Food Review from Nepal! By Eloisa Ramos

I was told not to expect much from Nepali food. And wandering north of the tourist hub of Pokhara, I had already had plenty of subsufficient dishes to believe the unfortunate rumors. The first thing I noticed about Banyan Tree Cafe was the music. Soothing electronic beats murmured in the background while chilled out hippies sat on pillows reading from actual books. The waiter was affable, hip and more approachable than the standoffish ones I had experienced thus far. He alternated between attending to tables with a smile and playing chess with a Nepali buddy in the corner. I ordered “Dhal Bhat”, the traditional Nepalese dish found in every household and eaten for both lunch and dinner. The dish is an array of the same combination of foods: a soupy bowl of mung beans or lentils, white rice, a vegetable curry, and a sour or spicy side dish called “pickle” (even when not fermented enough to warrant the name). My previous experiences with this dish had varied widely. From tasty curries with the just-right amount of spice, to bland versions with dry rice, I had consistently ordered it both to dive into the authentic Nepali experience and also in the attempt to be kinder to my pocketbook, as it is usually the cheapest thing on the menu. Sitting at Banyan Tree, I enjoyed reading a bit and ordered quickly. I waited a considerable amount of time, maybe forty-five minutes for my food to arrive. Thirty minutes is standard in Nepal, but I was hungry and the wait was uncomfortable. When the dish finally arrived, I was not disappointed. The plate was beautifully presented. A larger than normal plate held the just-right combination of colors… bright green chard, yellow curry, and white yogurt. Digging into the food, I was astounded. The pickle was an explosion of tangy excellence; carrots, cucumber and shallots were thinly sliced and drenched in lemon and salt. The Dhal was rich with cumin, almost giving and “umami” quality with low notes of onion and other spices I couldn’t place. But the winning side dish was the chard. It knocked me over in it’s simplicity and quality. Seared and blackened around the edges, it was an oily dish without being heavy. The greens were obviously local, they could not have tasted more fresh and the leaves held a hint of salt and nothing else. The blackened pieces mixed in the palate perfectly. Lastly to note was the curry. The cauliflower and potato dish was a bit turmeric-heavy…I prefer my curries to have a more complex variety of spices, but this is part of Nepali cuisine and all of the curries I’ve had with Dhal Bhat have this singularity in it’s turmeric curry, unlike Indian food. What I appreciated about it was that the dish had a levity to it, it was blended well without being oily (I consider this an accomplishment when dealing with curry spices). Overall, I would give Banyan Tree Cafe high marks for it’s freshness, presentation and execution. While the wait was long, I was told (and it was easy to believe) that each dish was made to order from scratch- a special experience for any restaurant goer. The service was friendly with an authentic vibe that combined the right amounts of tourist lounging with
Nepalese locals welcome to come and go, play chess and socialize- a unique balance in a town that feels sterile in it’s tourist-centered capitalist leanings.

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About Miriam Sagan

I'm blogging about poetry, land art, haiku, women artists, road trips, and Baba Yaga at Miriam's Well (https://miriamswell.wordpress.com). The well is ALWAYS looking to publish poetry on our themes, sudden fiction, and guest bloggers and musers.

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