This is a second installment to a beginners guide to living in Thimphu. In the first post on the topic, I explored some of our favorite places to find things. Now I will highlight the most enjoyable restaurants where I have met with friends over the past few months. Please use the comments to let me know what has been overlooked!
While Thimphu will never compete with Paris for gourmandise of Tokyo for Michelin stars, there is a pleasant range of dining choices available, with options from Western to Asian. The lists found on Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor can’t seem to keep up with the opening and closing of restaurants here, not to mention the ones that come in and out of favour among our circle of friends. (Swiss Bakery, one of the crappiest offerings in town, comes out on top of the Lonely Planet page.) This is a list of some of our favourites. It is worth noting that Tuesdays are dry days, meaning that bars are closed and some restaurants, especially those not in hotels, are closed.
Here I explore some of my favorite Bhutanese and Indian restaurants in town. In the next post I’ll add more reviews of cafes and bars as well as western and world food. Hopefully you’ll enjoy the choices found here, and if I have missed any of your favourites, please list them in the Comments section! Scroll down for maps with restaurant locations.
Bhutanese Restaurants: These restaurants are local favorites and you are not likely to see any tourists and I can guarantee that there won’t be a buffet line in sight! (If you want that, check out the Bhutan Kitchen or Bhutan Orchid restaurants, both good but tourist quality…)
Folk Heritage Museum Restaurant: This is the gold standard for Bhutanese food, both in terms of presentation and quality of food. Only served as a set menu, food is served family style with up to a dozen different dishes for a table. Some of the most amazing Bhutanese dishes I have ever had were served here, including nakey (fiddlehead ferns) and wild shamu datse (mushrooms and cheese). This is a favourite for large groups and showing off to visiting guests. Reasonably priced depending on how much meat and alcohol consumed. Groups only. Reservations necessary.
Kuenga: This is the first place I head to when I need a plate of momos. Momos (Tibetan style dumplings) are a standard fast food in Bhutan and are ordered by a plate of 5, usually for between Nu 35-45, depending on whether they are stuffed with vegetables, cheese or beef. We once staged a momo eating competition at Kuenga, at which I was declared the winner after 34 momos. Let me know if you want to show down!
P.T. Park View: Most people will have a favorite local restaurant where they know the owners, and this is ours. Located in Motithang across from the park, this is our closest restaurant to home. We frequently stroll down for some momos, a vegetable chow mein, or just to be surprised by whatever pumpkin curry or other suprise dished come out of the kitchen.
Zombala: Sometimes a queue can be seen outside of Zombola as locals wait to have 10 minutes worth of momos as a shared table. The menu is very limited to momos, chow mein and thukpa (noodle soup). (This would be closer to a favorite except for rumors of MSG use.)
Indian Cuisine: This is not your London vindaloo curry, but real and simple Indian food. Here are four of my favorites.
The New Grand: This is our current favourite Indian Restaurant with a full vegetarian only menu. The restaurant is clean and well lit, comfortable and had a big menu. If you are familiar with Indian dishes, you will find a bit of everything from North to South, including great idli, dhosa, and a range of chaats.
Ghasel: Just a few doors away from the New Grand is the Ghasel, once famed for its hot pink interior. The decor has improved, but the tasty menu has stayed the same. The service is good, though the range of English spoken is limited. I once ordered a salt lhasi which came with a tablespoon of salt in it. when I sent it back, they added more salt. Twice. Finally, the brought me the same ridiculously oversalted lhasi to the table, along with a bowl of salt and a spoon! The rest is good, just do the salting yourself.
Cypress: A little more hidden with an “authentic” feel, Ghasel is a longtime Friday night favourite for their Thali menu. This small second floor dive is great for a group, with the ordering process being as simple as meat or veg, slowly followed by a never ending expanse of dished being brought out. Great for a group, and of course extremely reasonably priced.
Druk Hotel: When Indian Dignitaries come to town, the chef at the Druk Hotel gets called away to do the cooking, because people say that he’s the best in town. This restaurant has a bit more formality that the other Indian offerings, but still serves amazing dishes at a very reasonable price. Palak paneer, butter masala and chicken tandoori are favoutrites.
Here is an overview map:
Here is a more detailed map of the center of town:
Thanks to Google Maps for providing maps with street names (that the locals do not use), and to all my friends for showing me the way around when we first arrived!