Irving's Everest Restaurant Is a Worthy Trek
Everest Restaurant is a little Nepalese hole in the floor located far enough out in Irving that you will probably only visit when you're on the way to the airport. It's BYOB, but that isn't much of a hassle because there's a corner store on the same block with plenty of beer, and beer — especially the bright, crisp lagers that corner stores tend to specialize in — happens to be the very best pairing for the spicy Himalayan cooking you're about to enjoy. You should bring something to drink, though, or you'll feel left out. On most evenings, the handles of a plastic bag stand at attention on nearly every table, concealing six packs and the occasional bottle of wine.
Everest is not the type of place you go if you want to be blown away by opulent decor. The small space is filled almost exclusively with burgundy, tufted pleather booths. A rainbow of colored light bulbs shines down from the canisters in the ceiling, and the kind of dark blue carpeting usually reserved for dive bars covers the floors. Sconces on the walls cast a cool glow, and yet somehow the space feels cozy. Maybe it's the Valentine's Day decorations that have been up since February (or longer?), and there are a few reminders of Christmas hanging around, too.
Not that you'll notice. The first thing that hits you as you walk through the door is the explosive smell of spice and curry. The scent is thick and savory, and sets the gears in your stomach to grind in an instant.
A blistered cracker made from urad flour known as papadam lands quickly on your table, a welcome snack that placates your hunger for as long as it remains, which is about three seconds if you're dining alone and much less time if you brought friends. And since the food can take some time to arrive, you'll want to order something with a bit more heft as quickly as you can.
For those who appreciate goat, the momo dumplings are the best way to get started, and might be worth a drive from Dallas on their own. If they were any juicier, you might mistake the pleated crescents for xiao long bao, the Chinese dumplings that are filled with a small measure of soup, but there's a catch with this version: While the kitchen is very good at creating dumpling fillings that explode with gamey meat, ginger and garlic flavors, they're not as good at keeping those flavors inside the wrappers. Steamed dumplings often show up with a tear or two, which takes some life out of your dumpling experience. Thankfully they also come fried to a crisp, which is a much better option if only for reasons of structural integrity.
Either way you go (seriously, go fried), both versions come with a very small dish of heady chicken soup and a tomato purée seasoned with aromatics for dipping. The only rule is that you use both with more enthusiasm than you think you should.
There is a third option that makes use of the fried dumplings, served swimming in a chile sauce that's as thick as warm jam. There are pork and chicken versions too, and they're both good, but only the goat momo has the power to change how you look at dumplings forever.
If the tapestry of smells pouring from the kitchen every time the swinging door opens is any evidence, Everest has a sprawling menu that covers north Indian dals and curries to Nepali grilled meats and salads. You can even get egg rolls and Szechwan noodles if you want to visit the other side of the Himalayas. If you're overwhelmed by the choices, consider one of the thalis, which pair a number of curries in small bowls with a snowdrift of rice on a wide-rimmed plate. Both Indian or Nepali versions of the thalis are available, in vegetarian and goat, chicken and other meat versions.
Whichever thali you choose, or even if you've just settled on a heavily spiced goat masala or another curry on its own, the shards torn from freshly baked tandoori breads are the best way to sop up sauce as you go. The onion kulcha is a soft, white and blistered loaf stuffed with sautéed onions, and buttery parathas contain a thin layer of curried cauliflower or potatoes. The bullet naan, though, is bread that requires a bit more deliberation.
If the bread were an actual ballistic projectile, it would be of a moderate caliber — not enough to cause damage to an armored vehicle, but enough to cause you considerable injury. The dough is riddled with enough sliced chiles to spice an entire pot of chicken curry, and they're spread out haphazardly so that one bite is completely innocuous, while the next spawns a small mushroom cloud above your booth. The momo you should hoard for yourself, but this is bread that's best shared.
If you're looking for a better idea of Nepali cooking, turn to Himalayan tiffin section close to the back, where you'll find some of the most rustic cooking available here. Expect dishes that require gnashing at bones for tiny fatty morsels of meat, as with the sheckwa, or barbecued goat. The mutton sikuti (dried goat) makes use of meat that's dried in-house over the tandoori oven and then sautéed with spices. It is a meal that you will spend considerable time chewing on. And fried goat head is just that: chewy, fatty meat cut from a goat's noggin, fried with the same spices as the sheckwa.
All of these dishes are served with toasted soybeans dressed in pungent mustard oil and lemon juice, and a potato salad with crunchy squash, stained yellow with turmeric. There's also rice that's been cooked, flattened and then dried, which makes for arid plates that taste like they might have been prepared at 26,000 feet, and verge upon too salty. This food is certainly rustic, but it will appeal to those who appreciate scouring the suburbs hunting for obscure, less polished cuisines.
Not that the hunt is over when you walk through the door. With more than 100 items on the menu, there are plenty of new treasures to be found after a handful of return visits. Be sure to check out the onion bhaji, which are small fritters of besan flour filled with sliced onions that stick out like the arms of sea creatures. Or the chile pakora that will remind you of jalapeño poppers except they're filled with potato curry and served with tamarind chutney. Either snack will set you back $1.99, which is a good indication of the pricing here, with few items costing more than $10, and most entrées hovering at a few dollars less. You can get as lost in the menu as you can in the mountains of Nepal. Thankfully for you, it's considerably easier to find your way home from Everest the restaurant.
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