Editor’s note: This is part of The Know’s series, Staff Favorites. Each week, we offer our opinions on the best that Colorado has to offer for dining, shopping, entertainment, outdoor activities and more. (We’ll also let you in on some hidden gems).
It never fails. Whenever I walk into the Sherpa House Nepalese restaurant in Golden, my olfactory receptors whisk me back to the Himalayas and a three-month expedition to Mount Everest nearly 40 years ago.
The powerful aroma of curry, ginger, garlic, cumin, cilantro and other spices reminds me of great memories of exploring Buddhist and Hindu shrines in exotic Katmandu, of staying in tea houses on the trek to the mountain, and of dinners at Everest base camp prepared by Sherpa cooks at the foot of the world’s tallest mountain.
Owner Lhakpa Sherpa, who moved to Golden in 1996 and opened the Sherpa House in 2009, is a native of the Khumbu region, the southern gateway to Everest. He still has a house in Lukla, where trekkers begin the 40-mile, multi-day hike over rugged high-altitude trails to Everest base camp. The airport there, built on a mountain shelf, is named after Sherpa Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary, who became the first to climb Everest in 1953.
The interior of the Sherpa House is decorated to look like a typical house in the Khumbu region with a Buddhist shrine and a faux wooden hearth. There are two dining rooms. Outside there is a charming courtyard for warm-weather dining with a lovely view of South Table Mountain.
Over the years, Lhakpa has ambitiously grown his business, which is centered around a red brick building at the eastern edge of the Colorado School of Mines, two blocks south of downtown Golden. Two years ago, he added a large bar. He’s also added an event center that can accommodate 300, and there is a gift shop. Lhakpa now calls the complex the Sherpa House and Cultural Center.
“We continue to add more spaces, features, and beautify the place with higher value for people to enjoy,” Lhakpa wrote in an email last week from Nepal, where he is now on a 10-day meditation retreat. “We continue to invest in the place for people’s better enjoyment and experience, (a) 14-year journey of adding modifications every year and expansion, keep adding more value. I don’t know when we will stop. We still have lot of room to grow and add more features.”
I used to love the lunch buffet, which was a great way to sample various kinds of Sherpa cuisine. It was suspended during COVID to promote social distancing.
“We will bring back the buffet when the construction is over, with better space and features,” Lhakpa said. “With small space for the buffet, people make really long lines. We are redesigning the buffet space so that customers don’t have to wait so long to get the food.”
I usually order the Daal Bhat Tarkari — rice and lentils with a savory sauce — which is sometimes called the national dish of Nepal. You can order it with chicken, lamb or yak meat, or go vegetarian.
Another favorite is the Sherpa Stew, which is more like a spicy soup with green and red peppers, potatoes, carrots, green peas, cabbage and chickpeas. For an appetizer, I recommend momos, delicious dumplings wrapped around spicy meat (beef or chicken). My favorite dinners in Everest base camp came on the nights when we had momos after Sherpa porters delivered fresh yak meat from villages down valley.
The staff is comprised of Sherpas. Panuru Sherpa, who is working in the kitchen, has climbed Everest 16 times since 1988. Soon he will go back to Nepal to work at the Khumbu Climbing Center in his native village of Phortse, which teaches safe and responsible climbing practices to indigenous people who want to work in the mountaineering industry as guides. It’s a program of the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation. Lowe, a larger-than-life American mountaineer, was killed in an avalanche on a mountain in Tibet in 1999, and the foundation honors his legacy.
Lhakpa also is giving back to the people of the Khumbu. In 2011, he founded Hike for Help, which organizes and leads volunteer trips.
“I just finished up another trip and the people went back to Denver a few days ago,” Lhakpa wrote in his email. “We build trails, public restrooms along the Everest trail, help schools, and distribute aid for needy people. We work together with local people and government, and our volunteers enjoy trekking camping while helping them with their important projects.”
Sherpa House, 1518 Washington Ave, Golden, 303-278-7939; sherpa.house
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