There’s a storied block in downtown New York called Curry Lane that boasts more than 20 Indian restaurants. It has a rich history and was even immortalized by the Ramones for those of you who remember the lyrics, “Hanging out on Second Avenue/Eating Chicken Vindaloo.”
And despite the joke about the restaurants all sharing one kitchen, they are each unique in some way, representing dozens of regional cuisines. You might have a favorite spot for chicken korma and another one, just across the street, for shrimp biryani. I had a favorite that made a rice pudding so good it made me want to skip my entrée.
Which is to say, that when the food is good enough, there’s enough patronage to go around. So, I’m delighted when a new restaurant like Everest opens up in Anchorage and makes its mark in the growing pantheon of Indian culinary options. Don’t call it competition, call it spreading the wealth, with Anchorage diners as the lucky beneficiaries.
My daughter and I recently braved a snowy day and stopped in for lunch. Stepping into the warm room, the air rich with spices, made us glad we made the trek. It’s a welcoming, comfortable space with some touches of elegance — cloth tablecloths and napkins, servers in crisp white shirts and black vests. A rustic wood door and Mason jar Edison lights are the only vestiges of the barbecue joint once inhabiting the space. Indian art, statuary and music make the transformation complete and help to erase one’s memories of ribs and fried pickles.
I had been looking forward to eating lunch from the traditional thali, a compartmentalized stainless steel serving tray used widely throughout India, and something I’d seen being used at Everest on my social media. However, Everest has changed their lunch model from a choice of entree served with sides to a buffet flanked by ordinary ceramic plates. My disappointment was short-lived, however, because the only thing I love more than running down an internet rabbit hole about traditional Indian serving ware is a buffet.
Everest’s lunch buffet ($19.99 per person) is a satisfying array of Indian cuisine’s greatest hits — and a few surprises — with a nice selection of options for vegetarian and vegan diners; their regular menu is also available. And of course, choice is the best thing about a buffet. Because my daughter was heading off to dance class after lunch, she built a plate with lean tandoori chicken, yellow daal, aloo gobi, and a heap of cucumber salad. Because I was heading home for a nap, I ladled my plate with butter chicken, goat curry, Indian chow mein — who knew? — and a pile of pakoras.
And because I’m a messy eater by design, I didn’t miss the thali at all. I like a plate without borders. A bit of sweet, spicy chili shrimp on a fork with some smoky tandoori chicken? Yes please. A bite of savory curry goat dipped into my butter chicken sauce? Don’t mind if I do. Does raita need to be drizzled on every dish that I selected? Indeed, it does. And, of course, a nice, freshly torn piece of soft, pillowy naan to clean your plate makes for the best bite of the meal.
My favorite lunchtime dishes were the tender and aromatic goat curry and the perfectly charred tandoori chicken, which had great smoky flavor. Another hit was the substantial veggie pakoras with their mashed potato filling and crumbly pastry. My daughter loved the yellow daal, which was fragrant and gingery, and was especially pleased with the simple diced cucumber salad in a light herbal dressing.
While many diners appeared to be enjoying a leisurely, social meal, we were on a tight schedule. The buffet allowed us to be greeted, seated and deep into our lunch within just a few minutes. Warm naan was brought to the table and water glasses were kept full while we ate. I paid my check with my phone and reflected on the fact that I’d had a proper, sit-down, cloth-napkin lunch, with good food and lovely service, in under 40 minutes.
We returned the following week for a take-out dinner feast with a focus on shareable sides and appetizers. For entrees, we ordered butter chicken ($19.99) and lamb masala ($21.99), which was one of my favorite dishes of the night. Masala blends my favorite spices together — cumin, cloves, ginger; the coziest spices — in a way that coaxes the earthy flavor out of the tender lamb without overwhelming it. This dish, with its gentle heat and heady aroma, is beautifully balanced, and I would order it again and again.
We also ordered Gobi Manchurian — sweet and spicy cauliflower — and lollipop chicken, both of which were so good that they earned a mention in my pre-Super Bowl chicken wing round-up, as well as aloo tikki ($5.99) and lamb momos ($19.99).
[It’s Super Bowl time. Here are some of Anchorage’s best takeout wing options, from classic to eclectic.]
The aloo tikki, lovely little potato fritters with savory spices and a crispy exterior, are like a sophisticated tater tot and I enjoyed them even more when dunked into the — too-small — plastic container of raita. Are you sensing a theme? And the momos, like all the best dumplings, were pure comfort in a bite, the thick, chewy dough enrobing a pocket of savory, spicy ground lamb. I loved these with the bright, herbaceous mint chutney. I noticed that while I was fussing with sauces, my family were pilfering extra fritters and dumplings and, apparently, there is no honor among thieves. I’ll admit to my rookie mistake. Next time I’m ordering double.
While I doubt we’ll see our own Curry Lane in Anchorage, I do love living in a town where you’re always 15 minutes from a good curry. Fifteen minutes from curry — could be a Ramones song, to be honest.
If you go:
3637 Old Seward Highway
Monday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5 p.m.-9 p.m.