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Hungry Eye – Ramalaya Tea Room, Panipokhari

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

If you’re beyond the wide-eyed excitement of seeing restaurants and cafes crop up in the Valley like no one’s business, and have realised with sad resignation that momos, chicken chilli and beer are the very usual suspects everywhere, then you’d better hie thee to Ramalaya in Panipokhari. Chef Mohit Rana awaits with delicacies you’d never dream of finding in momoland.

The last time I was in Ramalaya, for the launch of Manjushree Thapa’s Seasons of Flight, we slaked our thirst with aila and filled up on Newari tidbits from Thamel’s Newa de Café. Ramalaya’s own interior and home products were tucked into a couple of elaborately decorated showrooms facing onto the expansive, manicured grounds where the literati were gathered. Not being much of a shopper I didn’t expect to be back, so it was a pleasant surprise to hear of a food-tasting at Ramalaya’s Tea Room, courtesy in-house chef Mohit Rana.

Now Chef Mohit has already had a glorious run this year with Mitra Café which, by all accounts, furnished a rare spread of exquisite organic creations. But my already high expectations were surpassed at Ramalaya. Perhaps I should blame the Bloody Mary Shrimp in Chinese soup spoons that greeted me in the wake of a refreshing iced coffee? I’d barely settled in when another platter raised my eyebrows, then another. I’m rather more accustomed to oohing and aahing over a single wondrous appetizer at a time – what does one do when there’s several on a plate, except demand of the chef, “um, how long does this take you to do, you know, in real time?” “Two or three days,” he murmured, hinting at the trouble he goes to in visualising, sourcing and then preparing his dishes.

How about olives stuffed into cherry tomatoes, soft lines of cream cheese on baby carrots, slight open sandwiches of parma ham, tender raspberry and date drop scones, and olive tapenade on goat’s cheese? All delightful, all prepared with painstaking care, and all gleefully accepted, flowers and all. Flowers? Yes, some unidentified purple garnishes on the baby carrots, and thyme in the spoons of shrimp. There was more, of course, even apart from the classy orange, pistachio and black olive biscotti piled up in a glass bowl that I ruefully wished I’d tried, as I resisted soiling my palate at the wedding I had to dash to.

Ramalaya’s Tea Room is open for lunch and high tea, with dinner planned post-monsoon. I suggest you make your way to the best chef in town while you can still get in.

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