01 Jan 2018
3 min read
Even though it’s a newly established restaurant, Opium Restaurant and Bar, at the Sherpa Mall, has already built a reputation among food lovers as an ideal place to experience a wide variety of cuisines. The restaurant initially started out as Belle Momos but was eventually renamed as Opium by Belle Momos by Samrat Pandey, Ummeed Shrestha and Uddhav Dhakal, the trio running the management. They changed the name when they decided to expand their menu. While Dhakal is responsible for handing the administrative duties as the executive officer of the restaurant, Pandey and Shrestha are the founders of the restaurant.
Currently, Opium has a staff team comprising 48 trained members, all of whom work together to provide a great dining experience for customers. Indeed, Pandey has collaborated with the Restaurant Association of Nepal to develop safety standards for Opium’s food, which have been strictly enforced at the restaurant to ensure that they live up to their guiding philosophy: ‘from farm to the fork.’
Food and dining
Opium is a multi-cuisine restaurant that offers dishes from North India, Italy, France, China, Europe and Nepal. Their 11-page menu features a diverse selection of dishes and beverages, with short explanations accompanying the listing for the more unfamiliar dishes. The managers tweak the menu every four or five months, after taking into account customer feedback; oftentimes, the chefs also come up with new concoctions that later show up in the menu. Customer favourites from the entree menu include the Murg Chat and Paneer Morocco. To prepare the Murg Chat, the chefs first marinate chicken pieces and then sautee them with fresh onions, tomatoes, green chillies and a mix of roasted cumin and chat masala. But despite all the spices used, the dish isn’t as spicy as it looks. The Paneer Morocco has a crunchy deep-fried exterior with a soft paneer-filled interior, with creamy cheese sauce and chillies at its centre. The dish comes garnished with crushed onions, celery and a dash of lemon juice.
Another customer favourite is the Involtini di Pollo: it’s essentially flattened chicken breast strips rolled around a spinach-and-mozzarella stuffing and then pan fried with green bell pepper. It comes plated with a serving of sauteed vegetables and a peppery salsa rosa sauce. Over the chicken’s crusty brown shell is drizzled a thick, tangy sauce.
As for desserts, we recommend that you opt for the Tartufo di Chocolato. The dome-shaped chocolate delight is a three-layer dish: spongy chocolate on the outside, a creamy vanilla ice cream segment in the middle and an arum, truffle and nuts trio filling at the centre. The chocolato’s dense nutty truffle centre, smooth ice cream and moist chocolate sponge work to create a rich fusion of textures.
Apart from these dishes, the Szechuan Pork and 12-inch pizzas are also amongst Opium’s top sellers. The restaurant also offers a diverse menu of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
Pandey describes Opium’s decor as “a mix of the modern and aristocratic”. The walls are adorned with vintage posters, and the seating area features colourful low-seating sofas paired with rustic tables; and lights in the shape of triangular idiophones hang low from the ceiling. A small area enclosed by glass walls opposite the entrance houses a barbeque station, which is lit for evening barbeque orders.
Unlike in the cafe, the walls in the dining area are decorated with hand-painted portraits of owls and glimmering golden birds and ornate chandeliers hang from the ceiling. The partly enclosed outdoor area has an open bar space with wrought-iron furniture. Opium’s family-friendly environment offers an indoor playground for children that comes with child-size dining tables and chairs. The restaurant also features two halls to accomodate customers during busy hours.
Rudra Bahadur Khadka, the head chef of the restaurant, is an expert in Italian, Continental, Indian and Nepali cuisines. His speciality, however, is Italian food. Khadka began his culinary career 20 years ago, and he has worked in some of Nepal’s finest kitchens. Before becoming a chef, he underwent two years of culinary training at the Soaltee Crowne Plaza, where he subsequently worked for two more. Before joining Opium, he headed the kitchens at Vaishali Hotel, Hotel Landmark, Hotel Pension Vasana and Temptino.
Khadka’s passion for cooking stemmed from watching his mother cook at home, and from his desire to re-create everything he tasted. He currently has 16 chefs working under him, all of whom have been groomed by him. According to Khadka, cooking good food requires meticulously focusing on even the most minor details. He says that a good chef is exceedingly careful about everything: from sourcing the right products to mixing the ingredients and plating the dishes.