Soba restaurant, Hotel Sunset View
Tucked away on two acres of wooded greenery in New Baneswor, Hotel Sunset View, offering a delightful blend of Nepali and Japanese food, overlooks Patan and Kathmandu and serves some of most authentic Japanese cuisine in Kathmandu-soba (Japanese buckwheat noodles) made from scratch. The buckwheat, especially flown in from Tukuche in Mustang is ground in a jato (stone grinder) to a fine flour, kneaded and then cut into noodle strips by hand. The soba piece de resistance involves lightly boiling the noodles and serving the dish cold (in summer) with soba thuyu (a soup from soy sauce, seaweed, sake and fish ) and lightly fried tempura. Sweet tasting soba dango, (buckwheat balls in soya sauce) and buckwheat tea are served alongside.
And of course soba yu (the water in which the soba is boiled). The meal is rounded up with Japanese sweets.
"The flour is the key. 80 percent buckwheat and two percent maida," says Hiroko Tulachan, who runs Sunset View with her husband Arjun. Since the couple started the soba restaurant four years ago, there's been a steady stream of clients, Japanese tourists, American and European ex pats and a few Nepalis. And unlike most of our favourite foods, soba is the ultimate health food-it is said to be good for hypertension and the digestion, and is naturally fat-free. If the food weren't reason enough to go here, diners can also watch soba chef Shankhalal Thakali, who was trained in Japan, working in the kitchen, making the noodle that millions of Japanese cannot live without. Of course, you don't have to eat soba-the restaurant also serves udon, refined wheat flour noodles. (482172)
The Summit Hotel Garden & Patan Museum Caf?
These two restaurants, both run by the Summit Hotel, are among the nicest alfresco dining options in the city. The Patan Museum Caf? only does lunch and high tea, which is a shame. The ambience is unbeatable, hypnotic, almost. The courtyard and the garden with its trellises and little nooks and crannies is alluring, and the sight of the museum's splendidly renovated fa?ade is a delight to look at and blocks out the sound of chattering tour groups in Darbar Square. No surprise, then, that even city residents-not just tourists-go out of their way to spend an afternoon or Saturday brunch here.
The Summit Hotel Garden, located in a rather high Sanepa cul-de-sac, is lush, well-kept and welcoming. In the evenings, it is cleverly lit with warm lights in little niches in the wall near floor level. In the day, the garden feels secluded and away from the din of the city and it is sheer luxury to spend an afternoon in the stillness with a beer or cup of strong filter coffee, looking at the views over the city and even the mountains on a clear day.
The menu in both places is similar: sandwiches on French bread, the popular Museum burger, pure comfort food like the liver and onions platter, the tempting-and calorific-bread basket, a filling Nepali thali, excellent fish and chips with a lavish helping of chips, excellent potatoes, and a crunchy chef's salad. The Summit Garden also does a barbecue with live music on Friday nights. Desserts are a strong point in both cafes-the orange bomb, the lemon souffle, the chocolate mousse and the apple pie are always delicious and well-presented. (521810)
The Splash Bar and Grill
The new outlet at the Radisson is the best place in the city to catch the sunset. On the fifth floor of the hotel overlooking the attractive and very blue pool, the restaurant offers views of the ugly, unplanned city, but also of Nagarjun and the forest near the British and Indian embassies, from where flocks of egrets fly south, just past the terrace, in the evenings. On a clear day, there are views of Gauri Shankar. But the most spectacular feature is the sun setting behind Swoyambhu.
The Splash has regular tables and chairs, but more fun is the bar-style seating around the edge of the terrace. For nights with a nip in the air, there is also limited covered seating which looks very comfortable and cosy. The menu is a surprise-not just your usual grill fare. There are interesting vegetarian options such as the Cajun cottage cheese with balsamico peppers and the bean steak with peri peri chilli, veggies and the honey-mustard sauce one generally assumes goes with pork. There's plenty for carnivores, a range of burgers, inventive sandwiches like the chicken tikka sandwich with mint yogurt and a substantial king fish with lemon-caper butter. The Splash also has an amusing take on the classic Surf and Turf combination-here it is called Pasture and Pond. You get the tenderloin, but with elaborately prepared prawns instead of lobster.
If you are a vodka drinker, there's something to rejoice about: The Splash offers a range of cocktails made with flavoured vodkas (think herbs, clove, fruit flavours) and liqueurs like blue curacao or an ouzo/raki-type aniseed liquor. Now if only there were seating at the attractive beaten-copper sided bar. (411818)
La'soon Restaurant and Vinotheque
The archly-named La'soon is in a surprisingly light basement in Pulchowk. Run by Maria, a Ghanian who has lived in Nepal for close to a decade, and Dolly, who was formerly a model and now also runs a school, La'soon is a happy refuge for hordes of lunch devotees who find few other options in the area that probably has the most NGO-workers per square inch in the city. La'soon serves up a cosmopolitan mix of Italian-and American-influenced food. The pastas are filling and flavourful, ranging from spaghetti with feta, olives, capers and chilli, to the simple delights of noodles with pesto. The garlicky mixed bean stew and the chicken in wine sauce are a delightful meal for the starving, while the African peanut soup (when it is on the specials board), the quiche or the tomato and mozzarella salad are perfect for a lighter meal. Other winners include the sandwiches, the Nepali set meal and the jacket fish with lemon and pepper.
