In our continuing quest to mine the delicious ethnic cuisines available all over St. Louis, we recently made our way over to The Grove and sampled the fare at Everest Café. When we finally pushed back from the table, the only things on our minds were how had we not stopped in before and when could we return.

Everest is owned and operated by Dr. Devi States and his wife, Connie. We won't go into their history here, but the story of how the restaurant came to be is most inspiring and can be read on the Everest website. It's our favorite kind of eatery—a neighborhood place with a refreshing lack of pretension and an abundance of fine food, with quite a unique and interesting variety of Korean, Nepalese and Indian food on its expansive menu. There also was a handy 'food dictionary' on the menu to allow guests to navigate some of the dishes with info on their origins. Many of the offerings were gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan and various combinations thereof.

We started with some Steamed Meat Mo-Mo ($6), Tibetan dumplings akin to pot stickers, filled with fresh ground meat, veggies and spices, and served with homemade tomato achar (a type of Nepalese pickle). We opted for pork, but turkey was available for an extra 50 cents. These came six to an order and were really well-balanced. The spices involved--primarily garlic, cumin and ginger--married well with each other so that none overshadowed the rest. A larger, 10-piece version of this dish was available as a main course.

The Everest Special Sizzling Tarkari ($14), consisted of large pieces of chicken (lamb and shrimp also were available for a bit more) cooked with red onion, bell peppers, lemons and tomatoes. It was served with a fairly mild sauce that let the flavors of the veggies really come forward instead of overwhelming them. Also, the name of this entree was extremely apt--it came to the table sizzling like nobody's business.

In recent years, it's been fashionable for chefs to riff on kim chi, that often misunderstood fermented Korean veggie dish. While it’s all well and good to put this spicy delicacy on burgers or use it to accent or enhance other foods, there's nothing like eating the real deal solo. There were several kim chi choices on the Everest menu, and we went with the Kim Chi Stew ($12), a massive bowl of cabbage kim chi with chunks of fish, tofu and egg. We paired this up with a glass of Chang ($6), a house-made Tibetan rice wine, served cold. Unlike a sake, this beverage was a bit heavier in body, as well as flavor, and had a distinctive milky color. The subtle up-front sweetness and vegetal finish perfectly complemented the spicy stew. Many uninitiated diners fear kim chi, perhaps because of the fermenting process or its reputation of being outrageously spicy. But there are a multitude of variations available encompassing a variety of spice levels and featuring veggies other than cabbage. Our stew came with samples of several kim chi variations alongside, including cucumber and radish, and both were fairly mild. Everest is a perfect venue for those unfamiliar with this dish to give it a whirl.

Not sure if dessert is offered at Everest as our check came before we could ask (our only real gripe of the evening), but that just means we'll have to head back soon to do some more research!

--Everest Café & Bar, 4145 Manchester Ave., 531-4800,

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