome to bring children in for a field trip to tour the temple and gardens, then have lunch at the restaurant at a 40 percent discount. It’s a trip to India in one afternoon.
Govinda’s customers are also encouraged to stroll the temple when visiting. Take a moment to enjoy the the magnificent murals and colors in the grand hall, and the gardens. There is a boutique in the main building offering affordable books, art, figurines, toys, and natural fiber clothing perfectly suited to a Houston summer.
“We are proud to be here, and we want the community to get to know us. After all, if one cannot afford a trip to the Taj Mahal, we are the next best thing,” Das concluded with a smile.
Lunch at Govinda’s is served from 11 AM to 2:30 PM and costs $10.95. Dinner is served from 5 PM to 9 PM and costs $12.95. Both are available seven days a week. The menu is normally 75 percent vegan. On Sundays, it is all vegan. There is no alcohol, but there are three house-made beverages available.