Shangri-La

Indian
$$$$ ($15-$24)
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Editorial Review

Tom Sietsema wrote about Shangri-La for a First Bite column in January 2009.

One good reason to dine as soon as the doors open at Shangri-La (7345-A Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda; 301-656-4444) during a cold snap: The early bird gets the table near the space heater.

The Indian-Nepalese restaurant was so frigid when we dropped by on a recent weekend, our bow-tied waiter steered us away from sitting by the front window, and half of the diners kept their coats on while they ate.

Fortunately, the food helped distract us. Jalapeno peppers, dunked in chickpea batter and fried to a golden crisp, had some of us smiling and others at the table reaching for their water glasses. Shredded duck tossed with fenugreek and other spices disappeared after the first plate-pass among friends, and so did the gingery lamb chops that had been cooked, like the very good breads here, in the kitchen's clay oven.

Shangri-La? It would be a stretch to compare this spare storefront, which opened in June, to paradise, even after the temporary heating problem is fixed. But between the indulgent staff and the menu, which gives patrons the chance to explore such Nepalese calling cards as momo (dumplings) and barbecued goat, there's enough to recommend a look-see.

Co-owner Soma Pokharel, 50, is Nepalese by birth and a veteran of the local dining scene, having managed Cafe Spice in Gaithersburg and Delhi Dhaba in Bethesda. Briefly, he also owned an Indian restaurant, Guru, in Fredericksburg. Toiling in the kitchen in Pokharel's new roost: Atik Ullah, most recently the chef at Aditi in Georgetown.

The children's menu includes the ubiquitous chicken tenders but also gives anyone under 10 the chance to eat like an adult. Shangri-La's "kid's thali" ($5.99) features rice, a salad and nicely creamy Indian butter chicken.

Entrees, $10-$25.

(Jan. 21, 2009)