“Are you safe?” The question surprised me. “Of course,” I replied. “I saw all these ‘I’m safe’ posts on FB,” said my daughter, on Viber from Philadelphia. “Seems there was an earthquake out there.”
Well, how could I know? I was in a world far from the mundane stuff of everyday life, a blissful world of gastronomic pleasure. I was in Tamarind Restro & Bar, perhaps the most popular restaurant in Jhamsikhel, that new mecca of gastronomic adventure, and I was deep into a platter of finely barbequed delights.
But, first the accompaniment. Surprised that I am mentioning it before anything else? Well, how cannot I, when it was such a fantastic piece of art, and exquisitely edible, at that. A cheese basket with sweet and sour salad, that’s what it was. Sounds simple, but lemme tell you, it was something else! And, when Atul Man Chipalu, the restaurant manager, delved a bit into its history, it acquired a still more dignified aura.
“Previously, we served julienne vegetables along with our barbecue, but I noticed that much of it always remained on the plate afterwards,” he explained. “I hate to see waste, so I suggested this special salad instead.” Well, seeing as to how I finished it off, cheese basket and all (all meaning roasted spaghetti stalks bearing olive, cherry, and salad onion, and apple and radish and carrot slices, and a thin slice of cheese, all with a pleasing tongue tingling tangy edge, sweet and sour, of course), it must be a hit!
The cheese was our very own, yak cheese, no less, and it was baked to a degree just enough to melt in your mouth, imparting a totally foreign flavor from all that was on my plate. ‘All that was on my plate’ meaning luscious pieces of Schezwan style wild boar and Thai style chicken satay and Japanese style chicken yakitori; prawn skewers and mushroom bruschetta and bacon-wrapped shrimp and barbecued bassa fish; chicken wings and grilled chicken sausage and bacon-wrapped sausage, and, and…I think that was it. But, you’ll agree that all this would be enough of a variety to satisfy the most demanding gourmet, and even if you had a special preference for one or more of those expertly barbecued items, take it from me, you’ll thank your stars for not having missed out on an experience of ultimate gastronomic exploration.
Skewered on toothpick-like (but very large) sticks, they presented a formidable challenge to the sensibilities of an epicurean like yours truly. I decided to start with the wild boar, it looked especially succulent, what with the tempting crust of husky white fat and all. The meat was roast-brown, and the moment my teeth sank into a piece (quite large, by the way), I knew I was in heaven. Earthquake? What earthquake? Even the roof crashing down wouldn’t have stopped me from keeping on going with my trip. Really.
But I am like that, you see? Once a plane fell down two hundred or so feet when I was flying down from Kolkata; we had just been served dessert, and all our plates flew into the air. As soon as we stabilized, moments later, my first question to the air hostess was, “Can I have another kalakand please?” And it was so with Tamarind’s delightful barbecue platter, which by the way, doesn’t cost all that much, but is pretty filling, a dinner by itself, or a plate that will make any family more caring and sharing henceforth.
Superlatives, I agree, but recalling how Executive Chef Dinesh Khadka (creator extraordinaire of this extraordinary plate) had watched me so closely to judge my judgment of his masterly work with such a look of confidence (and expectancy, at the same time), I cannot help myself from going slightly overboard. The master deserves it. Truly. Anyway, all this aside, let’s go on to the bacon-wrapped sausage and its brother, the grilled chicken sausage. Naturally, they tasted as ‘sausagy’ as any sausage would, but it was the finesse of the barbecuing that made them something much more special. The bacon bestowed its distinctively appetizing aroma, and the chicken inside fulfilled the craving very nicely indeed.
The bacon-wrapped shrimp, on the other hand, tantalized the taste buds in a different way, and it, along with the barbecued bassa fish, provided a deliciously ‘fishy’ intermission of sorts, so that you could begin anew with a more refreshed palate on the next skewer. Which, as it happened, was the mushroom bruschetta, a different taste altogether from the mostly meaty flavors on the plate. It provided a beautiful balance to the whole experience.
The chicken satay was another refreshing outing for my by now excited palate, and the chicken wings were done to perfection. A thick barbecue sauce formed a dark maroon pool on one side of my plate, and it tasted delicious, but gourmet that I am, I was determined not to have all those heavenly delights overpowered by any other flavor than just theirs. So, I used the sauce very sparingly, and I would suggest you do the same. As I remarked to Chef Khadka and Manager Chipalu, “There are two reasons for eating—one, to fill your belly, and two, to enjoy the moment.”
I was at Tamarind for the latter, but I must say, even if I was there just for a fill-up, I wouldn’t hurry if such a platter was placed before me. Spend some time admiring the presentation, for it is akin to art, and a pleasure to the eyes. Take your time as you begin your exploration. The welcoming ambience of the restaurant is certainly helpful in this regard, especially if you have chosen the open sitting area with its glass-topped tables and softly cushioned wicker cane chairs, like I did.
So, that’s what I suggest for your epicurean adventure to really conclude on a note of sated satisfaction.