At the bike shop, Mark says, “Hey Doug, you want to try that new Everest Sherpa Restaurant for lunch?” Being bat-rabid-crazy about all things mountaineering and lover of all things food, Mark didn’t realize he just uttered three of my favorite words.
We ordered takeout. I had the Lamb Makhani and loved it. I’m excited about this new find and want to tell people about it so maybe they’ll also find something new to enjoy. Being freelance, I can do that.
But first, a love story …
It’s a tale as old as time. Boy and girl fall in love in a far away, exotic and mountainous land. But their love is forbidden. He is Sherpa and she is Hindu, social classes as separate as east is from west, and in their world never the twain shall meet.
Just as the great peaks cast their shadows across the land, the tradition of arranged marriages within one’s own class too often covers young lovers in a pall of concealed love. Like the oxygen-starved bodies littering the surrounding peaks, romance is suffocated and tossed aside, forever haunting the broken-hearted as the ghost of what could have been.
“Nobody would have anything to do with it,” the girl tells me from across the table. “There was no way we could get married in Nepal.”
But dry your eyes, because unlike many before them, there is hope. The girl’s father is a hero of progressive proportions, open to new ideas. He approves of the young Sherpa who is smitten with his daughter. Going against family, friends, and the way things have always been, he gives his blessing to their union.
Solving one problem often just gets you to the next, bigger problem. There was a bigger mountain hidden behind Father’s approval: no holy man of any faith in Nepal would transgress such an engrained tradition, as marrying within one’s own cast, and hope to keep his revered position. Since a ceremony is needed for a marriage in their exotic world, no wedding means no union.
Their love is oxygen starved, but not yet dead – so close and yet as out of reach as the high summits around them. Then in a flash of true inspiration, the boy and girl realize that’s the answer. If no man of god would officiate their marriage, then they would go straight to the Deity Herself – Chomolungma – Mother Goddess of the Earth. Known to Westerners by her English name – Mt Everest, the Highest Mountain on Earth.
The boy and girl hatch a crazy plan. A scheme that wouldn’t just be difficult, but one that would put their very lives at risk. Love can make you lose your mind. The boy and girl would climb Mt Everest and, Chomolungma willing, reach the summit which then could only be understood as a sign of Her benevolent approval.
“So Chomolungma Herself would be officiating,” I interrupted, “no priest needed.” The girl smiled and nodded.
It is said that climbing Everest is more of a fight than an ascent. You have to really want it. And the boy and girl did exactly that. They fought their way through adversity to the top. And at the summit, with Chomolungma overseeing, exchanged vows and descended as husband and wife.
That is how Pem Sherpa and Moni Mulepati were married and what Chomolunga has joined together, let no man put asunder.
Now back to (if I may be so bold) your new favorite restaurant.
Everest Sherpa Restaurant is an exotic expedition into the world of the Sherpa people. You can experience the richness of their culture through their Nepali, Indian, and Tibetan cuisine. The menu features traditional family recipes of the most popular native dishes of the Himalayan region.
Mountain guide Pem Sherpa and his wife, Moni (pronounced moh-nee, like the Tommy James song) have brought us the cuisine of their Himalayan homeland nestled away in the foothills surrounding Mount Everest.
Pem first introduced Ann Arbor to Nepali cuisine through the Everest Momo food cart which is part of the Mark’s Carts group near Downtown Home & Garden. Always having a dream of owning his own restaurant (says the man who guides in the Himalaya), Pem sold his food cart and opened Everest Sherpa Restaurant on Aug. 31.
Let me give you easy directions. The restaurant is located at 2803 Oak Valley Drive (a few doors down from Target) in the former Lotus Thai restaurant, right next to Music Go Round.
The menu is inspired by Pem’s years of guiding climbers up and around Everest and treks through Tibet and Bhutan. Seeing how climbers and trekkers embraced the Sherpa cuisine eaten daily on their trips, he wanted to introduce it to his new hometown of Ann Arbor.
I’ve eaten there now three times. My favorite is Makhani which is a traditional Indian Dish where Nepali spices season lamb, chicken, panner (cheese) or vegetables which are tandoori-roasted then cooked in creamy tomato sauce & cashew and served on a bed of rice.
I’m not a soup guy, but I’ve also tried the Sherpa Stew. It had the word “Sherpa” in it. Again, wonderful and exotic spices blended into a thick medley of meat and vegetables. Not to make you drool or anything, but the noodles are homemade (HOMEMADE!).
Their menu begins with the enticing statement, “Our restaurant is founded on family recipes and traditions. We believe quality and authenticity come first. We use the freshest ingredients and authentic spices for rich and bold flavors.”
“This is not fast food,” Moni explains. “It takes time to prepare the food and for the flavors to mix.” My waits have been what you’d expect for an authentic Thai or Chinese restaurant. If you’re in time crunch, you can call ahead for takeout.
There are curry, masala, and tandoori dishes. When I asked Moni if Nepali food was the same as Indian food, she explained “Nepali food is similar to Indian food. We use Indian cuisine descriptions in the menu so people can get an idea of just what it is.” It’s a way for people to quickly connect to what they offer.
You can see the entire menu here.
Everest Sherpa is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch and from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. for dinner Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, and open until 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. It is closed Mondays.
The restaurant is staffed by Sherpa family and friends. “Just like when Sherpas are a team of climbers pulling together,” Moni explains, “we are a team working together here.” Then she adds, “Even if you’re not actually family, you immediately become family.”
So go and have a great time. Say “hi” to Moni and Pem, if he’s not out somewhere guiding. Be patient. They’re busy for a reason and still working out the kinks. Tip big. Namaste.