Byanjan: More than a lake-view restaurant in PokharaThough Byanjan offers what every other middling Nepali restaurant does, it adds a touch of flair, elevating the food past mediocre to good.
The folks behind Byanjan’s interior design were clearly inspired by the two of Pokhara’s most prized assets: snow-capped mountains and blue Phewa Lake. Both colours are used liberally in this popular Pokhara restaurant, covering its furniture, walls, railings, and window panes; the use of neutral white and soothing blue makes the interior feel breezy, amplifying the Lakeside’s infamous relaxing feel.
The restaurant offers decent views of Phewa Lake and Raniban’s lush jungle. The well-considered interior hints at why the establishment is popular among both tourists and locals.
But no restaurant in the world has become popular solely for its windowsills or walls—everything comes down to food. A quick scan through the menu—you guessed it, it’s white and blue—reveals an extensive array of dishes. Given its Lakeside location, Pokhara’s tourist hub, this makes sense. Tandoori, biryani, pizza and pasta, bruschetta, Tibetan thukpa, dal bhat tarkari—all are featured alongside the usual suspects of fried rice, momos, burgers and French fries.
With summer in full swing, the indolent fan overhead does little to dissipate the stagnant heat. To Byanjan’s credit, attentive staff notice accumulating beads of sweat and push a fan in the table’s direction to oscillate some respite, before dropping a menu and taking orders. After two appetisers and two mains are ordered, the first dish to arrive is the Mustang Crispy Fried Potato.
This staff-endorsed tuber treat had to be ordered, given that it apparently came straight from Mustang. While it seemed special at the time, it was later learned that most of Pokhara's potatoes come from Mustang. Byanjan's wedges are showered with finely chopped coriander and numbing timmur powder, a spice commonly used in Thakali food. True to the dish’s name, the potatoes' exterior is slightly burnt and has a delightful crispy texture. Breaking through, the interior is buttery smooth, moist and starchy, with the presiding stab of timmur elevating it beyond simple fries.
Mid-potato-mouthful, the Fusion Chicken Wings arrive, the second appetiser. Aesthetically, the Mustang potatoes are quickly relegated to second place. The eight pieces of wings and drummettes shine on the plate, thanks to a glossy brownish-orange glaze glistening in the light. A hail of greens and whites—fried chopped garlic, green chillis and coriander—top the wings. Alongside the meat come two dips and a salad. As soon as the wide-eyed “oh-shoot-this-looks-good” ogling subsides, sleeves are rolled up, and fingers and teeth tear flesh from bone. The chicken is soft and juicy, and the wingettes, degloved of their browned skin, reveal tender meat. There is a whisper of sourness, which hints that the chef was conservative but measured with the use of vinegar to play alongside the sweet and spicy notes. So good on their own. It’s not difficult to forget the two dips. Just a dab of sauce is enough to show the tongue it’s better off enjoying the wings by themselves.
The first of the two main courses to arrive is the Byanjan Ultimate Sizzler. The dish, like all sizzlers, announces its arrival noisily, like a cheap out-of-tune travelling marriage band. The portion is intimidating—a small mound of thin fries, a sizable slab of chicken, two huge chunks of pork (with translucent fat), a lone chicken sausage, huge bisected tomatoes, an assortment of vegetables, and at the very bottom, a bird’s nest of smooth noodles. The wait staff say the dish is a carnivore’s delight, and they are right. Except for the fries on the top, almost all other components of the dish are drenched in a viscous gravy that’s 50 shades of brown and black.
The gravy-soaked chicken slab was cooked a bit too far, and so, is withered and dry. The gravy fails to mask the dryness. The pork, on the other hand, was cooked to perfection. The generous translucent fatty layers are a delight, and keep the meat from suffering the chicken’s fate. The sausage and fries, cryogenically preserved ones that have spread across restaurants, are nothing remarkable.
Byanjan has an entire page dedicated solely to pizzas, with the establishment billing itself as the sole outlet for square pizza in the country, an unverifiable claim. The staff suggests the Hawaiian Pizza, the most popular choice. This pizza, like all of Byanjan's pies, is served on a wooden board with a cast-iron centre. The four-sided pizza crust is thicker than Neapolitan-style pizzas, but it’s nowhere as thick as the crust of a certain international pizza chain. Strands of capsicum top the pizza, with tomatoes of varied shapes and sizes, onions, ham, and chunks of pineapple, all covered in globs of creamy white parmesan. The amount of cheese on this 9-inch pie is beyond comprehension, and very soon, one begins to wonder whose decision it was to drown the pizza in cheese, to the point of overkill. For those who love cheese, this will be heavenly, but for the lactose intolerant, it is a death sentence. The crust’s edges are slightly burnt and crispy, the capsicum crunchy, and the liberal amount of pineapples add a layer of sweetness to the otherwise overly cheesy pizza.
By the end of the meal, one understands why the restaurant is so popular. The service is great, the menu’s diversity offers something for everyone, the food’s quite good and the portions are hearty; and the establishment overlooks Pokhara’s crown jewel, Fewa Lake. When you have all that, it’s hard not to be happy.
Byanjan Rs 250 to Rs 750
What we ate
Mustang Crispy Fried Potato: Rs 295
Fusion Chicken Wings: Rs 495
Byanjan Ultimate Sizzler: Rs 750
Hawaiian Pizza: Rs 450
What do you think?
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