November 1, 2019 12:25 PM NPT
By: URZA ACHARYA
Photo: Bijay Rai
If you are craving some Newari food, like say bara, chatamari, or choila, in Kathmandu, you never really have to look that far. There is bound to be a place that serves mouth-watering, authentic Newari food nearby where you are at that exact moment. But if you want to try Newari food that’s really, really good, then I recommend you head to New Road and visit Palu Malta. The food there is to die for.
Located right next to the New Road main gate, in a 130-something-year-old building (thought to be constructed along with the New Road gate itself), Palu Malta is quite a busy place. Known for its delicious food and also popular because of the architecture of the building, Palu Malta, which means ‘hot chili’ in Newari, has managed to garner loyal customers though the restaurant is relatively new.
The food is inexpensive and totally worth the price and the wait. Though the items available there aren’t anything new, the staffs at Palu Malta have taken great care to see to it that the food is prepared well. And that reflects in the taste, which really is phenomenal.
The owner of Palu Mata, Madav Piya, has kept things minimalistic and industrial for the decor of the restaurant. The restaurant is located on two floors, with the lower one being furnished with wooden tables and comfortable looking sofas. On the rooftop is where you can sit down on the floor, with mats and barely foot-high tables. From both the floors, you can look out to the main street of New Road, and that’s quite a sight.
If you are visiting the restaurant for the first time, let me tell you that Piya recommends the duck choila as well as the different varieties of baras there. And I couldn’t agree more with him.
Also, while you wait for your food, I recommend you look at the woodwork on the restaurant’s main door and outer windows. These, I believe, are awesome examples of the skills woodcarvers and artisans possessed back in the day. Truly fascinating!
Price: Rs 150
Anyone who has had chatamari knows that you can rarely go wrong with it. In this case too, the chatamari was flavorful. The one I had was chatamari with buff and egg. The buff keema had all the right spices and the egg added a buttery texture to the dish. The rice crepe was thin and helped neutralize the spices. I also liked how the chatamari was cut into neat slices like in a pizza and you could grab a slice and finish it in one or two bites. The dish makes for a perfect snack or starter.
Price: Rs 200
The dish looks pretty intimidating and a bit scary actually. And why wouldn’t it? Sapu Mhicha is a dish consisting of buffalo leaf tripe stuffed with bone marrow. The smell and the outer texture resemble the bhutan (fried liver, stomach and intestines) we have during Dashain. The taste, however, was totally different. The outer skin was chewy whereas the bone marrow on the inside was white, thick, gooey and buttery. The closest resemblance to the taste of the marrow is the flesh of an avocado. As I’m a big fan of subtle flavors, Sapu Mhicha was a pleasant surprise. But be warned, the dish is definitely an acquired taste.
Price: Rs 160
Kafu is essentially every child’s dream. As a child did you ever think about how nice it would be if you could have plates of momo fillings without the dough? Well, kafu is exactly that complemented by a delicious runny egg. Looking at it from a health perspective, kafu can provide you with the protein you need without having to consume loads of food. Moreover, the spices are also toned down so that the natural flavor of the meat shines through. The meat is simply sautéed with onions and basic spices. Unlike other Newari food (which are packed with spices), kafu has this subtle pleasantness to it. The only thing I wasn’t satisfied with was the portion of the dish, which I thought was pretty small.
Palu Malta Lunch Set Price: Rs 1200
The Palu Malta Lunch Set is an experience rather than just food on a plate or different plates, in this case. The lunch set consists of 10 to 12 separate dishes. The set includes beaten rice, bhatmas, spicy potato, aloo tama, mutton curry (dyakla), bara, mixed pickle, special Palu Malta pickle, gundruk, green soya bean, chukauni pickle, and choila. As evident from the number of dishes, this set is more than enough for a group of four to five people.
The chukauni pickle was inspired by Piya’s own family recipe. The special Palu Malta pickle, which was tangy and sour and something totally new, was made by adding store bought pau (from the famous Raju Pau Bhandar located below the restaurant). The beauty of the lunch set lies in the balance of flavors. For example, when the choila (which, by the way, was heaven) became too hot to handle, I could take a bite of the bara. The effort put in by the chef and his team in preparing this monster of a dish is commendable. Each dish was made with a lot of care and effort, and presented really well too.