Every year when the food issue rolls around, I begin reminiscing about what I’ve eaten over the last year—what was tasty, memorable and unforgettable since I last put a food issue together. Often those meals end up part of our list article, which we’re foregoing this year.
When I think of my eating highlights this year, one stands out: a small place down a narrow alley a stone’s throw from Patan Durbar Square, called Coffee, Tea and Me. This improbably named space is presided over by Rubey Maharjan, and he cooks each dish to order from the open cooking area at the end of the room. There’s a small menu, but I usually end up going with his recommendation on what’s good that day; a favorite is the chicken supreme, pictured above: covered in a deliciously moreish sauce and with blackened peppers on the side, I’m hungry just thinking about it. It’s sad that I only found out about this place a few months before our office shifted from Lalitpur, or I’d be here a lot more often, but I’ll always be grateful to the friend who first brought me here—I‘d never have come across it alone. If you ever visit when he has fresh river prawns, get the prawn curry—you can thank me later.
I’ve also eaten a delicious, juicy grilled chicken burger at Yellow Pomelo, amazing trout at Nepali Ghar’s Ananda Lounge & Bar, and discovered lots of new things at Raitaane, which I won’t elaborate on because there’s a whole article about that already in these pages. Aloft hosted a Kashmiri food festival, which was one of my best meals of the year—not just the chef but a lot of the ingredients were brought in specially—it was full of truly original, outstanding dishes that I won’t go on about simply because it’s not current.
And while I love discovering new things, like the creature of habit that I am, throughout 2019 I returned to some places again and again, ordering the same things, dishes I love even though I can’t always explain why: the steak sandwich with salad at Mike’s Breakfast, the breakfast bagel (which isn’t a bagel) at Curilo, pretty much anything at Sal’s Pizza, the occasional treats of a bento box for lunch at Kotetsu or a pizza capricciosa at Fire And Ice, the pizza with everything on it at Hotel Ambassador Garden, tandoori chicken and palak paneer from Downtown Tandoori (not downtown at all, but along my drive home in Bansbari), and of course, my everlasting favorite momos from New Everest Momo Center in Lainchour. I have a long list of places I want to try, and yet somehow, I find myself at the above places more times than I can recall.
While putting together this issue in early January, on a cold and gloomy day that threatened rain, I was between appointments and heading for those favorite momos mentioned above when I drove past a place I’ve been meaning to try: Da-Pow in Gairidhara. I stopped in and ordered the buff da pao. When the giant momos arrived, I lifted one from the steamer and sliced into it, immediately regretting it as the fragrant broth oozed out all over my plate. After that I knew better, manners be damned (I was eating alone, anyway), and used my fingers, biting into a corner and sucking out all the juicy deliciousness before moving on to the rest of it. The dough was fluffy and tender, the filling gently spiced and warming: I’ve had da pao before, but none so good. It was even worth the terrifyingly steep driveway I had to navigate my scooter down once I was finished. It wasn’t something I ate in 2019, but I’m still thinking about that meal, and it reminded me that I shouldn’t always revert to the familiar, because even though I’ve had some pretty awful meals when trying new places, I’ve found some treasures, too. This is one I’ll be coming back to.
Why did all these dishes so capture me that I’ve been known to drive halfway across town (or all the way, sometimes) to eat them? Deliciousness, originality, nostalgia? I can’t say. But this isn’t a best-of list; it’s the food that has made me smile, brought me joy and filled me up the most this past year. Your list will be very different, and if we should run unto each other, please do share it with me.
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