The mundane strip center location belies the adventure behind the signage that reads Everest Sherpa restaurant. Accompanied by an expedition of Nepalese food virgins, I entered the restaurant. On artistic display are a variety of bowls and urns, including samurai bronze coffee pots, each with a distinct Asian sensibility, preparing us for family recipes authentically transported to Ann Arbor from the Himalayas. The alpine motif is replete with photos of majestic peaks, after being greeted by a mannequin dressed in the climbing suit worn by restaurant owner Pem Dorjee when he and his then-fiance Moni Mulepati summited the 29,029-foot peak to be married at the top of the planet.
Soft, calming music laden with sitars and chimes combines influences from India, Nepal and Tibet.
Trekking through the menu
The menu boasts cuisine that employs authentic spices and bold flavors, and the kitchen definitely delivered on these proclamations.
We began the meal with chicken Momos, a spiritual cousin of potstickers filled with Nepalese spices and ground chicken. The accompanying achar dipping sauce laced with tumeric, cumin, and coriander, bolstered the momos with a spicy kick.
Members of our culinary expedition ordered the Butayko, a traditional sherpa dish cooked with bell peppers, onion, tomatoes, and Himalayan spices, served with rice. We also sampled the Polayko, a dish of boneless chicken (our selection, or lamb) marinated in yogurt with fresh herbs and Himalayan spices, roasted in a tandoori oven and served with rice and dal soup. Tumeric and cumin made consistent appearances in dishes throughout the meal.
The Sherpa Stew with lamb came with an abundance of root vegetables, some less often seen in Midwestern cooking. Rutabagas and turnips accompanied the carrots, broccoli and potatoes alongside the stew’s elongated rectangles of thick, freshly made dumplings. An order of Garlic naan served as a scoop to coax the various foods onto a fork.
Other offerings, perhaps more familiar from experiences at locally operated subcontinental-style restaurants included Curries, Saag (spinach) dishes, Tikka Masala, Makhani (with protein options tandoori roasted and served with a sauce of tomato and cashews), Matter Paneer (soft ripened cheese), Aloo Cauli and Biryani (basmati rice with spices). Menu items are generally available with a choice of chicken, lamb or shrimp or as a vegetarian preparation. More adventurous explorers can dial in the spice level of their dish from mild to hot.
From a land far away
The looping video of the Nepalese countryside playing throughout our visit depicted villagers in daily life activities including threshing grain and landing a plane on one of the world’s shortest runways.
Dessert options included Kheer rice pudding and Lal Mohan, a dish of spongy dough spheres bathed in a sweet syrup, each providing a pleasant retreat from the pronounced spices of the entrees.
Perhaps the ambitious portions contemplated the caloric needs of alpine climbers. Nonetheless, we found the compostable to-go containers for inevitable leftovers altogether fitting for an eatery that salutes the wonders of our planet’s highest peaks.
Pem Dorjee and his wife Monii have created an Himalayan getaway in Ann Arbor. Everest Sherpa’s blends of spices and variety of dishes will compel us to make a return visit.
Visit Everest Sherpa at 2803 Oak Valley Dr. Ann Arbor
everestsherparestaurant.com | 734-997-5490