KATHMANDU: Bharat Basnet welcomes you to heady evening with popcorn, gundruk, and soybeans mixed in heady tastes and Bara, a Newari dish where unhusked black dal is ground into a paste mixed with a little coriander and cumin and made into flat cakes, served with a simple zesty tomato relish.
Chef Bhim knows that they can be served as balls with chilly powder and cumin and can be made with yellow dal or with radish added as Professor Indra Majupuria says in his book, but Bhim goes his delicious way.
For the Kwatti soup which Nepalis eat on festive occasions like Kwatti Purnima and Janai Purnima, ten types of sprouted beans from pulses to cow peas to peas are used in a subtly spiced mixture including fenugreek that has a mildly welcoming flavour and a wonderfully chewy texture. It is said to heat the body.
Cooling is the black lentil flavoured with herbs that is a national favourite and is cooked with the unique Nepali spice Jimbu along with a few spices in strict control, served with white rice. It’s a rich buttery meal in itself.
“We’ve dances from across the country but we space them out so that people can talk. They are performed by the members of our staff”, said Bharat Basnet as thoroughly unusual colourful dances exploded representing the different regions of the country.
The Chicken Sekuwa was like a tantric dance full of sultry surprise. This Nepali specialty predates the Tandoori Chicken by centuries and with cumin, coriander, turmeric and ginger-garlic is a grilled smoky must for a festive Nepali meal to be complete. Chef Bhim has perfected it.
The Khasi Ko Masu is flirtatiously, delicately flavoured and Bhim sees that the mutton is soft. You generally use a little nutmeg and some cinnamon but Bhim prefers a Nepali all spice — garam masala and the taste makes one want to join the vigorous Gurung dances.
Chef Bhim uses, a controlled range of spices and they make for memorability — cumin, pepper, ginger, garlic and turmeric and his creations are as Nepali as the beautiful and distinctive paintings on rice paper by Jimmy Thapa that adorned the walls.
Bhojan Griha thanks to Basant Basnet’s innovativeness is the only restaurant of its kind with low cane chairs with backs that tourists find as blissful as the food and dance.
My favourite dish is the Phal Phul Sandera Jhaneko, which is chopped, fruit (grapes even) in whipped yoghurt garnished with cumin fried in mustard oil. The taste is like eating bits of paradise and is as unique as the bric-a-brac that Basant Basnet has collected like an old iron, a hatstand, ancient lamps and the whole of a hidden half of the old Rana Palace that is crumbling.
Bharat Basnet is an entrepreneur, political philosopher, multi-company owner, cultural restorer who has taken a run down Rana palace that belonged to Royal Priests in Dilli Bazar and converted it into a pleasure place on 3 floors. His belief in a Nepali culture and cuisine has resulted in one of the most successful restaurants for an ethnic evening with food and dance from all over the Nepal. The night we went, it was packed.
“I am going to restore it”, said Bharat Basnet, “And convert it into a restaurant that reflects the journeys of 18th century Nepali travellers”. With nine businesses to run, he will succeed because the old saying is if you want to do something, make a busy person do it — like Bharat Basnet. For sheer pleasure, call the efficient Umesh Karki at 4416423.