Kathmandu has an astounding array of restaurants. Indeed, with the possible exception of the canteen at the UN building, there are few places where you can have the choice of Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Korean, Middle Eastern, Italian or Irish cuisines, all within a five-minute walk. After weeks trekking in the mountains, Kathmandu feels like a culinary paradise.
Nepali & Newari Restaurants
A growing number of restaurants around town specialise in Nepali (mostly Newari) food. Several are in converted Rana-era palaces that offer a set meal, either veg or nonveg, and you dine on cushions at low tables. All offer a cultural show that consists of musicians and dancers performing ‘traditional’ song and dance routines. The whole thing is a bit touristy, but it’s a classy night out nonetheless. At most places it’s a good idea to make a reservation during the high season.
The food stretches to half a dozen courses that generally include a starter of momos and such main dishes as alu tareko (fried potato with cumin and tumeric), bandhel (boar), kukhura ko ledo (chicken in gravy), chicken sekuwa (barbecued or smoked meat), alu tama kho jhol (bamboo shoot stew) and gundruk (sour soup with dried greens), finished off with shikarni (sweet yoghurt with dried fruit and cinnamon) and masala tea. Look out also for kwati, a soup consisting of a dozen types of sprouted beans that is prepared during Newari festivals.
The junction outside the Kathmandu Guest House is the epicentre of Thamel dining and you’ll find dozens of excellent restaurants within a minute’s walk in either direction. You should make dinner reservations at most of these places in October's high season.
Freak Street (Jhochhen) & Durbar Square
Freak St has a small number of budget restaurants where you can find simple food at lower prices than Thamel. Even if you’re staying in other areas of the city, you might need a place for lunch if you’re sightseeing around Durbar Sq.
The restaurants in the Kantipath and Durbar Marg areas are generally more expensive than around Thamel, but the quality is higher and there are are several worthwhile splurges.
Dwarika’s has a candlelit Friday-night poolside barbecue and dance show (US$30) that makes for a great splurge.
There are also several excellent midrange and top-end dining options in Patan, a short taxi ride away.
For trekking food such as noodles, nuts, dried fruit and cheese, there are several well-stocked supermarkets grouped around central Thamel Chowk. For cheaper supermarkets try the various branches of Bluebird Mart, one of which is just east of Durbar Sq; Big Mart in Lazimpat, near the Radisson Hotel; and Bhat Bhateni Supermarket, south of the Chinese embassy.
Thamel’s restaurant scene has been sliding upmarket for a few years now, with most places now charging US$5 to US$7 per main course, plus 24% tax. A bottle of beer will double your bill in most places. Finding a budget meal is still possible but it involves some hunting.
Many restaurants in Kathmandu try to serve something from everywhere – pizzas, momos, Indian curries, a bit of Thai here, some Mexican tacos there. Predictably, the ones that specialise generally serve the finest food.
If you can't face battling Kathmandu's traffic, Foodmandu (www.foodmandu.com) is an online service and app that will bring you food from 170 restaurants in Kathmandu. Delivery cost depends on the distance, but is generally less than Rs 100; orders are taken until 8.30pm.