Saturday, April 11, 2009

Everest Cafe

Wednesday evening we wandered up and down Manchester Ave. in an area of St. Louis known as “The Grove” seeking the Everest Cafe and Bar. The sun was in our eyes westbound so it was hard to read the signs on storefronts. This five block long area is in the midst of redevelopment. Most storefronts are still vacant but here and there a business, office, nice restaurant or bar has sprung up. I had foolishly neglected to write down the address.

I was attracted by the claim the Everest Cafe serves “quality authentic Nepalese, Indian & Koren cuisine.” More curious is the following teaser from the restaurant web site,

Now open Sundays! Come and enjoy our fresh heart healthy nutritious lunch buffet and receive free screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels conducted by our Executive Chef/Owner, Dr. Devi States, MSW, MPH, DHSc.”

I found it difficult to believe that the owner would actually conduct health screenings during the Sunday lunch buffet, but who knows? It was equally difficult to believe the chef/owner would hold a doctorate in public health and two other advanced degrees. Their web site offers this thumbnail history:

Our Chef/Owner, Devi Gurung States grew up in an economically depressed and deprived area of Nepal (Manang, Tilche Village). After both his parents became deceased, he moved to Kathmandu for a dream of better life. In Kathmandu, Devi became homeless, because he was too young and could not find a job. After spending several months in the street of Kathmandu, he finally found a job at the KC restaurant.

Devi’s dream of owning a restaurant started at the age of sixteen while working at the KC restaurant as a dishwasher and bus boy. He met his dear father, Dr. James H. States, M.D., at the KC restaurant, who brought him to the United States following his successful ascent of Mt. Everest in 1983.”

Now that really got my attention.

We turned the car around having completed a traverse of the relevant area of Manchester Ave. without success. Heading east now, the setting sun at our backs, we were about to abandon the search when we spotted the discrete sign and fluttering prayer flags on a building right across the street from the Atomic Cowboy Bar. Bingo.

We were warmly welcomed by a smiling asian woman I correctly assumed to be Connie States, wife of the chef/owner. The restaurant consists of two rooms, a bar in the front room. Prayer flags hang around the door and surround all walls. Tanka paintings, photos of the Dali Lama and various Buddhas are everywhere. The windows even have beaded curtains with the image of the Buddha. Near where we sat in the second room was a small buddhist alter topped with a drawing of the Dali Lama over an image of Llasa backed by a rainbow.

The restaurant was modestly busy for a week night. One table seemed to be young Indian men. Another near us had an older professional caucasian couple with a young man who looked Tibetan. After a few minutes Dr. Devi himself took our order. He suggested we try two Nepalese dishes. I ordered a complete meal of chicken cooked in authentic Nepal-style sauce called Tarkari Ra Saag, lentil soup, vegetables and very spicy pickled vegetables with lotus root called mango achars. Merry ordered Everest Sizzling Shrimp Tarkari.

The food took a while to arrive. I assume this was because each dish was being prepared individually. The atmosphere was so peaceful we really didn't mind the wait. I noticed white silk scarfs draped over the alter and a Tanka. I asked Connie States whether these were the traditional scarves received from the Dali Lama and she said they were. Seventeen years ago her husband served as guide and driver for the Dali Lama when he visited Tibetan refugees in St. Louis. She thought he got them then.

The food arrived. Mine was a single large round silver dish with small vegetable items including soup, pickles, chick peas, spiced spinach and the chicken around a central mound of basmanti rice. Merry's dish turned out to be quite a few spiced shrimp grilled with onions, bell peppers, lemons and tomatoes served on sizzling hot plate with a side of daal (lentil) soup. Every bite was delicious. The spices are similar to northern Indian food, but subtly different.

Everything is reasonably priced. Our two full dinners with drinks totaled a little over $30; quite a bargain.

We exchanged a traditional Himalayan bow with Dr. Devi States as we left. He showed us a picture of himself getting a white scarf from the Dali Lama. We told him a little about our hearing the Dali Lama speak in Ithaca, NY last year. We promised to come back.

In an attempt to learn a bit more about Devi States I did a internet search for James States, his adoptive father, physician and world-class mountain climber. It appears he still has a practice in adolescent medicine in Washington state. I also found he was a star swimmer for Bucknell University, graduating three years before me. I didn't meet him there. Small world, though.

1 comment:

  1. Have you tried McMurphy's Grill?