Lali chops are a high point at Mount Everest


Mount Everest is in a strip shopping center in Parkville. Its exterior sign promises pizza and pasta, as well as Indian and Nepali.

Once inside, we learn that the pizza and pasta are only on the take-out side. The spacious and serene dining room serves food from India and Nepal (home to part of the restaurant's namesake mountain).

Owners and brothers Chandra and Lok Chhantyal have another Mount Everest restaurant on Frankford Avenue. It's 4 years old and serves mostly Indian food. The new restaurant, which opened in November, also serves mostly Indian food, but the brothers plan to serve more dishes from their native Nepal, says Lok Chhantyal, who is also the chef.

Accordingly, a section of the menu is called "Top of the World" and is devoted to Nepali dishes. And there are poster-sized photographs of Mount Everest's wind-blown peaks on the restaurant's walls.

We were a little chilly after we were seated, so we ordered tea. Our attentive server asked if we wanted it the traditional Nepali way - with sugar, milk and a little ginger - and our affirmative answer clearly pleased him.

The warm, golden-orange brew that arrived was sweet and soothing, a perfect counterpoint to the spicy food that would follow.

First up was a complimentary basket of papadan, a crisp lentil bread that was so peppery it made our eyes water. The traditional dipping sauces of tamarind and coriander-and-mint helped cool the taste a little, but more soothing yet was a plate of warm, yeasty and delicious naan, the traditional pita-like Indian bread.

We started the serious eating with a vegetable and a nonvegetable platter. Both had generous samplings of various tidbits. The vegetable plate was a lesson in how to take perfectly good-for-you vegetables and turn them into fried pieces of fat-laden heaven.

The fried zucchini was especially good, with slices of the vegetable surrounded by a greaseless and flavorful chick-pea batter. But a piece of cheese fried in the same batter was so chewy it was almost inedible.

The meat platter featured a serviceable samosa filled with peas and ground meat, as well as several other fried items. The standouts were tiny, spicy meatballs and tandoori chicken, tender morsels of meat in a fiery yogurt glaze.

We also had the tandoori chicken as a main course. Golf-ball-sized chunks of chicken arrived sizzling on the bone. They were just as tender and flavorful as the smaller appetizer pieces.

A special with the charming name of lali chops was also a hit, with its pieces of lamb swimming in a rich yet delicate spiced red sauce that tasted terrific spooned over the accompanying basmati rice. My dining companions and I all wanted the leftovers.

On the other hand, nobody was much interested in taking home the mo mo. Described on the menu as a special delicacy, the Nepali meat dumplings had too-dry meat and too-chewy dumpling wrappers.

Desserts were the usual Indian-restaurant choices of rice pudding and ice cream, as well as gulab jamun - nuggets of fried dough swimming in a honey syrup. We were warned that the gulab jamun was extremely sweet, and the warning was accurate.

The pudding and ice cream, though, both were creamy and light - refreshing treats that helped make our trek to Mount Everest worthwhile.

Mount Everest

Where: 1842 E. Joppa Road, Parkville

Call: 410-663-6880

Open: For lunch and dinner daily

Prices: Appetizers $2.50-$8.99; entrees $8.25-$13.99

Credit cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa

Food: ***

Atmosphere: **

Service: ***

Excellent ****; Good ***; Fair **; Poor *

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