25 Dec 2017
3 min read
Around 15 months ago, Vaskar Yakthumba decided to venture into the restaurant business. He'd seen that there was an upsurge in the number of restaurants opening up in Kathmandu, and had noticed how prevalent the dining-out culture had become. To capitalise on this new trend, he decided to try his hand at running a restaurant himself. Vaskar Yakthumba, along with his brother, Praveen Yakthumba, then started Bayleaf The Garden Restaurant, in Tangal.
The name 'Bayleaf' was chosen for a specific reason, says Vaskar. The bay leaf is a versatile herb, and is a quintessential component of almost every dish in any Nepali household. The herbís protean nature rightly reflects the flexible menu of Bayleaf and that is why we decided to name the restaurant Bayleaf, he says.
Bayleaf's menu is very diverse--it features delectable Burmese dishes, along with some signature continental dishes. The new menu is actually rather different from the one Bayleaf had in its early days. Initially, the menu featured mostly fast food--the type of dishes that dominate most menus in the Kathmandu Valley. After realising that they weren't providing people anything different, and after noticing a lack of restaurants that served Burmese food in Kathmandu, Vaskar Yakthumba decided to introduce Burmese cuisine through the restaurant--nearly eight months after the restaurant's establishment.
One of Bayleaf's best Burmese dishes is the Tofu Thoke--which is essentially a Burmese tofu salad made from chickpea tofu (which is made at the restaurant). The tofu is pan fried with onions, a dash of lemon and sichey--a spicy chilli dressing made of dried prawns, chilli and garlic--and topped with peanut dressing and coriander. Unlike soya tofu, chickpea tofu is creamier and less crumbly. The salad delivers a spicy and sour punch.
Among their signature continental dishes, one dish that stands out is the Corn Fritters. To create the dish, fresh corn kernels are mixed in cornflour batter and deep fried until golden brown. The dish comes with a sweet, spicy sauce that adds a piquant punch.
Another crowd favourite is the Mohinga, a Burmese rice-noodle soup, which is cooked in a spicy mohinga fish broth (at Bayleaf, the broth is made from tuna as an alternative to the Burmese catfish), and is topped with boiled eggs and an assortment of vegetables. (The rice-noodle soup is considered the national food of the Burmese people). The noodle soup is also available in a chicken broth, and is named Ohn No Khao Swe. Bayleaf also has a wide selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Their fresh lemonade, a concoction of ice, mint, lemon and syrup, is a refreshing choice. If you're opting for a mocktail, try their Beery Hive, which is a mix of fresh cream, berry jam, mixed juice and Monin syrup.
The head chef, Sudip Thapa Magar, has been working at Bayleaf for a year now. He started his career as a kitchen help at Bayleaf, after completing a course in hotel management. He was trained by Kamakshi Rai Yakthumba, Praveen's sister-in-law, who is also a passionate cook herself.
Since Bayleaf is a garden restaurant, a large part of the restaurant is set outdoors. In the garden area, there are two seating arrangements: there is a table-and-chair seating area and a floor-seating area (inside small huts). The huts offer customers a cosy dining ambience. The restaurant also has a semi-indoor area, set up under white billowy tents. In the corner of the garden area sits a small bar, overseen by Magar. The option for indoor seating is rather limited: there is only one small room, which can accommodate upto 10 people.
The decor at Bayleaf is not overtly Burmese, except for a glass-enclosed display of Thanakha (a Burmese cosmetic paste made out of ground bark). The place has been intelligently designed, with DIY lights (made from bicycle tyres, liquor bottles and steel buckets) placed around the garden area, and Mithila art painted on the walls.
Focusing on consistency of dishes and service
Bayleaf's focus is equally divided into maintaining consistency in the quality of their food and providing great service to customers. To ensure that the quality and consistency of their food remains the same, new chefs at Bayleaf receive a month-long culinary training from Kamakshi Rai Yakthumba and an expert from Myanmar.
In the future, the management intends to expand their business by establishing a new outlet or by putting up their stalls in malls. Currently, the establishment also hosts a band every Friday and there are plans to start open-mic sessions soon.