The Hidden Gem of Jhamsikhel: Sana Nepalese Restaurant
28, Apr 2022 | nepaltraveller.com
Creating simple food that people relate to, Sana Nepalese Restaurant puts their own unique spin on familiar flavors
What comes to mind when one discusses Nepali Cuisine is the traditional daal bhat. Don’t get me wrong on this because, I too, find immense comfort in the simple mix of rice and lentil soup. But even within the unexplored terrain of culinary evolution, one might find that the same comfort can be replicated within bolder and modern recipes.
Sana Nepalese Restaurant is a quaint location, tucked into an amiable corner within Jhamsikhel. In contrast to the louder restaurants in this famous location, Sana, stands out in its meek aesthetic- peering into the street through a blue sign board that reads its name.
Stepping in, you are greeted by the minimalistic brick walls and a short stairway that leads up to the main restaurant. The red walls, along with the open airy spaces create an ambience of instant relaxation. As you find your way through the area, you’ll find yourself surprised around every corner- be it the mural of ankhi jhyals on the terrace wall or the bhairava mask statuettes. The low-seated chairs stand at a perfect height, as does the restaurant, offering an elevated view of the street outside.
The first meal I devoured was the Paneer Bruschetta. Perched on a mellow ceramic plate, the colours of the pickled carrots and grilled paneer was quite the sight to behold. I would have to say that the first thought that came to mind when my eyes fell upon this dish was that it was almost too pretty to eat. But as I set my feelings aside and chowed down, the refreshing flavours that rushed to my palette is almost difficult to describe. The sweet tanginess of smooth tomato chilli jam paired with the creamy slice of paneer was a combination to die for. The freshly toasted bread complimented this combination by bridging together a deep smoky flavour to the acidic punch.
In complete contrast to the delectable appetiser, the Braised Buff with Gnocchi, aroused a primal instinct to inhale the entire dish within seconds. As Chef Sarbesh laid the decadent dish on the table, the smell of rich spices filled my senses. The parisian gnocchi and the tender, slow cooked buff melted into each other through an elegant gravy. Inspired by the Newari dish of Dhyakla, Chef Sarbesh mentioned that this dish was exactly like him on a plate- “A Newari boy who went to a French Culinary school.”
The complex flavours of the gnocchi and the buff were almost nostalgic, perhaps if it weren't for my colleague’s judgement, I would’ve probably licked my plate clean.
The word around Baked Alaska, in theory, is that it isn’t a difficult dish to master, but when in practice there are ways in which one’s recipe might be disdainful. Yet at Sana, I believe that I had tasted mere perfection. The textured meringue enveloping the homemade coffee ice-cream was a mellow fusion of flavours, while the crisp crumble of pomegranate molasses and almonds added a crunchy texture to the soft delicacy.
The best things in life come in surprises, as did our last dish, the Semifreddo. Quite honestly, I was delighted that our time at Sana had not come to an end. The cool slice of semifreddo reminded me of my favourite dessert, kulfi. The infusion of coconut into the “half-cold” dessert was offered a creamy escape from the relentless heat of summer. The dabs of lemon curd over the semifreddo added a zesty zing to dessert- using its citric acidity to tease the palettes for the last time.
In conversations with Chef Sarbesh, I gained a little bit of insight into the mind of a pioneer- “the best results usually come through trial and error– a lot of error”, he remarked through a chuckle. Man Singh initially started out at the age of 18 in pursuit of an IT degree, only to realise that his calling resided elsewhere. A few years down the line, he now runs Sana as his own.
“We are not trying to do fusion, we just want to create simple dishes that people can relate to through the flavours they grew up with”
Chef also mentioned that the ingredients used at Sana are all locally sourced and fresh, and that they take personal charge to ensure that no preservatives are used in their cooking.
A restaurant that is both unique and affordable is one that is seldom encountered within Kathmandu. Sana unites both these qualities through its hospitable service and phenomenal dishes. I would even go the length to personally declare to be the “Hidden Gem of Jhamsikhel”