Since 1981, Hotel Annapurna’s Ghar-e-kabab
has been serving the best of north Indian cuisine. Gazals, classical music, and Bollywood tunes emanate from one end of the hall and quite remarkably, Mohan Sunder who charmed the audience with his Sarod play when the restaurant opened its gates, still performs regularly, his lifelong loss of vision inspiring him to place all his other faculties into his life’s passion.
The brainchild of Sahadev Rana, Ghar-e-kabab has moved from the first floor near the entrance of the hotel to the ground floor of the main building, but his influence is prominent. The lighting is still dim, considered romantic by some, and the wood colour paneling on the walls give a feel of the hunting lodges of the Maharajas of yore. Some would prefer lighter and brighter surroundings. The drama of kneading the flour, and the whole chicken or chunks of mutton being lowered into or pulled out of the tandoor can still be viewed through the large glass panes that separate the kitchen from the dining area.
The menu here is not cluttered with Indian, Nepali, Chinese, and European dishes, but there are sufficient choices, especially non-vegetarian delights and freshly baked rotis in diverse forms and shapes.
At the recommendation of the pleasant young waitress, we chose the fish mahi tikka (Rs 700) to go with our drinks. It was easily the best decision of the evening. Marinated lightly in dahi overnight, lemon juice and ginger paste, and sprinkled with fresh green herbs, this dish alone was enough to guarantee a second visit.
For the mains there was no escaping from butter chicken (Rs 650), barrah kebab (Rs 1,400) and the daal-e-pakeeza (Rs 450). But we also decided to experiment with our palates and ordered Hyderabadi Nalli Gosht (mutton, Rs 1,400) and meen (fish) moilee a south Indian classic (Rs 700), to go with a bowl of plain rice. For balance we ordered some green vegetables and asked them to be cooked in minimum and masala, sensing the meat dishes to be rich in both.
It is a pity restaurants in in Kathmandu fail to use the wonderful variety of seasonal greens and vegetables in a proper way. The vegetables would have tasted a lot better stir fried or lightly fried with simple condiments rather than soaked in oil or mixed in overpowering spices, killing the original tastes and food value.
In this diner’s view, the goat, more precisely the bakra in Hindustani produced the finest meat for the table. Baked in the tandoor as the barrah kebab is, after a yoghurt and masala marinate, or cooked slowly in a kadhai on base of purified butter, the desi ghee, with a generous mix of choice spices and herbs, the texture and flavour of the finger licking, juicy bite pieces nearest to the bones, were matchless. The meat was lean but soft, neither tough as with the ‘mountain goat’ nor fatty as with those grazing on green pastures.
The rotis served in a basket, however, were quite disappointing. One wonders why the restaurant cannot match even the ordinary dhabas of India or Pakistan in maintaining a constant flow of ‘karara’ or crisp rotis freshly out of the tawa or tandoors to the dining tables. Although we had eaten too much but the chef kindly offered a taste of some sweet dishes, including the cooling kulfi, which was excellent.
How to get there: Ghar-e-kabab is located on the ground floor of the main building inside Hotel Annapurna in Darbar Marg.