Dining Out: Nepalese dishes debut in Ottawa at Everest Cuisine

Dining Out: Nepalese dishes debut in Ottawa at Everest Cuisine

At this casual Carling Avenue strip-mall eatery, Nepali thalis filled with curries or chicken morsels plus intriguing side dishes packed a punch.

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Everest Cuisine

1846 Carling Ave., Unit A, 613-963-4406, everestcuisineottawa.com
Open: Daily 11:30 a.m. to midnight
Prices: Most dishes, including Nepali specialties, from $7.99 to $24.99
Access: No steps to front door or washrooms

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We ate dinner last week under the shadow of Mount Everest, or, at least, beneath a poster of the world’s highest point.

We dined at Everest Cuisine, which opened last month in a modest Carling Avenue strip mall space that in recent years has seen casual eateries come and go, from Turkish to Yemeni to Middle Eastern. Now, it’s the first full-fledged Nepali restaurant to set up in Ottawa.

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Mind you, Everest offers other cuisines, perhaps in case its Nepali dishes, of which there are more than a dozen, strike a visitor as too unfamiliar or daunting. There are Indian dishes such as butter chicken, Hakka (Indo-Chinese fusion) items and even Buffalo wings, shrimp tempura and different kinds of sushi.

But as meditative flute music played over the sound system, we were determined to explore the menu’s Nepali column. During two dinners and one takeout order, we gave ourselves a crash course in Nepali food.

Momos, the steamed dumplings of Nepal, Tibet and India, were a familiar point of entry. We’ve had them in Ottawa before, about two years ago, at the Momo Spot, which has a more limited and dumpling-focused Nepali menu, and Momo Bistro, which in its own words “serves authentic momos with (an) Indian twist.”

At Everest, we tried three of its six momo choices, which all come in 10-piece servings and with either minced chicken or vegetable fillings and different sauces of varying heat levels.

The basic “Kathmandu” steamed momos ($12.99), which came with a tomato-based sauce with some spicy complexity, hit the spot. But the “Everest” tandoori momos ($16.99), which were red-stained and crunchier after their time in the tandoor oven, were better still. We would have liked our Pokhara Kothey momos ($13.99) if their pan-fried undersides had been more golden and crispy.

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Kathmandu steamed momos from Everest Cuisine on Carling Avenue Photo by Peter Hum /POSTMEDIA
Pan-seared momos with dipping sauce at Everest Cuisine on Carling Avenue. Photo by Peter Hum /POSTMEDIA
Tandoori momos at Everest Cuisine on Carling Avenue Photo by Peter Hum /POSTMEDIA

Two other appetizers, wai wai sadeko ($7.99) and bhatmas sadeko ($8.99) delivered big surprises in terms of flavour and texture.

Sadeko, I now know, means “to marinate” in Nepali. I’ve also learned that wai wai is a brand of instant noodles, and wai wai sadeko consists of those noodles, apparently uncooked, but marinated in ginger, green onion, cilantro, chilies and some punchy spices. Bhatmas sadeko applied the same marinade to soybeans that had been roasted to become extremely crunchy — offputtingly so, according to one of my dining companions. But I liked the bracing, highly stimulating results, although I have no other sadekos to compare them to.

Wai wai sadeko (spicy Nepali noodles) at Everest Cuisine on Carling Avenue. Photo by Peter Hum /POSTMEDIA
Bhatmas sadeko (roasted soybeans with spices) at Everest Cuisine on Carling Avenue. Photo by Peter Hum /POSTMEDIA

We’ve had most of the six thali sets (from $12.99 to $25.99) that Everest offers. Most of these platters, for one, combined a helping of curry (boneless chicken, boneless goat or vegetarian) or tandoori chicken with some appealing, interesting sides including sour pickled daikon, an earthy potato salad that was intriguingly spiced, lentil soup and stewed mustard greens.

Vegetarian thali, left, at Everest Cuisine on Carling Avenue, with yogurt, top right, and lentil soup, bottom right. Photo by Peter Hum /POSTMEDIA
Goat curry thali set with rice, papadum, potato salad, pickled daikon, mustard greens, lentil soup at Everest Cuisine on Carling Avenue. Photo by Peter Hum /POSTMEDIA
fChicken curry thali set rom Everest Cuisine on Carling Avenue Photo by Peter Hum /POSTMEDIA

While fluffy basmati rice accompanied the curries, the tandoori chicken, which was excellent, came with beaten rice (chiura) and puffed rice (bhuja), two crunchy takes on rice that I had not tried before.

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The Himalayan Choila set from Everest Cuisine on Carling Avenue included marinated roasted chicken with a mix of beaten rice (chiura) and puffed rice (bhuja), pickled daikon (mula ko achar), green salad, spicy potato salad (aloo ko achar) and sweet & sour sauce Photo by Peter Hum /POSTMEDIA

I’d happily eat any of the thalis again if I was in the mood for their specific, popping flavours. But my favourite is the Everest Sekuwa set, because my friends and I were practically fighting over the chicken morsels that came with it.

Everest Sekuwa set, with tandoori chicken, beaten rice, puffed rice, pickled daikon and spicy potato salad at Everest Cuisine on Carling Avenue. Photo by Peter Hum /POSTMEDIA

From the Indian menu, we tried butter chicken ($19.99) and chicken biryani ($20.99). Both dishes were tasty, although also more tomato-y than usual, and the biryani, when compared to other versions I’ve enjoyed, packed considerably less punch.

butter chicken
Butter chicken at Everest Cuisine on Carling Avenue Photo by Peter Hum /POSTMEDIA
Chicken biryani at Everest Cuisine on Carling Avenue Photo by Peter Hum /POSTMEDIA

We also had an order of chicken 65 ($13.99), the highly spiced, deep-fried chicken appetizer that can be found in the appetizer or Hakka (Indo-Chinese) sections of some Indian restaurants. At Everest, the dish was heavily sauced and chili-forward, whereas I prefer my chicken 65 dry and chicken-forward, if mightily seasoned.

chicken 65
Chicken 65, and Indo-Chinese dish at Everest Cuisine on Carling Avenue. Photo by Peter Hum /POSTMEDIA

Dessert has felt skippable at Everest, because in each instance, our stomachs and tastebuds felt very full after a parade of savoury dishes.

For sweet meal-enders, there are four small choices here, of which we’ve had simply the “King of yogurt” (juju dhau), which was included with one of our thalis, and which was lightly mango-tinged and extremely thick and rich.

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As you would expect, the restaurant is unlicensed and its food is halal. Our server, Shovan, did a fine job of demystifying the offerings here. For example, he advised us to top our basmati rice with lentil soup because Nepalis “never eat dry rice.”

We clearly have lots more to learn about Nepali cuisine, at Everest or any other kindred eateries that follow in its path. It feels like it will be a worthwhile journey of discovery.

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