Raj Shrestha can attest: running a family restaurant can be challenging.
First, a November 2014 fire closed his Mount Everest Momo Café for six months. And just as he was reopening the following April, an earthquake near Kathmandu, Nepal, destroyed his parents’ and other family members’ homes. At first he couldn’t reach them, and it was devastating to be so far away.
Then last fall, he closed again for a month to be with his sick father in Kathmandu. After Shrestha returned to Boise, his father passed away on Christmas day.
But through it all, his customers have remained loyal. They’ve kept track of re-openings on the restaurant’s Facebook page and donated money to help his family rebuild. They posted condolences and sent cards after his father died.
Now the restaurant is steaming ahead, and Shrestha said it’s finally operating in the black, serving its mix of Tibetan noodles, Himalayan momo dumplings, spicy soups, Indian curries and vegetarian, yak and lamb dishes.
A former travel agent in Nepal, Shrestha hadn’t planned to be a restaurant owner. But after moving to Boise in 2002 for a relationship, he discovered there were no Himalayan restaurants. That forced him to learn to cook, since in Kathmandu, he always went out to eat.
After getting a civil engineering degree from Boise State in 2010 and management training from the University of Phoenix, Shrestha realized he preferred business to engineering.
He went to Grand Junction, Colorado, to learn the restaurant business from a friend, who owns the Nepal Restaurant.
“I worked for him for three months for no charge,” he said. “I learned his recipes, and he let me copy his menu.”
Shrestha opened Mount Everest Momo Café in 2013 at 2144 S. Broadway Avenue. The cozy dining room is decorated with pictures of the Himalayas and Kathmandu. His former home in Nepal is remarkably like Boise in size, geography and outdoor activities, he said.
Shrestha, visibly tired after closing recently for lunch, not only runs the restaurant but also waits tables. He’s open for lunch and dinner six days a week and Sundays by reservation. Dinners are busiest, he said.
“Most people like to come here with their families,” he said. “It’s more of a dinner gathering place.”
His wife Raji helps in the restaurant at night and works as a preschool teacher by day. They have a daughter, Luniba, and Shrestha has two daughters—Jyoti and Aslan—from a previous marriage.
Besides bringing his country’s cuisine to Boise, Shrestha indulges his love for Nepal by helping customers arrange trips there and introducing them to his travel agent brother. And he hopes in two to three years to have a his own travel business up and running to take people to Nepal, India and Tibet and perhaps arrange mountain climbing trips.
As part of Boise’s growing international community, Shrestha also works as a translator for St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center. He mostly helps with a small Bhutanese refugee population living in Boise. He employs three Bhutanese refugees in his kitchen, who on a recent blustery spring day are responsible for the aromas of delicious Indian spices—cumin and curries—wafting into the dining room.
Shrestha’s Momo café, with its mix of cuisines, is an example of how Boise continues to benefit as more people from other countries move here, share their food and culture and invite the community to know them and help them succeed.