The temptation to sit back with a beer or, indeed, a glass of wine from the restaurant's more than adequate selection is strong, but perhaps best resisted if one is going back to a long workday. In this case, have a go at the espresso-based coffees, which are excellent, especially the extensive selection of Swiss coffees brewed in La'soon's brand-new Krups Nespresso machine. The excellent food and drink and pleasant lemon-yellow and grey interiors with changing artwork on the walls make this one of the most congenial places on the quieter side of the Bagmati. La'soon runs the same menu for dinner, and on weekends, there is often live acoustic music by members of 1974 AD and friends. (535290)
The Rox Restaurant and Bar
There's nothing quite like The Rox in the city for over-the-top stylishness. An almost overwhelming concoction of granite, marble, slate and blonde wood, this is the place to go for a Very Posh Night Out. The Rox is on three levels, the main dining floor with its show kitchen and un-stuffy seating arrangements including counter seating, the mezzanine, which serves as a pre- or post-dinner lounge for the cigar set, and the trendy Rox Bar on the lowest level, which has a number of seating options and opens on to a terrace and then the garden.
The drinks menu is exemplary and includes a huge variety of cocktails, including The Rox's delicious signature drink, the Caprioschka, a drool-worthy selection of single malts, an extensive wine list and cocktails by the pitcher.
The food at The Rox keeps pace with the d?cor. There are simple, rich dishes for the meat-lover-tenderloin, sirloin, lamb chops and whole trout, and appetisers like liver terrine with green peppercorns and a berry compote, baked scampi with garlic and coriander and stuffed bell peppers with pork, rice and oregano. Vegetarians have nothing to fear-there is a wide selection, and some dishes are particularly good, such as the quiche with leeks, potatoes and blue cheese or the marinated grilled cottage cheese with veggies, bell peppers and lavoche. (491234)
If you like Korean kimchi, go to Jjang. Actually, go even if you have never eaten it before. Mostly patronised by Korean clientele (always a sign the food is good), this Korean restaurant in the heart of Thamel, serves a selection of Korean cuisine that tastes great, is easy on the stomach, and won't dent your pocket. Try the set menu or be more adventurous and go for the Kim Chi Gi Ge, a kimchi stew with tuna, pork or vegetables. Also excellent are the Je Yuk Bok Gem, pork seasoned with parch (a paste of Coke, sugar, ginger and garlic), and the Dark Do Ri Tang, chicken seasoned with parch and served with soup, punch balls or steamed rice and miso soup.
For the carnivore, the Korean-style sushi is a special treat with ham, vegetables, kimchi, cheese, tuna or beef. There's plenty for vegetarians too-one of the most delicious options is the Den Jang Gi Ge, a soya bean paste stew with vegetables served with a side dish of rice.
But the Nepali Times favourite is the traditional Bi Bim Bab-mixed vegetables (and beef, if you like) cooked Korean-style with rice, fried egg, seasoned with a special hot sauce and served in a hot stone bowl. With its accompaniments of kimchi and miso soup, this is a perfect autumn evening meal. (412715)
Finally, a Chinese/ Oriental restaurant without a single red lacquer item in sight, and no trumpery fans and wind chimes. The \'new Orient' has arrived at the Soaltee's new outlet (a branch of the legendary China Garden in Mumbai), possibly the best designed restaurant in town. The warm-toned, lightly veined marble floor, the two slim waterfalls contained between glass that is lit to appear russet, the shattered-glass and wrought iron screen that sections off a large table, and the carefully neutral grey-brown furniture with hunter green upholstery all come together to make a wonderfully tranquil and cosy space. This is a perfect place for families as well as couples, friends and even to dine out alone. The row of tables for two (or one) are far enough from each other for privacy, but close enough to strike up a conversation if you want-a good move in a city where it is difficult to do things solo.
