High Cuisine (and Low) in The Himalayas – Dining Out in Nepal

126

The dinner hour approaches, and I know that the refrigerator is bare. But no worry: Restaurants catering to tourists, foreign residents and, increasingly, adventurous Nepalis have made Kathmandu a city of dining delights. There’s Austrian schnitzel, Korean barbecue and Irish stew; teppanyaki, pasta and dim sum; African, Israeli and Dutch restaurants; chicken curry and chicken mole.

The Chimney Restaurant at the Yak and Yeti hotel is Russian continental, the child of the first restaurant in Nepal. That was created by Russian Boris Lissanevitch, a dancer for the Ballet Russe who fled the Bolshevik revolution. His colorful life included creating an exclusive social club in Calcutta, where he met exiled Nepali King Tribhuvan. When the monarchy was restored, the king invited Boris to Nepal, and Boris created not only the original Yak and Yeti Restaurant but also opened Nepal’s first hotel and began the tourism industry here.

There’s innovative new cuisine at the Rox Restaurant at the Hyatt and at 1905, a party venue and restaurant with low-key, high class food. One of the hottest spots is Chez Caroline, named after the charming and voluble owner. The bistro seating in a beautifully restored old courtyard is a great match for food worthy of French tradition.

Local fare fares well too. Bhojan Griha does traditional banquet meals, with diners seated on cushions and Nepali classical music. You can have “royal” cuisine on silver platters at Bhaitak in Baber Mahal Revisited, with portraits of Rana prime ministers overlooking you. The grandest option is the multi-course feast at Dwarika Hotel’s Krishnarpan. And most interesting of all is Thamel House, a lightly-restored 350-year-old farmhouse where they serve high Newari food, including wild boar and tiny clay cups of potent rice liquor.

If you go to check out Thamel House, you may be sidetracked. It’s located in and named for Kathmandu’s tourist quarter, Thamel, which may well have a higher density of restaurants than anywhere else in the world. Italian? Try Maria’s Fire and Ice for pizza and gelato, Nuovo Marco Polo for a grand multi-course meal or La Dolce Vita for the best tiramisu. There are big burgers at Rum Doodle, KC’s, and Tongues and Tales; genuine Thai at the Yin Yang, the city’s longest-running, and at Krua Thai; sandwiches and more at the Road House and at Sandwich Point; and wonderful veg. dishes at Pilgrims Bookstore Cafe.

The neighborhood has great bakeries and delis, a Belgian frites place and a falafel stand, momo houses, ice cream shops, Tibetan restaurants, fifty-cent-a-plate chowmein counters, rooftop terraces, street vendors, and uncountable watering holes.

There are steaks at the Everest Steak House, K2 and at Kilroys, where an Irish chef with flair produces unusual fusion dishes. And for the pick of the neighborhood, go to Cafe Mitra. Owner Kunal Lama is a wonderful chef, clever designer and charming host. The food is always interesting and always great.

My neighborhood in the south of the city features a Singaporean/Malay restaurant, excellent pizza, the New Orleans Cafe, two Japanese places, a world fusion restaurant, a Hunan spot and a BBQ joint, just for starters. But my favorite place of all to eat out is a little corner dhaba, the New Tandoori Fast Food Restaurant. The name says it all: quick North-Indian meals centering around rich vegetable curries with breads and meats from the tandoor, a clay oven.

Two butter nan, chicken tikka masala and shahi korma please. I’m in heaven for three bucks, and I’ll deal with the empty refrigerator tomorrow.

John Child is The NewsBlaze Nepal Correspondent, a journalist in Kathmandu who writes about goings-on in and around Nepal and her neighbors.

John Child is The NewsBlaze Nepal Correspondent, a journalist in Kathmandu who writes about goings-on in and around Nepal and her neighbors.