Rato Mato, or to give it its full (and rather convoluted) name, Bikalpa’s Rato Mato Organics BBQ and Bistro, prides itself on the use of locally produced organic produce, free from ‘chemicals’ implied as polluting the dishes of its competitors. In addition, the restaurant’s publicity claims, wherever possible, to rely on locally produced ingredients, helping to promote food security and sustainable farming in Nepal.
While the latter intention is laudable enough, the former is something diners in Kathmandu are frequently promised, with broad-based sideswipes taken at ‘chemicals’, which contrary to increasingly popular opinion are regarded as shorthand for poisons, toxins – the catering industry’s dirty little secrets. We should perhaps remember that chemicals are in fact the principle basis of all matter and not something we should view as inherently, irredeemably dangerous.
That said, riding on the wave of (often legitimate) public health concerns is hardly the worst marketing strategy in the world. The good things I’d heard about Rato Mato, along with the number of occupied tables on the evening we attended, suggested that this eatery might well be delivering something more than the promise of non-toxic tucker.
Our meal began with Rato Mato’s ‘special’ fries (Rs 80), made so by a crisp spicy coating and a Thousand Island-esque dipping sauce. We also took the BBQ chicken skewers (Rs 180) to task and found the mildly piro marinade delicious, even if the meat was perhaps a little overdone.
Main courses arrived before we’d devoured the starters, although in fairness we had dithered, probably causing a certain amount of frustration for an evidently efficient kitchen. We ordered the pork chops (continuing this column’s breathless hunt of the best plates of pig available in this fair city) and the parsley pesto pasta (in a noble if half-hearted attempt to acknowledge that some of our readers are vegetarian).
I’m sorry to report that neither dish lived up to the recommendations we’d heard: the pork (Rs 260), smothered in gravy and served with a slightly cold mash, was tough and more than a little dry. The pasta (Rs 270) – which ought to have been beautiful in its simplicity – was oppressed by its grated cheese topping and had stuck together to form an unfortunate, oily mass. We picked at both plates before surrendering, ordering the chocolate mousse with crème (Rs 120), which, while an improvement on the mains, did not provide the rich, intense shot to the arm that I was by then counting on.
A slice of cucumber sitting in a tall glass of complimentary water was a nice touch, as was the presentation of all of the dishes that came our way. This, in fact, appears to be Rato Mato’s strong suit: brush strokes and drizzles of sauces and condiments carefully dispensed over our plates, fine curls of chocolate atop the crème of our dessert, and so on. Everything looked fantastic, but very little of what we ordered truly delivered on taste.
Attempts to promote Nepal’s growing organic produce market are, of course, nothing to sneer at, and the modest number of restaurants doing so should be commended for both their innovation and their response to consumer concerns. I highly doubt that a meal dominated by ‘chemicals’ would have bettered our experience at Rato Mato. But I did leave wondering if I could whip up a quick snack from the mutant vegetables and mass-produced rubbish in my fridge when I got home.
How to get there: from the British School, walk straight through Arun Thapa Chok. Rato Mato is on the right hand side, more or less opposite Top of the World Café.