Just a few years ago, if you had asked me to name the quintessential exotic cuisine, odds are I’d have said Tibetan — or Nepalese, which I understood to be much the same. I had never eaten either, and my knowledge about the food was pretty much limited to an article I’d read in National Geographic, I think it was, where I learned about something called yak butter tea.
I never in my wildest dreams imagined I would ever taste yak butter tea. Or any other Nepalese or Tibetan dish, for that matter.
What a difference a few years makes. The Triangle now boasts not one but five Nepalese restaurants, four of them in (where else?) Cary. As I’ve sampled across their menus, my appreciation has grown dramatically for a cuisine that has much more to offer than yak butter tea, which I did in fact get a chance to try at Tibetan Restaurant, a Cary eatery that has since closed. Let’s just say it’s an acquired taste.
The one thing I did have right all those years ago is that there’s a lot of overlap between Nepalese and Tibetan cuisines. Turns out, not surprisingly, that they also draw heavily on the flavors of neighboring India and China.
Everest Nepali Kitchen, which opened in April in a Cary strip mall (where else?), is a fine place to explore the possibilities. The wait staff are as welcoming as the cheery dining room, which goes out of its way to make people of all backgrounds feel at home with the artwork on the walls, from a painting of overlapping American and Nepalese flags to a vintage black and white photograph of a smiling Edmund Hillary and Nepalese sherpa Tenzing Norgay, accredited as the first climbers to summit Mount Everest.
The setting is a suitable backdrop for a menu that offers a guided tour of the Nepalese culinary landscape, with frequent side excursions across the border.
Everest Nepali Kitchen
212 Grande Heights Drive, Cary
Cuisine: Nepalese, Indian
Rating: 3 1/2 stars
Atmosphere: cheery and welcoming
Noise level: low
Recommended: chips chili, chicken tom yum jalfrezie, johl momo bowl, Nepalese street noodles, kadhai shrimp, lamb sekuwa, Kashmiri naan.
Open: Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday.
Other: beer and wine; accommodates children; excellent vegetarian selection; parking in lot.
The N&O’s critic dines anonymously; the newspaper pays for all meals. We rank restaurants in five categories: 5 stars: Extraordinary. 4 stars: Excellent. 3 stars: Above average. 2 stars: Average. 1 star: Fair.