Mount Everest should soar

The Baltimore Sun

The new Mount Everest restaurant in Nottingham looks like it's ready to serve a banquet. Located at the Fullerton Plaza shopping center, the restaurant is as big as a health club - a Spa Lady used to be there - and dozens of tables are set and waiting for hundreds of customers. It's pretty, though, with splashes of sherbet-y colors - mint-green chairs and raspberry cloth napkins that match the prettily painted drop ceiling.

The dining room is divided in two lengthwise, but there is still the problem of having too many tables for too few diners, at least on the recent weeknight when we visited. However, friendly service here truly helps to make what could be a chilly dining experience almost intimate. I think it's nice when a restaurant owner greets new diners by shaking hands.

Like Baltimore's two downtown Nepalese restaurants - Kumari and Lumbini - Mount Everest, which moved to this space from a more modest one on Joppa Road, is as much about the cuisine of Southern India as it is about Nepal's. Certainly, there's a lot of overlap between the two, but there does seem to be even a little less of Nepal here - no mutton on the menu, for instance, and nothing called daal bhat, which is virtually the national dish of Nepal. The menu is pretty reticent about its featured cuisines, and you end up with the feeling that Mount Everest is playing it safe. This might just be good business, but it's disappointing if you've come looking for something different.

Considering how few customers were here, the food took longer than we were expecting to come out, but this could be a good sign. It could mean that food is being prepared fresh to order. It certainly seemed that way with a generous kebab appetizer, a platter of roasted chicken, shrimp and, lamb, which had superlative roasted flavor and hearty spicing. The lamb here was especially tasty, and I would order it as a stand-alone tandoori entree. The one thing you absolutely do expect to find at a Nepalese restaurant are momo, those extra wonderful steamed dumplings, loosely folded but firmly packed with robustly seasoned ground chicken. They're very good at Mount Everest, served here with a fresh and pretty pepper sauce. Another appetizer of assorted vegetable fritters and patties was run of the mill.

We tried to focus our ordering on entrees from the list of "famous Mount Everest dishes," which meant we passed up a chance at the more familiar masalas, kormas, biryanis, curries and tandoor dishes elsewhere on the menu. The specialty dishes we ordered were fine but familiar, and comparing notes on the ride home, we had a little trouble conjuring them up. Chicken chow chow, a dish mixing chicken with short noodles, did benefit from a healthy tossing of fresh cilantro.

We liked shrimp junelly because of the plentiful cauliflower, potatoes, carrots and onions, but we wished there had been more and bigger shrimp. The Himalay jalfrezi and the Himalay korma were as pleasurably rich and velvety as their counterparts in other restaurants.

Mount Everest does serve two relatively uncommon South Indian specialties. The dosa are very long crepes, the batter of which is made from fermented lentils and rice, and stuffed with things like potatoes, onions and lentils. Served with chutneys, they are tasty, inexpensive and very filling. The uttapan is a variation with the ingredients cooked right into the batter.

The restaurant is BYOB, which helps to keep the check manageable. It serves a lunch buffet seven days a week, and also has a carryout menu of pizza, subs and salads. This is a fine and very affordable restaurant, and I'll keep it in mind for big-group gatherings. But if I sound a little impatient with Mount Everest, it's because I truly believe that it could carve out a niche in this area if it moved away from commonplace fare and into more challenging cuisine. I know that I'd be more excited telling friends about it if this were so.

mount everest restaurant

Where: 7927-C Belair Road

Call: 410-668-2264

Open: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday

Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, AMEX

Food: ** 1/2 ( 2 1/2 STARS)

Service: ** 1/2 ( 2 1/2 STARS)

Ambience: ** 1/2 ( 2 1/2 STARS)

Appetizers: $3.50-$8.50

Entrees: $6.99-$17.99

on the menu

* Kebab platter (appetizer) - $8.50

* Chicken momo - $7

* Chicken chow chow - $8.99

* Shrimp junelly - $13.99

* Himalay korma - $10.99

* Himalay jalfrezi - $10.99

* Sada (lentil) dosa - $5.99

* Coconut uttapan - $6.99

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