--BY AASHIYANA ADHIKARI
Centrally located off a side street in Dillibazaar, Bhojan Griha, an old palace-turned restaurant, is a unique and dream-like place where foodies can eat a range of authentic organic Nepali delicacies.
As soon as you enter the main entrance of the restaurant through a carved wooden door, attendants in national attire welcome you to heady evening with popcorn, Nepali style fried potatoes, garnished peanuts and dumplings and a cup of the Newari liquor ‘aaila’ straight from a ‘Karuwa’ (a Nepali jug) onto a ‘paala’ (a small Nepali cup made of mud). Although you can ask for any liquor brand of your preference, this is a must try.
After the drinks, a bowl of ‘Kwatti’ (an authentic Nepali soup of mixed sprouted colourful beans) is served. The subtly spiced mixture including fenugreek has a mildly welcoming flavour and a wonderfully chewy texture that can give you a whole new experience. After this second starter from the Nepali set menu, comes the main course, rice, un-husked black lentils, at least two different vegetables, fried fish and goat meat, with a Nepali pickle on the side to tickle your taste buds, a simple zesty tomato relish. The steamed white rice is served with black lentils flavored with herbs which is a national favorite and is cooked with Himalayan leaf garlic called Jimbu along with a few spices-a rich and healthy meal in itself.
While enjoying the meal, you get to watch colourful dances representing the different regions of the country. The restaurant also has a room with low cane chairs for those who want to enjoy the food in a typical Nepali way. Nowadays, many Thakali restaurants also have these types of low chairs. But when Bhojan Griha started it decades ago it was new to many. After the dinner is over, you are served with chopped fruits in whipped yoghurt garnished with cumin fried in mustard oil as desert. Similarly, the Sikarni (sweetened Nepali yoghurt) is also another notable mouth watering dessert.
The restaurant has a royal touch to it which makes it more unique. The walls are decorated with the pictures of past Shah Kings and Rana Prime Ministers with antique lamps hung all over the place.
Many years ago, when today’s noisy and chaotic Dillibazaar was less noisy and chaotic, Bharat Basnet took a rundown Rana era palace that belonged to royal priests and converted it into a three-storied pleasure place. His belief in the Nepali culture and authentic cuisine has resulted in one of the most successful restaurants if you want an ethnic-packed evening with food and dance from all over Nepal. The restaurant is mostly packed on the weekends.
Basnet says the historic residence of the royal priest was built over 150 years ago. It took six years for Basnet to turn the old palace into a restaurant using craftsmen skilled in traditional heritage building. The vast Nepali styled rooms of Bhojan Griha, decorated with Nepali cultural artifacts, can accommodate over 250 customers. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner every day.
The restaurant also provides an economic benefit to the local businesses as all the materials used are from local resources which in-turn promotes small cottage scale industries.
With excellent customer service and exemplary ambience and delicious food, Bhojan Griha is a must visit!