North Indian food for Kathmandu Foodies: Dhaba

Features Issue 63 Jul, 2010
Text by Utsav Shakya

“My idea was that people should be able to enjoy good north indian food which is the closest to the nepalese palette, at one third the price charged at five star hotels”

Not one to just toy   around with a good  idea, Satish Satyal  saw an opening and he was right there to fill the void. The promising result is Dhaba, the two and half month old restaurant that serves authentic North Indian food in Thapathali. Turns out Satyal, the owner of Dhaba is not the only one who enjoys top quality spicy food at affordable prices. In the short time since it was opened, Dhaba has received a great clientele, many of whom have already become regulars at the place.

Dhaba is everything you would expect from a North Indian restaurant and much more. First of all, the menu is very impressive with an amazing array of dishes to choose from. From vegetarian to non-vegetarian and from very authentic to simple food, Dhaba has something for everyone.

For foodies who dare to try new dishes when they are out for a meal, Dhaba offers some fantastic choices. Personally I can vouch for the Murgh Makhanwala which is charcoal grilled chicken in rich tomato gravy and the Keema Mutter, which is Mutton mince with peas. The chicken is succulently extravagant with spices and the same goes for the Keema Mutter.  With a tumbler of chilled beer, the spicy food goes down like a hot knife through butter.

Dhaba does not fall short on pleasing every customer. For the vegetarian food enthusiast, there are dishes such as the Paneer Tikka and the Tandoori Gobi, both from the clay oven. To go with the traditional Naan/Roti or even rice, there is a mouth watering list of vegetarian curries such as the Palak Paneer, the Paneer Makhanwala and the Paneer Kurchan. There are plenty of regular Indian dishes too for the not so experimental guest. Hot favorites such as the Biryani, Tandoori and the Tandoori Naan are all first grade fantastic and the sensible pricing just adds up to the eating experience at Dhaba.

Dhaba takes care of every gastronomic whim of its guests. But just when you think Dhaba has overdone itself, it goes overboard with traditional Indian sweet dishes such as Gulab Jamuns, Phirni and Kulfis for dessert.

“I admit that we have a majority of Indian guests here but that is not to say that you will notice any scarcity of locals and expatriates alike feasting here everyday,” says Satyal. Although there is a selected lot of fine wines and liquor, Satyal plans to stay a little low key on the drinks side of the menu. “We prefer to cater to a more friends and family crowd,” Satyal adds with a knowing grin.

Everything about Dhaba’s well planned-out decor works. From the sturdy stone floors and low wooden seating to the warm fires inside and out to keep the chilly Kathmandu winter at bay, attention to detail and fresh,  innovative ideas make Dhaba an ideal place for family and friends alike to gather for  delightful North Indian delicacies.

In keeping with the whole mood of an Indian Dhaba, owner Sharad Satyal and architect Arun Pant have taken great care that the ambience be subtle and not scream out its intentions in the kind of décor they have chosen for the place. Material such as solid wood for the tables and accompanying benches, stone slabs on the floor and straw mats for window shutters that roll upwards; all add to the casual, laid back charm of the place. Indeed, no single decoration piece has been placed intentionally that would appear flashy and out of place.

Outdoor seating is another luxury at Dhaba. “Kathmandu is blessed with almost ten months of good weather. Why not take advantage of it and enjoy your food outside?” says Satyal. Classic wrought iron tables and chairs have been arranged outside surrounded by hedges for a sense of privacy. The idea seems to work as guests seem to enjoy sitting by roaring fires as they succumb to the allure of the fantastic North Indian palette. All in all, at present the Dhaba can comfortably seat seventy people at one sitting.

Future plans on the décor consist of adding another eating area in the front alongside the kitchen. Plans for adding accessories to the authenticity of the Dhaba experience are underway. These consist of adding Char Pais and a real truck’s nose. “I still have quite a lot of plans to make the look more Dhaba like” adds Satyal on the topic of future plans on the Dhaba’s ambience.


A foodie since his childhood days, Sharad Satyal says however, that his decision to take up studying hotel management was a spontaneous decision rather than a well thought out plan to enter the hospitality business. “I would always be meddling around the kitchen when I was young, trying to cook something,” says Satyal, recalling his childhood passion for food that eventually shaped itself into a successful career in the food and hospitality business.

After getting a degree in hotel management from the prestigious Oberoi School of Hotel Management, Satyal returned home and dove straight into work. Fresh out of college he joined the five-star Hotel Soaltee where he quickly learned the ropes of the business and climbed the rungs of management in good time. After working at several restaurants within the hotel such as the Italian restaurant Al Fresco and The Coffee Shop, Satyal, not one to stay put for too long, decided it was time to try his hands at something different.

The IFC funded Jomsom Mountain Resort was one such venture that interested Satyal a great deal. From there, he ran head first into a totally different forte of the food business; LSG Sky Chefs. The LSG Sky Chefs, a joint venture of Hotel Soaltee with Lufthansa Airways provided top quality food for other airlines.

Dhaba seems to be a result of Satyal’s love of food as well as of some good business sense, of which Satyal has gathered enough in the past years. With a locally trained chef and friendly staff that seem more than happy to re-arrange the table settings to our needs, Dhaba is one stop on the road you can’t afford to miss out on. And if you are in a hurry, you can always make it a takeaway in smart little Styrofoam boxes that will keep your hot North Indian food hot! Bon Appetit!