“Hey man, you give the order okay?” said my Mexican friend, Alvaro. “They don’t understand what I say.” So, we drove to the drive-through at McDonalds, but since I was on the far side of the voice piece, he had to order himself. “Gimme two chiken sannwiches,” he said in his gruff voice, and expectedly, had to repeat it a couple of times to be understood, at the end of which he said to me, “Whaat man, that gurl, she dunno any English.”
This was 2008, the recession was on, and McDonalds’s had come out with its one-dollar chicken burgers. However, recession be damned, I wanted to sink my teeth into a Big Mac, so the next time, I did indeed do so. But I was disappointed, the Big Mac wasn’t really so big, at least not as portrayed in the big billboards around town.
In fact, the Western BBQ Chicken burger I had today at Kathmandu’s premier American cuisine restaurant, Flat Iron Grill, in Mandala Street, Thamel, was far more filling. Was it tastier? Oh yes, it was. Now, that’s somewhat of a loud claim, you may think, but hold on, let me tell you why. It’s tastier because it uses meat that is cured for days on end and smoked till the flavors fairly burst out. “We have been doing this in our main kitchen in Kaldhara for some time now,” explains Shivani Simha-Swiger, the operations manager.
Her husband, Brian, has the knack for this interesting procedure, and that he is originates from Ohio in the States should be reason plenty for him to be so gifted. This curing and smoking is what makes the meat in the Western BBQ Chicken burger (and, in fact, in the other burgers too, such as Mexican Chicken and Bacon Cheeseburger) so very tasty and fulfilling. And, pretty unique too. Having consumed quite a few burgers in and outside the country, including as stated above, in the country of its birth, I can vouch for the fact that discovering such highly flavored meat in a burger is somewhat of a rarity.
One could even presume that the ‘why bother’ attitude could be one reason for it being so; after all, a burger is more of a comfort food to fulfill that hollow filling in your guts which says you’re hungry. It’s not something like, say, beef bourguignon or chocolate soufflé or some other equally sophisticated-sounding fine cuisine. Nevertheless, at the same time, one can also assume that this famous food can have an elegant side to it. That’s what you get at the Flat Iron Grill—the best of both worlds. In fact, a boutique burger, I daresay!
Anyway, however you look at it, the burgers at the Flat Iron Grill are a gourmet’s delight. A smoky after-taste lingers on after the last bite has been consumed. Now, let’s also satisfy your curiosity hunger— the various ingredients that go into the filling of Western BBQ Chicken burger are grilled seasoned chicken breast with bacon, Belkot cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, and barbeque sauce. Similar are the fillings in the other burgers, with slight variations. Of course, the one common factor is the tasty cured and smoked meats in all.
And, none tastier or more flavorful than the traditionally slow-smoked pork in Flat Iron Grill’s signature dish—the Pulled Pork burger. “It’s our bestseller,” declares Nita Adhikari proudly. She’s the administration manager. A couple of bites, and I can understand why perfectly. Quite heavenly, I would say. A salad on the side with a subtle dressing helped to fill in the blanks on my way to finishing my fantastic burgers. The delicately seasoned carrot and onion and lettuce and some kind of sugar-coated peanuts (or were they cashew nuts? Nuts, anyway,) felt good on the palate, and healthy, too.
With such filling and fulfilling offerings on the menu, combined with as ideal a location as one could ask for (slam bang in Thamel’s center, on the ground floor of the Sagarmatha Bazaar on Mandala Street) with a view of the world going by, as depicted by nationalities of all hues and colors and genders and ages, I wouldn’t be surprised if the two-month-old restaurant already had acquired more than a few regulars. “You’re right,” agrees Shivani. “INGO people, expats, those are the kind to come more frequently here. That’s not to say that we don’t have regulars from the local community, they make a significant number of our customers.”
Well, that’s great, because Flat and Iron Grill has perhaps the best tasting burgers in town, and I sincerely hope that more people get to have a party for their palate at this center of burger delight!