for the love of food

Spanish and Mediterranean food has nothing in common with Nepali food. What then made the person behind think he could make a restaurant that sold only Spanish food run in restaurant-filled Jhamsikhel?

What?

‘El Mediterraneo’ (meaning ‘The Mediterranean’) offers Spanish and Mediterranean food that is distinctly different from regular Nepali cuisine. The owner, Bibhushan Raj Joshi says it’s hard to put down an enormous food list in his menu so they only specialize in the most popular dishes. They only prepare food cooked in olive oil, using less spices and offering a whole different taste, all the while giving hygiene and service high priority.

Backstory

Mr. Joshi used to work as a Spanish tourist guide and when he got the opportunity to visit Spain in 1999, mainly Barcelona, he decided to learn cooking so he could come back and do something in Nepal. That was his sole motive. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that people in the Mediterranean region are in love with food; they live to eat and enjoy every bit of it too. Mr. Joshi was mesmerized with the local food in Spain while he lived there. He also wanted to bring something different to the Nepali market. El Mediterraneo was born thus.

Early Days

“Food is not just about filling the stomach,” says Mr. Joshi. “It’s all about the experience; it heightens the five senses when you take a bite.” His clients are not only homesick Europeans but also locals who have slowly started experimenting with new taste palettes. Mr Joshi says he still needs to get through to the urban crowd, people who are familiar with the Western lifestyle, people looking for change. When he first started, he knew his own strengths and weaknesses very well, admitting that he could not compete with the locals who were experts in their own fields. A Mediterranean concept worked well for him since that was his primary interest and he knew he was good at it. He opened the restaurant in May 2012; it’s been going well for him since then.

Tipping Point

The ‘Tapas Fiesta’ which he introduced in November 2012 and now happens every two months, was a big success. Tapas is a quick pre-cooked meal, of which you can enjoy 10-12 different varieties in small quantities. It’s a rather different concept than ordering a full course meal. “It’s a good choice for teenagers too as it’s reasonably priced,” he says, adding to the advantages of enjoying new food.

The magic trick

Mr. Joshi is ever-present to talk to the customers and interact with them which sets him apart from other restaurant owners. He makes sure his waiters look smart and efficient enough to help the customers get the right information and food. Not only that, he offers complementary dishes to the customers, be it a starter or a dessert. He has been offering special Spanish Ham directly brought in from Spain for his customers to taste and enjoy. He believes he can learn from his customers and so he asks them to share a local home recipe before they leave. He feels he can always make the new dishes when they visit later in the future. Just recently some Chileans visited his place and he promised them his kitchen for them to use after returning from Everest Base Camp. Their National Day was coming up so he wanted to make it special for them. It would be quite an experience for them to prepare their own food on foreign soil. That is the kind of experience he wants to give.

“Why offer ordinary and normal when you can give the best,” he says. Here is a man making a difference with his new food culture, in a world where people only think about profits and nothing else.

French Fries Out, Jibro Fried In

Falcha opposite St. Mary’s School in Jhamsikhel is slowly carving its own niche with its popular Newari cuisine menu even as restaurants around it open and close periodically. Even with more establishe d restaurants to compete with, by serving homely Newar cuisine in a modern way, Falcha’s (Nepal Bhasa for foyer) founders Bipin Piya, Ruhee Shrestha, Savitch Basnet and Santosh Gurung are doing it right. The idea is simple. Offer something new to restaurant goers who are used to Continental cuisine. If they enjoy eating it at home, they should enjoy it outside too. Falcha is a place to kick back and relax with great food and great company. It doesn’t try to show off ; but does wonders through its famous momocha and Chicken Lemon-zira. “It’s running good because of friends of friends and our menu that concentrates on Newari cuisine over Continental which the area is famous for,” says Bipin Piya. (Srizu Bajracharya)

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