Normally I don’t like culture shows with dinner. Often either the dinner is good and the show not so much, or the show is good, and the food is not the best. So its hard to find a place with both good food and interesting culture performances.
In Kathmandu we are lucky to have a few great places which you should add to your list of top things to do in Nepal!
Most visitors experience these culture dinners after returning from one of the many treks for which Nepal is famous for. Treks such as the Mardi Himal Trek, Kanchenjunga Trek, or wildlife spotting at Chitwan National Park or even doing an Everest Yoga Trek. In my experiences, by the time you have done your trek or done activities around Pokhara or further afield, you will have a better understanding of Nepali culture and be ready for the cultural dance experience and the spicy, tangy taste of Newari food!
Below are a few of the best restaurants to visit for a cultural experience!
Nepali Chulo Restaurant
Chulo is a Nepali word for stove for cooking food. So, you know the food is going to be good! This restaurant has been around for some time but more recently moved to a Rana building in Lazimpat.
Photo credit: Chulo Restaurant
Ranas are the old rulers (1856 to 1951) of Nepal whose architecture was influenced by European style buildings. You can still see many Rana buildings; recognisable by their white exteriors and European looks. Many of these old buildings are either hotels, or government buildings. If you want to see more of this type of architecture you should take a trip to Babar Mahal Revisited which is a beautiful reconstruction of Rana courtyards and palace, built on the site of an original Rana palace courtyard and stables. It also has a couple of amazing restaurants to try out as well as unique shops and an art gallery. But I digress…
Nepali Chulo puts on a culture show of different ethnic dances and music from around Nepal and represents over 100 ethnic groups. Some of these are the Tharu peacock dance, Lakhe dance (masked performers), Maithili dance (from around the Janakpur area of east Nepal) and Newari (original settlers of the Kathmandu Valley) dance.
With their belief of working as a team, this is reflected in their food also. Their food represents Newari cuisine as well as tastes from around the country. You can book a private room or join other visitors in the main restaurant.
Location: Lazimpat, Kathmandu
Bhojan Griha is one of the best known cultural dance restaurants. Its name translates to house of feasts. The building that houses the restaurant has been restored to its four-storey former glory to reflect the heritage of days gone by. The traditional designs, artwork and craftmanship make this a glorious place to explore.
Today they have expanded to include organic shops selling their own farm products and handmade local Nepali products. Prioritizing Nepali women, disabled and marginalized communities, you can shop for some interesting local products here before your dinner.
Photo credit: Bhojan Griha
Since Bhojan Griha grows its own food on its own farms they are very aware of what they serve to customers. They believe in 100% organic food. And of course, they prepare delicious Nepali and Newari dishes.
Location: Dilli Bazaar, Kathmandu
Same Same but Different
For something a bit different why not try:-
Krishnarpan at Dwarika’s Hotel
For my money, one of the best restaurants to eat different ethnic foods from around Nepal is at the Krishnarpan Restaurant in Dwarika’s Hotel.
Here they do not have cultural dances (except on special occasions), but the waiters and waitresses are dressed in different ethnic wear from different parts of the country, and you are welcomed in traditional Nepali manner.
Photo Credit: Dwarika Hotel
They used to have cultural dances performed in the courtyard (so as not to distract from the wonderful food experience in the restaurant). This has not been happening during the pandemic time, but I have been assured this will commence again in the future.
The food is sensational, and they also have their own organic farms. The prices can also be sensational too, but you can choose from the set menus ranging from 6 to twenty-two courses, prices accordingly! As with the other cultural restaurants, you need to book ahead and tell them at that point how many courses you want. I dare you to try twenty-two!
If you haven’t been to Dwarika’s you are in for a treat! It is the most amazing hotel. Built by re-using old wooden windows (which used to be just thrown away - 60 plus years ago - as people opted for ‘modern’ homes) and with their own workshop making wood furniture and furnishings, this is truly a work of art.
Originally a family home (which is now the Fusion Bar), the hotel basically started by leasing out the room above the cow shed to an INGO worker. Today the hotel has around 80 rooms and three restaurants plus food at the bar, not to mention the swimming pool and spa!
I can’t really stress enough how much I love this hotel. Even if you don’t want to sample the food, do drop by for coffee or a drink and marvel at the architecture!
Other Newari Restaurants
Kirtipur is situated about 5km from Kathmandu and is a historical village filled with temples and shrines and worth a visit for that alone.
Photo Credit: Newa Lahana
Both the restaurants mentioned here offer great Newari dishes at a lower price and in a great atmosphere. Unfortunately, they do not offer cultural dances.
However, Sasa Twa (which only opened in 2021 if I am correct) has fast become a place for watching both traditional and non-traditional music. With dining happening in open sided traditional pattis (seating areas at temples) round a huge central courtyard you are encourage – and probably its compulsory – to dance! For sure the locals are going to encourage you to join them. So, head over and enjoy fabulous food and drinks and learn how to do some traditional (and not so traditional) Nepali dances!
Of course, there are other interesting Newari restaurants and hole-in-the-wall places which service wonderful, and extremely spicy Newari food (have you ever looked behind the Krishna Temple in Patan Durbar Square?) Ask your Nepal travel agency or get a local to take you on a walking tour in Kathmandu to find the best places!