The huge influx of Chinese tourists in Nepal recently has led to many eateries opening up in Kathmandu, especially in Thamel, to cater to this emerging demand. The emphasis now is on providing ‘authentic’ Chinese cuisine as opposed to the westernised ketchup-sweetened versions of what normally passes for Chinese fare.
The Jyatha area is home to many such restaurants and one of the newest entrants is the rather speciously named Chinese Garden Restaurant, for there isn’t a garden in sight, not even verdantly over-flowing flower pots. The rest of the décor consists of paste-outs of air-hostesses on the windows and the water-cooler and an overabundance of kitschy oriental inspired wall paper, red paper lanterns all accompanied to the strains of tinkly music and the gurgling pump of the fish tank. Owned by Chinese residents, it serves various dishes cooked by a chef of the same country.
The hot-pot (the price depends on the assortments you order) is what brought us to the Chinese Garden Restaurant on a miserably cold evening, for global warming has wrought such changes in our weather patterns that days can be cold enough in April to indulge in some bone warming, heart pleasing soup.
The Hot–pot is a dish you cook at the table itself. You select between spicy soup and plain broth, or can opt for both, like we did. And then you can go crazy with all that you would like to add to the simmering stock.
The selection is vast. We settled for chicken strips, pork, gizzard, buffalo tripe, tofu, mushroom, spinach, and yams. You are also provided with the basics like sliced onions, tomatoes, ginger and a variety of condiments.
The spicy soup is for those who like the zing of Szechuan pepper. The combination of the peppers with chillies and other spices creates a broth that is so hot and so zesty that it can effectively numb your tongue. The plain chicken broth is definitely my recommendation because you can always add spices and chillies to suit individual tastes.
The Hot-Pot is not a meal to enjoy solitarily or one that you can rush through. Gather a group of like-minded friends, click your chopsticks and get dunking. This dish encourages conversation, as the meats take time to cook, the vegetables need to blanch and the yams must absorb the flavours of the broth. Leisurely scoop out choice bits, add it to your bowl of rice and allow the goodness of this humble yet nourishing soup to seep into all your cells that needed healing.
Being an ‘over-orderer’, I’d also asked for the Roast Duck but that was so excruciatingly bad that I have decided to erase that experience from my memory. I choose to revel in the sense of communion and harmony and general well-being that the hot-pot conjured.
So will I revisit Chinese Garden restaurant- definitely for their hot-pot. The complimentary tea that accompanied the meal was soothing and tasted vaguely like cream cracker biscuits.
The staff is friendly and the ambiance requisitely Chinese. It’s a nice place if you want to meet up for good, authentic Chinese food with friends or family. The next time Kathmandu’s weather decides to go crazy on you, waltz on down to this Chinese restaurant tucked away in the alleys of Thamel.
How to get there: On entering Thamel, take the first left that leads to Jyatha. Walk down till almost the end of the road and look for its signboard on the right, opposite the International Youth Hostel. Chinese Garden Restaurant is on the first floor.