For this one instance, let’s start from the end because the sight of the big slab of chewy walnut brownie dripping and oozing in a pool of dark and shiny chocolate sauce was certainly one to behold. An eager spoonful later and the treat absolutely didn’t disappoint. And yes, this was at an organic café.
This dessert serves as an apt example to further explain Bu Keba’s school of thought. While some people may do (or might have already done) a quick U-turn upon seeing the words ‘organic’ at its entrance, the cafe has managed to maintain the taste whilst continuing to strive to make the food healthier.
“You can’t start lecturing people about complete diet transformations at the dining table,” says managing director of Bu Keba, Rekha Khetan. Influenced and inspired by the healthy, organic lifestyle at her own home, it was her idea to start catering organic food to the people around town but a look at the menu shows that Khetan has been very practical about her approach.
First of all, as some might expect, the menu isn’t limited to plain roti or brown rice. It’s rather far from it. From chicken tikka and chhoyela, pastas and pesto to trout fillets and ‘wow’ shrimp, the customers are spoilt with options. Same is the case at their bar. In fact, they recently even added tobacco free, fruit flavored hookahs to the menu.
Khetan agrees that a lot of this is to attract and appeal to the crowds, especially the younger masses. But what about the health aspect, you ask?
Khetan explains, “Our strategy has been to introduce healthier alternatives at every corner of our menu. We don’t force it. By tweaking ingredients and changing the styles of cooking, we have preserved our healthy café status.” Bu Keba claims to serve 70 percent organic food and well, we went over to try their dishes.
It obviously all starts in the kitchen
So recapping to the dishes, it all ended with that sinfully delicious chocolate covered walnut brownie. Their chef, Deepak Archarya, informed us that brownie was made of organic flour and coated with chocolate sauce made at the restaurant itself.
It’s basically what they were talking about when they revealed their strategy of “introducing healthier alternatives, tweaking ingredients and changing the styles of cooking” to make all of their dishes comparatively healthier. The effort begins from the kitchen itself.
The vegetables, spices, oil, milk, in other words, any and everything that has organic alternatives is replaced accordingly. Khetan adds that they maintain enough suppliers to provide them the required produce and alter the menu seasonally, if required. Even the bar has organic vodka and similar kinds of liquors. The cold drinks, however, are substituted with sodas and fresh fruit.
Prior to the desert, we were served cheesy chicken roll, diavola pizza and their already notoriously famous buckwheat pancakes.
The first thing you notice is that they are certainly generous with their cheese. It was really good. You won’t find this scribe complaining. The second is that there is always a dash of greens, meaning veggies, incorporated in the dish. The move is bound to get every mother’s vote of approval. But most importantly, there is the seasoning.
“No tasting vinegar or heavy masalas or any artificial tastes,” says chef Archarya.
The cheesy chicken roll that’s made of boneless parts of their non-broiler chicken has spinach and cheese stuffing and then is again topped with mozzarella. The dish is rich but at the same time, you will note, very light on your palate. We find that it has only been seasoned with salt and pepper.
Chef Acharya and Khetan both take the moment to note just how much we tend to overuse our masalas. “The point of Bu Beka wasn’t only to use organic produce but also promote the right way of cooking. We want to bring out the natural taste of the produce,” says Khetan.
Again, it’s a taste the Nepali palate isn’t used to on a day-to-day basis. Khetan doesn’t sugarcoat that fact either. As a result, there have indeed been customers who have complained about the ‘weak’ seasoning. In those cases, Khetan shares, she simply asks the guests to give their taste buds the time to get used to the subtle flavors.
It’s the same case with the diavola pizza. Made of organic flour, greens, especially the Jalapenos, it’s mild but the thickness of the crust is so on point, it is bound to make the experience a delicious one. It’s apparent that Bu Keba is taking things one at a time.
With options like the pizzas and their famous mushroom, spinach and cheese filled buckwheat pancake, they are doing a good job breaking prejudice against organic dishes. In fact, if you dig deeper into the menu, you will find more interesting items like momo tandoor. It does make you wonder how certain items have been made healthy. However, the staff is always more than willing to explain the healthy and organic ways in which the dishes have been cooked.
A meal for two will probably amount to Rs 1,200 plus taxes but apart from food and drinks, Bu Keba also offers a nice change in the ambience. Never enjoyed a meal in a machhan? Well, they are sort of the highlight of this café.
Draped with white curtains, the wooden machhan setting gives you and your party of five or more, a cozy, chilled, and quiet outdoor experience with all the required privacy. The restaurant even provides fans during the summer and blankets during the winter. In fact they are so popular that some regulars even tend to book a place in advance.