I read somewhere that Everest Café in Berkeley’s Solano Avenue neighborhood specialized in Himalayan food. The idea of trying something from a part of the world so distant and mysterious drew me to dinner, and I brought along my friend Hector.
The signage outside the neighborhood favorite (a lot of people came in for take out) specified the type of Himalayan cuisine as eastern Nepalese and Indian. (Several countries share the Himalayas, including China and Tibet.) And while I knew nothing about Nepalese food, I knew Indian was typically curries, naan bread and tandoori.
We relied on our server to recommend traditional Nepalese food, but our enthusiastic server basically recommended everything on the menu. You know the type who says everything’s good?
In our adventure, Hector and I did discover some new things. One was the papad, a crispy baked lentil wafer that’s served with a yin-yang dipping sauce of tamarind and mint. I’m not exactly sure how the papad would be considered appetizing since its paper thin size doesn’t really fill you up. (Hector referred to it as a communion wafer.) I guess it’s just a vehicle to carry the tasty mint dip (I wasn’t really fond of the tamarind sauce).
Also new to us was the aalu dam ($2.99), which our server said was a traditional Nepalese dish of boiled potatoes that are then pan-fried to make them crispy. Served coated with cumin and spices, it was comforting but really just tasted like roasted potatoes with cumin.
One of the dish that caught my eye on the menu was the Everest Tarkari ($16.99), something like a casserole with baked chicken, lamb, shrimp and cauliflower – all my favorite foods. But the dish did taste pretty much like a light curry.
When we asked our server for a recommendation for a vegetable dish, she suggested the Mis-mas tarkari ($9.99), which was basically an assortment of vegetables prepared in the same spices used for the Everest Tarkari. So I felt we were just eating a vegetarian version of the same dish.
So what I learned about Himalayan food, specifically Nepalese, is that it provides warmth and comfort through the curries and spices, and heavily use meats like lamb. Everest Café does go lighter than Indian curries I’ve had elsewhere, but it still would fall in the category of Indian food. It’s a quaint spot, but on my trek to discover Himalayan food, I have a feeling I’ve just started at the foot of the mountain.
Rating: 2 out of 4 camera snaps
Everest Café, 1645 Solano Ave., Berkeley. PH: 510.526.4915. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. Delivery available. www.everest-café.com