24 - 30 October 2014 #729

Safa Chaurasi Byanjan

A restaurant that touts itself – questionably, though – as an authentic Nepali place
Someplace Else by Ruby Tuesday

Safa Chaurasi Byanjan touts itself as being a truly authentic Nepali restaurant, so imagine my surprise when the lewdly blown up posters displayed show pasta and French fries and burgers galore. But then again what is truly Nepali cuisine?

On asking one of the owners to explain this dichotomy between name and fare he told me that Chaurasi Byanjan refers to 84 varieties of food prepared according to exacting traditional methods and dependent upon recipes passed down generations. The restaurant opened seeking to preserve these fast disappearing methods of cooking and to remind customers of our rich culinary heritage. In principle extremely laudatory, but in practice impossible to sustain. To survive they caved in to the crushing pressure to provide momos and thukpas and pizzas – fare that is available in practically every other restaurant in Kathmandu.

So why visit this particular restaurant? Because, the aforementioned owner informs me, the vegetables are organically farmed at their own farm in Lamatar, the meat available is all halal and butchered in their own abattoir, their fish is fresh and the rice is sourced directly from farmers in the Tarai. They also serve ostrich meat. Additionally, in their attempt to provide fresh locally sourced food, they work with small farmers and provide them a place to vendor their produce-fresh honey, yacons, indigenous varieties of rice and such.

The restaurant is in New Baneshwor and is ‘truly’ Nepali in one sense at least - the complete lack of any aesthetic sensibilities to speak of. The main restaurant is housed inside a large shed-like structure that could be emptied to host banquets and receptions. The organic coffee station is housed in a bamboo structure painted green, and the whole area is altogether higgledy-piggeldy, ramshackle at best. There is parking enough for about 10 cars but the land isn’t leveled. For a restaurant that isn’t even a year old, the aura is that of resignation at best, defeat at worst.

On to the food. They proudly said they were among a handful of restaurants in Kathmandu to serve ostrich, so we decided on the Grilled Ostrich with Chips and Salad (Rs 999). The charred (actually, burnt) three pieces of ostrich meat were dry and burnt beyond redemption. The country fries that came with the meat were tasty even though they were burnt.

I had asked for the Chef’s Special which was the intriguing sounding Apple Chicken (Rs 600). What was placed before me was a plate overflowing with a mound of cheese rice, cubed chicken breast in a thick Manchurian style gravy with boiled pieces of apple, steamed vegetables, baby corn fritters, and a hollowed-out apple with a strange tasting dark sauce in it. Your five servings of fruits and vegetables for the day on one plate. I am still confused about the dish and I don’t like being confused about food.

Safa Chaurasi serves a Nepali buffet lunch from 9.30am to 2pm. They also make meat kattiya, a slow-cooked clay pot dish in a style that is indigenous to Rautahat, but this requires you to call in before-hand to place your order. So there are things to recommend about Safa Chaurasi Byanjan. And to be honest the place was packed the evening I visited it. So will I be going back? The answer, surprisingly, is yes… only for their excellent dal bhat thalis.

How to get there: Safa Chaurasi Byanjan is located between Naya Baneshwor department store and Everest bank on Madan Bhandari Road in New Baneshwor.

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