A huge menu of Northern Indian, Tibetan and Nepalese fare is solidly executed, but erratic service can lead to a frustrating experience
Before describing one of the worst nights of restaurant service I've endured in years, I'm going to discuss the significant positive attributes of Everest Cuisine.
Having retained much of the appealing interior it inherited from the recently shuttered A Taste of Vietnam in downtown Worthington, Everest Cuisine offers a bright, comfortable space with stone, brick, ice-blue walls and flower-shaped yellow lampshades. National Geographic-style photographs appropriate for the dishes served — many of which are popular near the Himalayas and originated in Northern India, Nepal and Tibet — add the promise of delicious food from remote locales. For the most part, that promise is kept.
Widely available Indian beers — such as Taj Mahal — are offered in 22-ounce bottles for $8. These straightforward brews help establish the dining mood and won't clash with all the chili-spiked food on hand.
Green headers call attention to specialty dishes featured on an otherwise gargantuan menu rife with red headers largely advertising more-familiar Indian fare. The Kathmandu appetizer sampler ($10) is a green-header selection, and a rewarding one.
It's an entree-sized arrangement of Nepalese-style curried cold potato salad (sadheko aloo); a spicy, fragrant, citrus-tickled soybean salad (bhatamas sadheko); dry cereal-like beaten rice; and Everest's chicken choila, which recalls chopped tandoori chicken tossed with onions, chilies, tomatoes and cilantro.
Everest's Jhol Momo — Nepalese-style dumplings in a spicy, thin tomato broth — are popular and good, not great. Thin wrappers that lack the supple texture of homemade dough enclose a veggie medley ($10) or pleasant nuggets of what amounts to house chicken sausage (my recommended choice, $11).
A similar broth is the base of the winter-fighting Chicken Thukpa soup ($10). Recommended only for fiery food fans, the sizable bowl of not-mushy noodles is also accented with raw onion, cumin and comforting nubs of fried dark-meat chicken.
An aptitude for cooking meat comes in handy in sky-high, frigid climates hard on vegetation — like around Mount Everest. In this regard, the restaurant does its name proud.
One of my favorite dishes here is the bold-tasting Khasi Ko Sekuwa ($15). Essentially goat fajitas, it's tender pieces of peppery meat that arrive sizzling on a hot cast-iron platter on which the goat quickly forms a welcome crust. Minced garlic and ginger plus still-cooking, ever-sweetening onions provide great foils for the pleasantly earthy goat.
Tender meat also distinguishes the Lamb Korma ($14). Cumin seeds plus a creamy and addictive curry sauce flatter the stew chunks.
The pricey Vegetable Thali ($18) proves that meat-eschewers can eat well here, too. Along with a pile of fluffy basmati rice, a piece of papadum and a gulab jamun for dessert, my personal smorgasbord contained tiny metal bowls of aloo bodi tama (enjoyably sour tomato broth with potatoes, black-eyed peas, bamboo shoots); ginger-brightened bitter greens with a nutty sauce; lemongrass-scented daal; raita; sliced carrot and cucumber; mixed pickle; and a zippy mixed veggie curry.
Transitioning to service — well, it was always gracious. And with the exception of one visit when the restaurant was packed, it was more efficient than not. What an exception, though.
Murphy's Law seemed to govern that two-hour slog. During the protracted evening, I waited 45 minutes for soup while diners who arrived long after me were served multiple courses; I was brought the wrong entree; when the correct entree was delivered, it was missing key ingredients; several requests for napkins and water refills went unheeded; dirty dishes and empty bottles were never cleared. As the night stumbled on, my mood went ever darker.
I received a decent discount and profuse apologies, and I understand having a bad day. Here's what is difficult to understand: Rather than being addressed amid numerous pleas for help, problems continued to snowball into an avalanche of almost-comical mishaps.
Frankly, this restaurant is — and needs to be — better than that.