Nepali Times
Pyongyang Okryu-Gwan



Open 365 days a year—unless of course the supreme leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea dies—the Nepali branch of Pyongyang Okryu-Gwan in Darbar Marg is not just a karaoke bar but a bona fide Korean eatery that in some ways surpasses its southern counterparts in Kathmandu.

For a few days last week, the North Korean satellite of the original Okryu-Gwan, founded in 1960 in Pyongyang, closed shop to mourn the late ruler. But since then, it's business as usual at Okryu-Gwan, where North Korean exports are not limited to cold noodles; the franchise (with exclusive branches in Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Mongolia, Russia and the UAE) imports its own powdered-faced waitresses, educated at schools of commerce and culinary arts, from the north side of the 38th parallel.

Dining at Okryu-Gwan is like sitting at an old-school canteen in a Soviet canton. Anodyne tapestries of horses and tigers (hand-embroidered in North Korea our server boasted) hang on the walls. And on the far end sits a stage with a widescreen television, where at 1pm and 8pm daily (apart from load shedding) the servers take turns at karaoke—synthesizers, cheesy montages and all. But if you're lucky, you'll dine in the privacy of a norebang or karaoke room.
Okryu-Gwan's menu is extensive including rice cakes, cold plates, casseroles and seafood imports like eel. Common Korean staples from North and South are present like kimchi, bibimbap, and bulgogi.

Crisp and pungent, the whole cabbage kimchi is arguably the best homemade rendition of the Korean condiment, while the bibimbap, the mix-mix pot of fresh julienned vegetables, beef, rice and topped with a fried egg, is picture-perfect.

Like Picnic there are no cook-it-yourself items on the menu, despite the advertised plates of raw meats and seafood to choose from. Nevertheless, the bulgogi, or barbecued slices of beef, came well marinated and well done on a skillet with a side of lettuce leaves, raw garlic and onion.

At Okryu-Gwan don't miss the traditional and popular North Korean meal, raengmyon. The famed cold noodle dish is like a gazpacho or a cold consommé strewn in with sweet potato noodles, sliced cucumbers, apples, hard-boiled egg and roast beef. The server scissors into the long strands and stirs in a dollop of mustard and a splash of white vinegar before serving. The distinct flavours meld into a surprisingly appetizing treat.

It's deducible that the rise in Korean restaurants coincides with a wave of South Korean Christian missionaries in Nepal. But the phenomenon doesn't explain why Pyongyang decided to build an outlet in Kathmandu. Whatever the reason, Okryu-Gwan affords a rare taste of North Korean cuisine and hospitality.

Off Darbar Marg, adjacent to the Yak and Yeti main entrance

1. rosi
You forgot to mention that they have the cleanest toilet in the country.

2. Tashi Lama
Externally everything is just beautiful in this North Korean restaurant adjacent to Hotel Yak and Yeti. If you watch carefully, all these Korean service girls are under a watchful eyes of an elder lady, who never smiles, she is suppose to be manager and in charge, these girls have to work like machine, they have to serve food, then sing a song and then have to dance to please the clients, and once the restaurant is closed, they are back in the cage of their dormitory.

These innocent young girls are all under strict control and watchful eyes, it seems that from their very tender age, they have been brainwashed to follow the path of Kim Il soong, for them Mr. Kim is their god and father as well. They don't even have the freedom to walk freely in the Kathmandu valley! This is what the true reality of external beauty which one sees! Knowing not what the ugliness hidden within! 

3. manohar
the first time i read a culinary column with avid enthusiasm. i have never taken advice to actually go sample the food as advised in these columns but i want to try this one out out of sheer curiosity. Would be grand to actually meet and talk to the people from North Korea.

4. Rosi
The girls are beautiful and food is excellent. Service is good and yes the girls smile, talk and laugh with you.They cook, serve, play instruments, sing Nepalese , Indian and English songs.This is one restaurant where all other Nepalese restaurant owner must visit once to see how the service is provided to customers.
Never noticed the watching eyes, I always thought all the girls were  some sort of spy.

5. D.R.

Wow! From Pyongyang with Love. I just wonder if the chef is a double agent or the North Korean James Bond providing information on other western countries as well. Food and services may be good but Nepalese Intellegence Services " Bises Praharis" should keep an eye on these North Koreans in Nepal. You never know.


6. Anonymous
Do not support North Korean Dictatorship Government. Do Not Spend money at this North Korean established restaurant. Please do some research on North Korea before You spend money at this restaurant.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)