The butter-soft ivory banquettes are gone. So are the chairs padded with flashy leopard seat covers. And the food, of course, is different.
But Mount Everest Restaurant in Hampden is making its imprint on the space formerly occupied by Alchemy, whose owners now operate Alchemy Elements in Bel Air. Its charcoal-gray upholstery and bright artwork are just as attractive at the previous tenant's decor — in a more subtle way.
And the food is just as thoughtfully prepared. The menu is a comforting collection of Indian and Nepalese favorites with several American dishes available for less adventurous taste buds. There's a kids' menu, too, with items like grilled cheese and mozzarella sticks.
We concentrated on the South Asian offerings, knowing we can get chicken tenders or fried shrimp anytime. Even the teenager in our group was happy with the shrimp vindaloo in a spicy curry sauce.
You can trust your server about the heat levels, ranging from one for mild to five for spiciest. We chose a four for our dishes, and it was true to its numerical ranking — tongue tingling and slightly tear producing, which was fine with us.
The 55-seat restaurant doesn't take reservations and fills up quickly on weekends. Besides the downstairs seating, there are tables upstairs along with a bar.
Owner Ammar Chhantyal, who has run other Indian restaurants in the area, brings a welcome addition to The Avenue — one where everyone can find something to enjoy at the table.
Scene & Décor The dining room isn't as glamorous as the previous restaurant, Alchemy. But it still has a sophisticated air with soothing gray banquettes and new artwork on the walls. The restaurant was busy on our visit. The buzz around us was lively and friendly, but didn't overshadow our conversation.
Appetizers The chef's assorted combo platter ($6.99) gave us a good taste of the starters and was easily shared with three people. It was prettily assembled and satisfying with two vegetable samosas (golden pastries stuffed with potatoes and peas), three vegetable pakoras (mixed vegetable fritters) and two aloo tikki chaats (potato patties). The keema naan ($4.99) was also delicious. The dimpled, leavened bread was filled with a thin layer of ground lamb. We liked the raita ($2.99, a yogurt mix with cucumber) we ordered as a dipping sauce.
Entrees The chicken biryani ($12.99) was a standout. A composed wheel of basmati rice was studded with plentiful poultry, saffron, nuts, raisins and almonds. We also enjoyed the shrimp vindaloo ($16.99), a velvety curry sauce with large shrimp and soft potato chunks. The goat buttuwa ($17.99) didn't live up to its potential. The deep-fried goat pieces were bony and gristly and didn't do justice to the ginger-garlic coating.
Drinks There is a full bar with craft cocktails such as a peach Manhattan and a raspberry bourbon smash, as well as several wines and a range of beers. Traditional beverages like masala tea, sweet and salty lassis (yogurt drinks) and a mango lassi (with mango puree) are also available.
Service Our waitress was an affable guide to the menu. The personable owner makes the rounds of the room, checking on diners.
Dessert The gulab jamun ($3.99), with three fried balls of powdered milk glazed with a sweet saffron syrup, was a terrific finish, served warm. We had an average two-layer chocolate cake ($2.99) that was too chilled to reveal its flavors. Local Taharka Brothers ice cream ($3.99) is also on the menu, always a plus in our books.
Backstory: After Alchemy closed in July, Ammar Chhantyal took over the two-floor space on The Avenue in Hampden, changing the furnishings and bringing Indian and Nepalese food to the neighborhood. It opened in October.
Signature dish: The chicken biryani
TVs: No TVs
Where: 1011 W. 36th St., Hampden
Contact: 410-366-1163, mounteverestrestaurant.net
Open: 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday,
Credit Cards: All major
Reservations: Does not accept reservations
Bottom line: If you're craving Indian food, family-friendly Mount Everest will satisfy your hunger and offer American dishes for those not inclined toward the cuisine.