What's in a name? It's a 'taas'-up

Text by Don Messerschmidt / Photo: ECS Media

Have you been to ‘Jhamel’ in Lalitpur? Or shopped at ‘Saleway’ in Jawalakhel? Have you eaten at the ‘Cibo’ in Pulchowk, or at the ‘Taas Mahal’ downtown?

What’s unique about these places is their names. Some are famous and associated with some other place, such as a well known store or restaurant elsewhere in the world.

I recently had lunch at the new Cibo restaurant. A few days before that I enjoyed taas and sekuwa (hearty meat snacks, with drink) at the Taas Mahal. And I frequent shops in Jhamel, and often shop at Saleway. So, what’s so special about these names that we are spilling ink about today?

Jhamel: That’s the new nick-name for Jhamsikhel, a neighborhood on the Patan side of the Bagmati river in Lalitpur, between Jawalakhel and Sanepa. It’s a mime of ‘Thamel’, of course, the popular downtown Kathmandu neighborhood known for its restaurants, hotels and guesthouses, trekking outfitters, bookstores, and crowds of foreigners. In Jhamel you’ll find much the same, including Herman’s Bakery, Himal Outdoor outfitters, Epic Bikes, and the popular Soma Café & United Books (combined). There’s a lot more in Jhamel, but no room here to describe it all here.

Calling it Jhamel (rhymes-with-Thamel) is purposeful, of course, to alert you to the similarities. Both neighborhoods feature fine food, fine shops, and fine folks.

Saleway: That’s the name of a popular Jawalakhel department store with groceries, and a bakery and fruit market out back. There are Saleway stores in both Pokhara and Kathmandu. But, what’s with the name? It sounds a lot like ‘Safeway’, a popular major American grocery store chain. I can only imagine that Saleway got its name on purpose, as a memetic of Safeway. For Americans, at least, it’s easy to remember, so let’s go shopping.

Cibo. This Italian word means ‘food’, plain and simple, fine and fancy. Check it out: there are upscale Cibo restaurants all over the world – in Italy, of course; but also in New York City; Auckland, New Zealand; Vancouver, Canada; and Oxford, UK. There’s even one on Janpath in New Delhi. Cibo is not a chain or franchise; these are all independent eateries.

Now Cibo means good food to Kathmandu also. You can take breakfast and lunch at the little Cibo restaurant in Lazimpat (on British Embassy road), or lunch and dinner at the new and larger Cibo in Pulchowk (down a small alley across the street from the Namaste Supermarket). Be prepared: at Nepal’s Cibo both the food and the service are superb.

Taas Mahal. Sounds a lot like ‘Taj Mahal’, easy to remember, hard to forget. The original Taj Mahal is the famous “crown of palaces,” the great 17th century marble wonder of Agra that Emporer Sah Jahan built in memory of Mumtaz Mahal, his wife. But, a very similar name is also well known among connoisseurs of genuine South Asian food– the long standing Moti Mahal restaurant in Old Delhi. There are various Mahal restaurants all around the world around, especially Taj Mahal – in Halifax, Canada and Atlantic City, USA, and in Australia and the UK and many other places.

But there’s only one sound-alike called ‘Taas Mahal’? It’s in Kathmandu. And, with a name as good and memorable as that, watch for copycats.

Kathmandu’s Taas Mahal is located near Nag Pokhari across from the east wall of the Palace Museum. The food is Nepali style barbecue: taas and sekuwa of mutton or chicken. They also serve wild boar and momos, and a hearty mutton bone soup that’s especially popular. And there are plenty of local and international drinks to imbibe.

The owner, Shiva Kumar Piya, is a Bhaktapur Newar. He’ll tell you (and so will other taas fanatics) that taas originated in Chitwan District, where ‘Narayanghat ko Taash’ is preferred. It’s a goat barbecue spiced up with fried ginger and garlic. Try it once and you’ll go back for more.

Don Messerschmidt is a contributing editor to ECS Nepal. He can be contacted at