The community-run Newa Lahana in Kirtipur is fast becoming everyone’s favourite Newari eatout.
Long before there were restaurant lanes in Thamel (and Jhamel was still known as Jhamsikhel) there were bhattis in alleys in the inner cities of the Valley. Both the farmer class and royalty dined and made merry in these watering holes in the wall once the sun set.
Honacha in Patan is perhaps the most famous of them all. Opened during times when fine dining was unheard of, Honacha today enjoys the same popularity it did back when it was the only place serving meal and mead in the Darbar Square. The place gets buzzing in the evenings, and those who’ve frequented this iconic Newari bhatti still have a soft corner for the place. Nepalis who have lived abroad many years and are back on vacation make it a point to revisit Honacha.
There are however places that serve better Newari fare than Honacha. A young non-Newar cook in a nameless eatery in the alleys behind New Road whips up far more delicious baras. Harsiddhi Newa Suhlee in Godavari, run by an affable gentleman, wins hands down the Best Sukuti award. But it is the community-run Newa Lahana in Kirtipur that is fast becoming everyone’s favourite Newari eatout, despite the distance. Why?
1. Leg room: you don’t have to huddle with complete strangers at this open-air, multi-storeyed bhatti. There is enough space for everyone to enjoy the food and company without worrying about diners eavesdropping on your sweet nothings.
2. Buena vista: once seated at the top floor, the sights of Machhegaun and the towering Chandragiri above it whet the appetite.
3. The service: community women dressed in traditional haku patasi who wait and smile while you place your orders serve with efficiency and unusual candour. Over-priced restaurants that populate Kathmandu would do well to ask these ladies to instruct their employees on hospitality.
4. The food: the dog eared menu lists more than 50 varieties of Newari specialities and if so far, your taste of Newari cuisine has only been limited to baras, choyalas and sukutis, you definitely owe Lahana a visit.
Prepared by families of Thambahal, the food at Newa Lahana is the very picture of authenticity. “It’s a pity we don’t make these type of food at home anymore,” a Newar friend commented before biting into a piece of Sapu Mhicha (Rs 110), a dish of leaf tripe bag stuffed with bonemarrow. Our plate of Me (Rs 120), boiled and fried slices of buffalo tongue, had us talking about rep-eats.
Some dishes were far too exotic for us, but the adventurous will want to try the Pangra (Rs 180) and Tishyo (Rs 120). Lahana’s cooks do an incredible job with the more common Newari delights too. Mixed Wo or Bara (Rs 110), Choyala (Rs 70) and Alu (Rs 35), Sukuti or Sukula Wala (Rs 140) are must-eats. Thwo (rice beer) brewed in a shed under the building costs Rs 35 per cup and nothing goes better with all spicie than a cup of home brew.
Newa Lahana might also be why youngsters from the city are flocking to Kirtipur like never before. And once here, you might might as well wander around town and soak in the ambience of one of Kathmandu’s oldest settlement. Just make sure your steps are steady on the way down.
How to get there: In Kirtipur, walk past Bagh Bhairab temple and you’ll see a gate with a signboard. Don’t see the sign? Ask locals, everyone in Kirtipur knows where Newa Lahana is.