Landing in Nepal was overwhelming. Kathmandu isn’t a huge city but it is a very active one. It is overpopulated, over-polluted and it can all be overpowering. As soon as I got off the plane I couldn’t help wondering if this is the way things are done or if I was just being taken advantage of. I was never sure if I was being understood or just escorted into a human trafficking ring with a few smiles and a couple well placed head nods.
Surprisingly, there weren’t many international fast food restaurants in the area of Kathmandu that I was staying in. Whenever I miss home and I need a connection to my way of life I crave crappy fast food. A cheap burger or a mass produced piece fried chicken and I know everything is going to be okay. It is my comfort zone and I am entitled to it, since I am halfway around the world.
Feeling displaced I was looking for somewhere to eat that felt like home. Looking at Google Maps, a place called ‘Western Tandoori’ stood out. I’m pretty sure, simply seeing the word ‘western’, associated it with the western world and was instantly sold. The restaurant was about twenty minutes away by foot. I decided to put on my big boy pants and brave the seemingly treacherous streets of Kathmandu.
In my haste to find dinner I completely missed it at first. It was obviously a restaurant but it wasn’t what I was expecting. It was basically a hole in the wall restaurant with a few tables brimming with people and the naan being cooked in a tandoori oven right at the entrance. I was hoping for crappy fast food and what I was presented with was a claustrophobic eatery, which would have been fine if I was looking for an adventure. However, due to my mood it was nothing short of a disappointment. Nonetheless, I was hungry and wasn’t about to find somewhere else to eat.
The place was so packed I spent a few minutes just standing outside thinking I could get a table, only to realize, no tables were ever going to be completely free. Ever. Luckily I was just one, so I was eventually waved over to take a seat. As I sat with my three new friends, a laminated menu was quickly dropped in front of me. I ordered the chicken curry and butter naan simply because they were familiar. I started to settle in and before I knew it, my food was in front of me.
That first bite was exactly the type of comfort food I truly needed. The curry, almost tasted like my mother’s curry chicken. It wasn’t exactly the same but it was close enough to melt away my troubles. I wanted fast food to connect with home, instead of got food that felt almost like home cooking. I was immediately smitten. The naan was crispy and warm. It was more than enough food to make me feel content and whole again. Once my soul was full, I noticed the temperature inside was significantly more comfortable than outside. Probably due to a combination of the tandoori oven and the amount of people packed inside. Unfortunately, I also registered the amount of people trying to fill their bellies, so I gave up my seat so they could keep their turnover going.
Over the next week I visited Western Tandoori daily. Trying everything on the menu and changing up my dinning experience, opting for take away and even inviting a few new friends. After a few visits I concluded they were a family operation, popular with both locals and foreigners. I slowly started considering myself a regular, getting to know the servers and even getting a few extra smiles after day three. I wanted to stick around and learn more about them, but they were so busy and efficient I didn’t want to be a wrench in their operation.
Your mood can easily inform your experience. Great restaurants are able to change your mood for the better. The overwhelming welcoming-ness of ‘Western Tandoori’ completely changed my outlook on Kathmandu. Having just one place, I could depend on for food made the whole city seem more hospitable. ‘Western Tandoori’ will always hold a special place in my heart for reminding me that your comfort zone can be found almost anywhere. If your comfort zone is good people an good food it is possible to find that winning combination almost anywhere on earth. Also, they made some of the best paneer masala I have ever had.