Sunday, April 17, 2011

everest cafe & bar

we've been dreading this entry for a while now.  we want very badly to give everest a glowing review; we want very badly to love the food.  to un-originally wax philosophical: often in life, you don't always get what you want, no matter how badly you desire it. 

the grove | manchester

we've always liked everest's interior.  it's a no-frills space, to be sure, but there's plenty of color and texture to keep the place looking lively.  it's a noticeably small space, too, so expect to sit relatively close to your tableneighbors.  

though the servers have always been friendly, the service is a bit spotty.  for sure, you do not want to be in a hurry if you're planning to have dinner at everest.  of course, we don't mind waiting sometimes, particularly when we're expecting to.  the primary concern we have with service at everest is the conflicting messages we've received during our visits.  just last fall, clark was assured that the kim chi was totally vegetarian, but we felt compelled to get confirmation on our most recent visit.  sure enough, the waitress told us that the kim chi--a dish traditionally prepared with at least a smidgeon of fish--did not contain fish, so we gladly ordered some.  minutes later, though, with clark feeling slightly less than assured, we took advantage of the chef's brief appearance in the dining room to inquire again about the kim chi.  the chef unequivocally, without hesitation, told us that the kim chi does contain fish.  (then, and we quote, "but only a little bit [of fish]." guhhh?)  now, we're relatively easy-going folks, and we're not "soap box vegetarians," but if your menu announces that an item is vegetarian, it had better be vegetarian.  most disconcerting is not that the server was misinformed; it's that the chef, fully aware of the fish in the kim chi, has not made an alteration to the menu.  we wonder how many vegetarians have gladly ordered and consumed the kim chi at everest; we wonder, too, how many noticed a strange fishiness but chalked it up to some kind of seaweed.  we don't want to belabor the point, but the mislabeling of the kim chi calls into question all of everest's vegetarian items, and this, of course, is a real drag.

we began the evening with the special everest appetizer, which consists of various vegetable fritters, samosas, and momos.  the tray of primarily fried foods comes with a deliciously hot and sour achar (something we hope, but cannot confirm, is vegetarian).  the momos are by far the stars of this platter, and there's very little reason we can give for not just ordering the momos by themselves.  in fact, the momos have always been our favorite item on the menu, and despite our reluctance to return to everest soon, there's a decent chance that the momos will call us back sooner than we think.  mostly, the downfall of this platter is how greasy one feels after finishing.

next up was the bi bim bop, which is one of clark's all-time favorite korean dishes.  in korea, bi bim bop is the meal of the people. comprised solely of whatever vegetables and proteins one has lying around, bi bim bop is as working class as a meal gets, and it's supposed to be simple and clean.  we both prefer dolsot ("hot pot") bi bim bop, but everest doesn't offer this option; nevertheless, we were both excited to dig into some deliciously healthful korean goodness.  as you can see from the photo, the vegetables weren't as abundant as one would like--a couple pieces of romaine, some shredded carrot, and a few bean sprouts--and the serving was on the small side.  of this latter point, we're not too fussy about portions, so long as the price point is reasonable.  at 10 bucks, though, we wonder what we were paying for, particularly considering the majority of this dish (and all bi bim bop) consists of white rice.  in any case, the flavors were fine if unexciting, but it's the tofu that really let us down, lacking virtually all semblance of flavor.  the dish needed something original, something interesting, to make it worth our time, and the tofu would've been the perfect ingredient to show off.  no such luck.

in an attempt to sample everest's most representative dish for vegetarians, we concluded with the complete nepalese meal.  a medley of daal (lentils), bhat (plain rice), mixed veggies, and tarkari ra saag (spinach curry), the platter delivers a variety of flavors (though not textures) to sample.  traditionally, the nepalese mix everything together with the white rice and the lentil soup to make one big starchy stew.  we're fans of smashing up different flavors (hello, sweet corn and mashed potatoes!), but the result in this case is not something worthy of exclamation points.  as with everything else, it's not that the food is bad at all; it's that the food is just food. 

it's awesome that everest uses organic veggies when available, and we couldn't be more impressed by the owner's commitment to making the world a better place.  it's cool, too, that everest gives you a chance to sample south asian cuisine (korean, indian, and nepalese).  but if we're talking about food that makes us want more, we can't say that this is the place.  combined with our reservations about everest's definition of "vegetarian," we can only hesitantly recommend a visit.  nevertheless, we do think vegetarians can find something to satisfy their needs; it'll just take a few visits to figure out which items are worth their time.  we suggest starting with the momos.


vegetarian-friendly score:

Everest Cafe & Bar on Urbanspoon


  1. I'm really sorry to hear about your experience here. When I tried it with my GF, we had a wonderful meal. We also shared the appetizer platter (definitely greasy, but good). I got the Matar Paneer and thought it was perfect.
    Thank you guys for being honest about your experiences.

    BTW, went to Schlafly Bottleworks a weekend or two ago and had the Portabella Sandwich - incredible flavor and really good 3 grain salad on the side.

  2. First, thank you so much for your blog! I so appreciate what you are doing - as a vegetarian who is married to an omnivore, I like to know in advance that I'm going to enjoy myself and not have to order the veggie sides to make a meal.

    Second, I think you are being way too nice on the grades for a restaurant that wasn't truthful about the ingredients in their dishes. If that happened to me, I would be outraged and never go back. I trust that the servers will be honest about what is in the food.

    Thanks for all that you do.

    A loyal reader,

  3. thank you so much for the feedback, alicia! your point is well taken about our perhaps too-generous evaluation of everest. we struggled mightily with that post, and by far the hardest part was giving a grade. we wavered back and forth between "d" and "b" and ultimately decided that everest has done too many good things over the years to merit anything less than a "b." we're hoping that word will get back to them, and they'll make changes to the menu, but even if they don't, at least we've armed our readers with what we hope is enough info to avoid any dishes with meat. we hope... thanks again for sharing your thoughts!

  4. thanks to andy, too, for the feedback! we keep hearing folks praise the schlafly portobello sandwich, so we'll be giving it a go sometime in the near future. thanks for the recommendation!

  5. What a great blog!! I love learning about vegetarian places in STL. But you should know... the MOMO's are NOT vegan, as they use milk to fold them together. We also ran into the issue of a server telling us in one visit that they are vegan (also it is indicated on the menu), but when we asked another server we found that the MOMO's were make with milk.

  6. thanks for contributing, melissa! as a general response for all the readers, we just want to make it clear that this is a vegetarian blog, rather than a vegan blog. in any case, melissa, you're comments further confirm that patrons should always be skeptical of what everest's servers claim.