Last night, my family had what we like to call an adventure.
We braved the potholes and slush piles of Saw Mill Run Road to visit the new Everest Ethnic Restaurant.
It serves food from Nepal, the South Asian nation that is home to part of the world's highest mountain and is squeezed between India and Tibet.
The restaurant, next-door to Nepali Bazaar store in the city's Brentwood neighborhood, is at the epicenter of much of the area's Nepali community, which, at some 3,000-plus, probably is bigger than most Pittsburghers think.
Most of them were among the ethnic Nepalis who were kicked out of neighboring Bhutan beginning in the late 1980s and were relocated here as refugees, as our friend Diana Nelson Jones has written about.
So now that part of the South Hills has several Nepali businesses, but this is the first Nepali restaurant.
The food is very much like Indian food, with Chinese influences, too. But we wanted to try the most Nepali stuff.
We started out ordering for my son a mango lassi ($2.95) and asking for glasses for the bottle of wine we brought. Our server brought us two pint glasses (it was like he knew us, if not how to serve wine).
Then, with his help, we asked for an order of Momo, or Nepalese dumplings, opting for the mutton ones, fried rather than steamed ($6.95). For our son, we ordered a bowl of Chicken Soup ($2.95). And from the "Noodle Specialties" section of the menu, we asked for Vegetable Thukpa, described as "hearty soup made with Nepali style noodles, mixed vegetables and spices" ($5.95) and some Vegetable Chau-Chau, "Nepali style noodles pan fried with vegetables and spices" ($6.95 with chicken).
Considering that except for one Nepali family who came in for takeout, we were the only diners there, it was a long wait for the food, but the newly remodeled space, with red walls and carpet and only slightly too-low-hanging light fixtures, was warm -- both in temperature, unlike so many other restaurants, and in coziness. We got the remote for the TV on one wall and switched it to the Winter Olympics, over loud recorded Hindi music.
The tray, when another man brought it out from the kitchen, was stunning, as you can see above. The dumplings, in the foreground left, were beautiful, not at all greasy, and served with the most interesting sauce of ground sesame seeds, peanuts and spices. Delicious. (Only complaint: A few bits of bone in the mutton.)
The soup (foreground right) and the noodles were excellent, too -- spicy, but not overly so, and steaming hot. The Thukpa noodles are like spaghetti (back, left on the tray), and the Chau-Chau noodles (back, right on the tray and below) like ramen, but our server later told us both are authentically Nepali. The garnishes of raw carrot and cilantro added an unseasonal freshness.Our son thought his soup was a little spicy, but we ordered him a plate of Aloo Paratha, or potato-stuffed whole-wheat bread ($2.95), to help with that.
What a fun feast, made even moreso by the fact that near the end of it, while our son hooved down a bowl of vanilla ice cream ($2.95), we got to talking to the guys from the kitchen, including our main server, who happened to be general manager Rup Timsina.
He told us how he wound up here by way of Bhutan, too, and may have been landlocked Pittsburgh's only Bhutanese/Nepalese sushi chef (he worked for a while at Nakama on South Side).
It was so quiet on this night because this is a time of fasting for Nepalese people, the guys explained, and of course this winter's weather hasn't made for the best time to open a restaurant.
But Mr. Timsina and company have big plans for the place, including adding menu items and a buffet. And they rent out the space, including the room next-door with a pool table in it, for weddings and other events.
Despite what it says on the website until he gets it fixed, the place does not have a "theater," Mr. Timsina said with a laugh.
But on a quiet winter weeknight, dinner for three was theater enough, and we can't wait to go back.
Everest Ethnic Restaurant is open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily at
4042 Saw Mill Run Boulevard, Unit B, Pittsburgh, PA 15227 (1-877-650-2694)
Bob Batz Jr. photos