WHAT IS HIMALAYAN food, anyway? Before my arrival at Khana Himalayan Lounge, I had vague visions of mysterious mountain-climbing food, burning incense, and ancient tapestries. Instead I found a simple and logical combination of the cuisines of Nepal, India, and Tibet, infused with a hip, urban interpretation. Nestled tastefully next to the Fremont Bridge, the relatively unobtrusive building looks almost (but not quite) like it belongs there. Housing Adobe World Headquarters, this development tries hard to fit in, which is not easy for such a behemoth. The modern sleek decor and heavy windowing smooth the transition between funky Fremont street culture and Khana's semi-slick interior. With all the glass, it's a place to see and be seen, to meet and be met, and to fuel up for the trek to your personal summit, wherever the hell that might be.

Old favorites with new names fill the drink menu, and the Trekker Kazi ($6) -- with Raspberry Stoli, Orange Stoli, and Cointreau, mulled with fresh lime -- is an excellent bracer for the mountainous ascent ahead. Pappadam, the automatic appetizer brought immediately to your table, is a crunchy flat bread made with lentil flour and served with a feisty mint, coconut, and chile chutney, emboldened with the popular East Indian flavor of tamarind. Working together like old and dear friends, the chutney's ingredients sizzle.

Samosa (fried Indian pastry filled with curried onions, mushroom, tofu, chopped greens, and potato, $3.50) and Momo (a Tibetan version of the pot sticker, $5 for beef and vegetable, $6 for the combo) bridge the gap between dainty and robust. The Momo wrappers are ornate and artistic, and suggest finely crafted pottery with their stark presentation. The juicy curry innards of the Momo make for a moist and satisfying mouthful, while the samosas carry a more dense punch. Tandoori Chicken ($10.95), literally glowing with a rich and neon redness, is rubbed with spices and roasted in Khana's clay tandoor oven. Served with well-executed basmati rice and fresh curried green beans, this aromatic dish looks as pretty as a flag with its blazes of red, white, and green.

From the customized entrée list, diners can choose from the rice meals or the bread meals, both of which are served with lentils, a pickled vegetable or two, and your choice of meat (lamb curry, chicken curry, lamb with yogurt, lamb with spinach) and a vegetable (curried mixed vegetables, curried cauliflower, curried eggplant and tomato, curried green beans, curried potatoes, curried banana, mustard greens, Nepali fried potatoes); veg-heads can ditch the meat and just pick two vegetables. The bread choices come with two pieces of chapati (thin, soft, and chewy pancake-like bread) used to pick up assorted plate-mates. (All this democracy is admirable yet confusing, and we almost went home to get our slide rule so we could figure out our order.)

Lamb with Yogurt ($10.50) and mustard greens, served on an attractive silver platter, makes a superbly filling meal, although the lamb was a wee bit chewy. The refreshing mixture of lamb, yogurt, greens, and springy chapati is unusual, and nurtures a healthy and light self-image. The coconut ice cream ($2.75) cuts through the preceding curries and chilies, and left my dining companion and I fresh-mouthed and with a natural jauntiness as we finished our meals.

Recent studies show that 80 percent of Fremont residents have spent at least six months in Nepal, which makes this location a natural. While the Khana Himalayan Lounge seems true to its mission of bringing the foods of the Far East to Seattle in a mostly authentic way, their blasting of an entire Billy Joel CD on the sound system seems like a cruel joke at best. Granted, the choice of music in a restaurant is not exactly a monumental issue, but loudly playing such a disturbing selection seems like an uncharacteristic gaffe in an otherwise carefully conceived environment. I'm not suggesting Yanni's Greatest Hits, but something more suitable would appropriately complement Khana's delicious food and pleasing ambience.

Khana Himalayan Lounge, 703 N 34th St, 632-6685. Mon-Thurs 11:30 am-9:30 pm, Fri 11:30 am-11 pm, Sat 5-11 pm, closed Sunday. $$

Foods of Nepal, India, and Tibet Collide Tastefully in Fremont

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