The food is equally pleasing. Not strictly Chinese, the extensive nine-page menu features Mongolian, Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Indonesian and some Japanese food, too. There are even a couple of specialities from Calcutta's Chinatown here. The effect is pan-Asian and utterly delicious. The soya and wine chilli chicken, the peking \'duck' (they use chicken), and the Japanese-style teppanyaki are perfect-light, yet satisfying, intensely flavourful but never overspiced, and all fresh- and wholesome-tasting. The vegetarian dishes are sublime-very unusual fried cream corn, crunchy, garlicky bok choy, baby corn with juicy oyster mushrooms, and an emperor fried rice that beats the pants off any fried rice we've ever eaten. For a meal in a bowl, the soba noodles or the prawn and chicken soup in a thick garlic and chilli broth are perfect. (273999)
Dechenling Beer Garden
Right behind the Keshar Mahal garden in the lane opposite the Tridevi temple in Thamel is a quiet little garden restaurant that the management describes as "a place of joy". Dechenling Beer Garden Restaurant and Bar is the perfect place to relieve stress-in the heart of the city. The garden is extremely pleasant and the dining rooms are tastefully, but not overwhelmingly done up.
The menu is an interesting mix of Nepali, Tibetan, Indian, and Bhutanese dishes. There are few better places to go with your family or a large group of friends and indulge in the Tibetan hot pot Gyacok with its mix of seasonal vegetables, mushroom, vermicelli, pork fillet and chicken with side dishes of steamed dumplings, chicken capsicum, Tibetan bread, or butter rice and fruit dessert. The Bhutanese specialities, Ama Dharti-chilli, cheese, and mushroom curry served with rice, or the Pak which is chicken or pork with cabbage and rice are perfect for the lone luncher. For a quiet beer in the evening, the hot garlic potatoes are the perfect accompaniment. (416387)
An old white house at the end of Saat Ghumti, Thamel with a sign that looks like it may lead to a lazy blues bar. Jatra, which has a cult following in the city, is a confusing place. It's an artist's hide out where you can paint, develop pictures or look at artwork. It's a bookworm's lair, perfect for a lazy afternoon with aromatic coffee from around the world.
It is equally nice for lovers, who can get away from the bustle of normal restaurants and spend a quiet evening lost in each other's eyes, sipping wine from Naples to Nepal or brandy from Marpha. And it's a great start to a night out in Kathmandu.What's truly unique about Jatra is its comfort level. As for the food, it is uniformly excellent, but the sukuti sandheko (dry meat pickle) and alu sandheko (potato pickle) deserve special mention. The music is great and even the dullest evening is enlivened at Jatra. (433859)
The Red Onion Bar
Kathmandu's bars and restaurants are clearly doing well as far as names go, and The Red Onion has to be one of the best. It's more than just a fancy name, though, and if you are a devoted drinker who likes choices that go beyond the usual beer-whisky-rum-vodka, this bar around the corner from the Radisson Hotel is the place to go. On what is probably one of the most extensive drinks menus in the city, The Red Onion offers everything from the relatively common Bailey's to umeshu, Japanese plum wine, and sake. For the brave-hearted, there are serious cocktails, and even the perennial whiskey drinker has a decent amount of choice. For the really brave, there are cigars. The food is perfect for a watering hole-well-proportioned momos, pizzas, pakaudas, burgers and sandwiches, and variations on the humble chicken-wings, drumsticks and barbecue.
This is the perfect place to flop into after a long day. You can sit on the terrace, or at the bar, or sink into the numerous fat sofas (complete with very frou-frou, plump bows at the back), loll around without feeling vulgar, watch TV or just stare ahead fixedly. There's something to look at everywhere-the bar has nice traditional Newari tilework, as do the windows, and right above the stage there are three mirrors set in carved wooden window frames, which adds a nice feeling of cosy depth to the place. Which is also why it comes as a surprise to notice that while this isn't a biker bar, there is a definite two-wheel locomotive theme, down to the vintage motorcycle on the platform and the elegantly minimalist miniature metal bicycles on the windowsills. (416516)
There is more great food at:
Shambala Garden Caf?, Hotel Shangri-La, Lazimpat: Pizzas to crepes, Indian curries and Chinese delicacies in the prize-winning garden. 412999
The Far Pavilions, The Everest Hotel, Baneswore: Indian specialities from Bengali to Punjabi. 488100
The Chimney Restaurant, Hotel Yak & Yeti, Darbar Marg: Excellent borscht and other Russian specialities. 248999
Ghar-E-Kabab, Hotel De L' Annapurna, Darbar Marg: Kabab madness and other rich Indian food. 221552
Tian Rui, Thapathali: Lip-smacking Chinese, especially the Peking duck.
Yin and Yang, Thamel: The best Pad Thai and green curry in town. 243271
Helena's, Thamel: Relocated, refurbished, excellent continental fare and scrumptious chocolate cake. 412135
Krishnarpan, Dwarika's, Battisputali: Perfect sekuwa appetisers and delicious Nepali daal-bhat-tarkari. 479488
Rum Doodle Restuarant, Thamel: Mountaineers, continental cuisine, and good drinks. 414336
Nanglo Chinese Room, Darbar Marg: The perennial family favourite, great momos. 222636
Imperial Pavilion, Hotel Malla, Lazimpat: Great fish, all-round delicious Chinese food. 418385