Rox on the roll

Dubby Bhagat


We import everything in Rox except the salt and the pepper”, said Chef Narender Singh; the Rox menu which goes from Oysters and Crabs to Venison and Australian steaks makes that slight exaggeration sound true.

Narender is the only Chef in Kathmandu who, like the Irish, has kissed The Blarney Stone, his stories about food are tall enough to be true. He talks cuisine in a blue streak.

The three of us listened with attention. There was Prabha whose Thai Chicken is as good as her husband Santosh’s Handi Gosht and are two good reasons to fish for invitations to their parties.

While waiting for the soup and the starters, beautifully soft bread served with blue cheese mayonnaise led us to ask Narender where on earth he got the bread from. “It is Rye imported from Singapore and the bread that is baked just before the restaurant opens”, said the Chef, as I wondered if any herbs had been used.

French Onion Soup gets a make over at Rox and is called Red Onion And Cider Soup and besides the cheese it has flavors galore. “We simmer Onions and Cider until it is reduced and we add a little sherry”, said Narender. I felt he was holding back on some ingredients, as all good Chefs and runners up in beauty contests do.

Prabha declared her Mushroom Cappuccino to be enthralling. It was almost a broth served in a cleverely made bread cup. “We take mushrooms and let them soak in white wine for hours and then we puree it altogether”, said Chef. So you get to drink the soup and eat the cup it came in, mellowed with a memory of mushrooms.

I had the Rox Appetizer Non-Vegetarian which had a variety of exotic thing including a chicken liver terrine that was cooked with bacon and had a taste that hinted of spirits. Rox should make it into meat loaf and sell it. On the platter was a tiger prawn that was herbed and cooked with Hollandaise that fought for first place with the terrine.

One of our main courses was the Blackened Cajun Chargrilled Chicken which was not black but was encrusted with red spices that would have made Paul Prudhomme the man who internationalized Cajun cooking catch a plane to Kathmandu. It is interesting that Narender worked cheek by jowl with him in Miami. Santosh said he could use an overdose of these spices to try and make it Eastern, a sort of Cajun Tandoori Chicken, fusion style.

We all sampled the Grilled Polenta with Red Onions, which was flavored with roast bell peppers and mozzarella cheese. It was like porridge but tasted of heaven. Interestingly Nepal has a Makai Ko Pitho dish with a somewhat similar taste with a highlight of dried vegetables or Gundruk to make it sparkle.

Santosh declared the Farfalle pasta with mushroom, bacon in a light blue cheese sauce as being perfect. It had a delicateness about it despite the bacon and the blue cheese that was a dream.

The Penne Arrabiatta pasta was covered in a thick red spicy dressing, it was more a coating than a sauce. It had a distinct Asian taste and reminded me of my friend Brian Whyte’s “gun powder” made into a thick reduced paste. The Whyte concoction had chillies and timur and other delights.

The Australian tenderloin was soft, juicy and delicious even without the brown sauce. On the side were mushrooms touched with little thyme- it tasted mainly mushroom and the thyme was an after shock.

Prabha who is a dessert fiend said,” Their ice-creams are very very good, I had them at an ambassadorial party the other day”. She especially liked the Hazelnut which came with scoops of Cherry and Bailey’s ice creams in a sort of three-in-one offering called the Rox Ice-dessert.

Santosh declared his baked blue berry cheesecake to be outstanding. It was soft and the imported blue berries made it the most rare dessert in town. Then as he sipped his Irish Coffee. Santosh said somewhat dreamily,” One isn’t enough”. The drink came complete with coffee beans.

Keshav Ghimire who served us with swift uncomplaining efficiency is typical of Rox’s discreet style, he and Ramesh Basnet whom I’ve known for years, saw us into the night, while the music from the Rox disco or whatever it was, played “My heart goes Sha la la la.” And I thought to myself that it was, so much more appropriate than “Kanta Laga “ which is Hindi rock and didn’t mix with the western symphony that is the food at Rox.