In Nepal, it can be surprisingly difficult to find restaurants that serve good, authentic Nepalese food.
Tourist guidebooks tend to highlight French, Italian, Middle Eastern or even Chinese options – but less often local food. When you do happen to locate a restaurant offering Nepalese cuisine, it will probably be a small place and will most likely specialize in one or two local dishes, like buffalo momos or chow mein.
Enter Krishnarpan, a fine-dining restaurant in Kathmandu that not only has delicious Nepalese food – it also serves a wide range of national cuisine that encompasses every part of Nepal’s culinary history, culture and geography, from Himalayan to Newari to the Thauru fare of the country’s lowlands.
But that’s not the only reason to visit Krishnarpan. Every detail has been thoughtfully arranged to ensure that the experience is as memorable as the food itself.
The restaurant’s name is Hindi for “offering to Lord Krishna,” an incarnation of the god Vishnu in the country’s predominant religion, Hinduism. It’s traditional before eating the first bite of the first course to place a small portion of food on a heart-shaped mini-plate as an offering to Krishna. Waiters will encourage customers to make this small gesture of thankfulness.
Highlighting the importance of Nepal’s culinary traditions is the running theme of any evening at Krishnarpan. The restaurant is located in a Newari palace that has been restored into a boutique hotel, with carvings, furniture, and art pieces rescued from all over Kathmandu. Each server introduces the cuisine of a different region of Nepal, and wears the traditional clothing of that area. Most of the food is sourced locally and sustainably.
Meals vary by day and week, and customers receive a custom-made, personalized menu. The standard six-course meal showcases the diversity of the country’s tastes and cooking styles. While six is the minimum to sample all of the region cuisine, if you’re (really, really) hungry and have several hours, Krishnarpan offers up to 22 courses.
The dishware is a mix of metal plates etched in traditional Nepalese designs, thick brass goblets for water cups, rust-colored terra cotta bowls, and brass cutlery shaped like tree branches. All of it is enough to make you feel like royalty for an evening.
After one or two courses, a waiter will likely emerge with locally produced Nepali rice wine, which is poured into a tiny clay saucer the size of a shot glass. You’ll be warned that it is bitter and potent – true on both counts.
For the main course, somewhere around number 5 in the order, the waitress will bring out a large round metal platter that’s filled with small mounds of many classic Nepalese dishes, each arrayed in a circular pattern around the outside of the plate. These include lentils with Himalayan herbs over brown and white rice, chicken curry, red pumpkin curry, sautéed spinach, fried potatoes, and assorted stir fried and pickled vegetables.
Ask for some extra spice, and they’ll bring out a special side of “piro icchar”, or spicy pickles. The chunky orange mixture is made from red chili paste, tomatoes, green chili peppers, and salt. It is extremely spicy; the Nepalese equivalent of home-style hot sauce that is served as a condiment to many dishes. For good measure, the server also brings out a glass of coursani – green tear-shaped Nepali peppers – floating in water on toothpicks for easier munching.
As you sample bites of everything, you’re cross-legged at low tables on the ground – sitting on large floor cushion that has a solid chair back. Red brick walls with dark brown wood cast textured shadows from the candlelight illuminating each of the two main rooms.
Krishnarpan is a magical experience in a sumptuous setting. It’s a perfect beginning or end to a visit to Nepal – a chance to appreciate fresh ingredients cooked with care and presented beautifully.
Krishnarpan: custom set menu printed every day
Address: Inside the Dwarika’s Hotel, Battisputali, Kathmandu, Nepal
Telephone: +977 1447 9488