MOUNT EVEREST (469 Bloor West, at Brunswick, 416-964-8849) Open for $7.95 lunch buffet Monday to Friday 11:30 am to 3 pm, Saturday and Sunday 1 to 4 pm. Dinner nightly 5:30 to 10:30 pm. Complete meals for $25 per person ($15 at lunch), including all taxes, tip and a $4.50 imported beer. Average main $9. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Though Toronto has more regional Indian restaurants than any other city in North America, Mount Everest - a newly launched spot in the Annex - is our first Nepalese noshery. Combining elements of Tibetan and both northern and southern Indian cuisines, Nepali cooking is assertively spiced but heartier than its cousins. Think of it as food to fuel mountain-climbing. But most of Mount Everest's lineup is the familiar Subcontinent fare found at nearby Nataraj and now-kaput Rajput. The daily $7.95 lunch buffet, while not the largest spread in town, has several winning dishes, notably meaty tandoori chicken wings, smoky dal makhani lentils and a terrific stir-fry of linguine-like strips of cabbage mixed with diced tomato as well as kidney and green beans. Pillowy naan comes to the table straight from the tandoor, delivered by servers handsome in brocade vests.
From the dozen Nepalese dishes on offer, we start with Momo Chicken, a half-dozen Tibetan-style pinched, steamed dumplings, fragrant from five-spice and sided with a splendidly spicy tomato garlic achar similar to Catalonian romesco.
Poleko Pakheta (both $6.95) finds eight juicy tandoor-roasted chicken wing midsections tinted with turmeric, prone on a rough slaw of lightly pickled pink onion, thick threads of carrot and purple cabbage, next to a leafy-topped palm tree fashioned from a scallion.
In Nepal, curries are known as tarkari, and Mount Everest offers several vegetarian versions. Fiery Jhane Ko Dal sees puréed yellow lentils and tomato sautéed with cumin seeds and kicked with flecks of raw green chilies. Aloo, Tama and Bodi (both $6.95) features a multiculti mix of cubed potato, black-eyed peas and bamboo shoots, while Bhuteko Cauli ($8.95), a deliciously colourful casserole, combines al dente cauliflower, mustard seeds and garlicky tomato. For carnivores, Khasi Ko Maasu ($9.95 goat or chicken) simmers with on-the-bone meat and lush, nutty gravy.