I've always admired the intrepid Tenzing Norgay, the sherpa guide who accompanied New Zealand's Sir Edmund Hillary up Mt. Everest in 1953. Both men reached the world's highest peak before anybody else, although there's some confusion as to who went first. If you believe the Western press, Sir Ed's the safer bet. If Norgay preceded him (or even if he didn't), it's a miracle he didn't die of hypothermia. The sherpa diet includes rice, vegetables and spices but not much else to put meat on those bones—and when you're 70 million miles in the air, body fat is one of your nearest and dearest friends.
You, however, are safely ensconced on the ground, at least after the weekend. And for you, La Mesa Himalayan Cuisine is as sure a thing as Norgay's footedness. This food doesn't taste much like no-calorie fare—the vegetable samosa appetizer ($1.62), filled with peas and potatoes, comes with a sweet pastry shell and makes an ideal snack after your Tandoori chicken wrap. This chicken-breast sandwich features ranch dressing as a companion—while that may seem like an unpalatable combination, the advice is that you don't knock it 'til you've tried it. The price alone ($5.99) is compelling enough. But if that doesn't get you, the thick, aromatic Naan bread and onions will. These are almost like gyros except for the dressing, which brings out the rest of the flavors in no uncertain terms.
La Mesa Himalayan Cuisine is located at 7918 El Cajon Blvd. near Baltimore Avenue and is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day except Sunday, when it closes at 7 p.m. (the number is 619-461-2503). Norgay, who was Nepalese, likely wouldn't have recognized the flavors as those of his native cuisine—but stuff tastes different at higher elevations. Besides, chicken doesn't keep well at 70 million miles in the air.
—Martin Jones Westlin