Few restaurants have satiated your writer's gastronomic cravings, and Taza is certainly one of them. The new restaurant recently opened in Pulchowk, bringing a bit of Middle-Eastern flare to Kathmandu. Eager to check it out, we visited this unassuming eatery with the aim of enjoying a relaxed and tasty meal, with no review in mind. However, given how excellent the food was, we felt it would be a gross disservice to our readers if we didn’t write about it.
“It doesn’t feel like we’re in Nepal,” mused a friend, and she was right: it didn’t. The owner and the chef, who warmly greeted us at the door, are both Syrians. The owner, Bassel Shreiqi, married to a Nepali woman, had been coming to Nepal for treks in Annapurna when he “fell in love with Nepal”. “I wanted to settle here and start a business," he says.
The Arabic background music at Taza not only creates a lively atmosphere but also adds to the restaurant’s authenticity, making one’s experience more enjoyable. In what little time we spent waiting for our food to arrive (the service is impeccable) we began to sing along to the Arabic song playing, which seemed to amuse the owner.
With an expansive menu featuring many popular Middle-Eastern dishes, like hummus and chicken shawarma, it was difficult to decide on what to order first. We finally agreed to start with the falafel plate (Rs 150), a favourite at the restaurant, which certainly did not disappoint. The falafels were cooked to perfection and were well complemented by the dish’s tahini sauce, made from ground sesame seeds.
One of the restaurant’s most revered dishes is the chicken toshka (Rs 350) and as such we decided that we needed to get an order for the table. This was by far the best dish. With thinly sliced layers of spicy chicken and cheese in between two pieces of grilled flatbread, the chicken toshka achieves the perfect balance of flavour.
While one may be led to believe that the shawarma with cheese (Rs 250), another signature dish, is similar to the toshka, the two dishes are in fact quite different. The shawarma’s chicken is delicately spiced and the fresh vegetables and sauces added to the dish help bring out the full flavour of the chicken, without overpowering the taste of the spices. As a bonus, the chef adds a generous portion of French fries to every main dish.
Upon the recommendation of a friend who had been to Taza and insisted we try the dessert, we ordered the only dessert dish offered by the restaurant – the suksseh (Rs 100). With its cold chocolate core that includes tiny bits of biscuit to add a bit of crunch, this mouthwatering Arabic dessert was the perfect way to end our meal.
Given that there are hardly any Middle-Eastern restaurants in town, some readers may argue that there is no benchmark against which to measure Taza’s food. But with its tasty dishes, lively atmosphere and most reasonable prices, Taza will itself become the benchmark for future Middle-Eastern restaurants that may pop up in Kathmandu.
How to get there: Taza is located on the Pulchowk lane, next to the Himalayan Bank in what previously used to be Firewood Pizza.