A culinary potpourri at The YardThe Yard by Oasis Garden Homes has a fantastic setting, but the food is a gamble.
In the ever-expanding space that is the Kathmandu Valley, quiet, green spaces are becoming a rare commodity. So when you come across a garden that is tucked away with plenty of greenery, the space becomes an oasis, which is fitting given that the restaurant is called The Yard by Oasis Garden Homes.
The Yard is tucked away in a quiet lane in Sanepa and for many Kathmandu residents so used to the concrete jungle, the abundant greenery can be brutal. It can take a while to recover from the shock, but once the pleasant surprise fades, you can find yourself imagining yourself returning on a warm afternoon—a book in one hand, a drink in the other.
But let’s not forget the reason we came here—the food. With an entire section dedicated to pasta, along with bruschetta, chicken parmigiana and scallopini, spread across the menu, the place makes it clear that it's very much influenced by Italia. But there’s also kebabs, shashlik, fish and chips, and a short representation of local cuisine, with a few choice sandhekos and momos.
As we’re in a garden, why not start with a salad, I think. And so arrives the caesar salad, which is served tall, in a large bowl. There's a melange of colours—green lettuce, red strips of bacon, brown croutons, white-and-yellow eggs, and the yellowish-brown of the dressing, which coats everything liberally. It might look good but the dressing has the undeniable reek of store-bought mayonaise. There’s a hint of acidity, which saves the salad by complicating it just a bit in the right way. The crunchy lettuce—perhaps romaine—is fresh; the eggs are boiled to perfection, which means they have the right firmness and none of the grotty grey lining; and the garlicky croutons add a pleasant bite. For first impressions, the dish does exceedingly well, leaving me with high hopes for the dishes to come.
The next orders arrive in quick succession. The potato croquette, served in a porcelain boat, is an exciting dish to look at. These eyeballs of deep-fried breadcrumbs, stuffed with mashed potatoes, are topped with a single slice of black olive. The olives do more than just act as a garnish—they give the potato a necessary bitter note and a hint of fruitiness. The croquettes are crispy on the outside and the mashed potatoes with cheese have a silky, sticky texture—if you know your French fare, think aligot. The starchy potatoes are permeated with what seems to be black pepper, but that’s it when it comes to added flavour. It’s all potato and cheese, and that’s not a bad thing. Stay away from accompanying chilli mayo dip, unless you want to get whacked by an unanticipated peppery punch.
So far so good. And then comes chicken parmigiana.
This dish is believed to have been invented by the Italian diaspora in America in the 20th Century. The Yard's menu describes it as 'deep-fried tender chicken breast'. The two slices of chicken breast that arrive are covered in batter and then deep-fried, but they have nothing tender about them. The chicken is rubbery, to the point that the table knives struggle to cut through. Making matters worse is the overall blandness of the chicken. The sauce that's generously poured on the meat also comes across as a bit off. The tomato sauce has some form of dairy in it, and some form of spice, stealing the simplicity of the dish’s origins. Substituting the two schnitzel-sized slabs for a single wodge would make the entire dish a whole lot more pleasant.
The dish's saving grace comes in the form of two sides that they are served along with it—we opted with steamed seasonal vegetables and garlic butter potato. The former is made up of cauliflower, carrot, french beans and zucchini. The crunchy veggies have been lightly sauteed in butter, which coats them with a glossy sheen. But between the two sides, the garlic butter potato is clearly the winner. The spuds are served with their peels on, and just like the veggies, they too have been sauteed in butter—perhaps even deep-fried. The potatoes are moist and starchy, and the singed and singular flavour of garlic adds a hint of sweetness and a pleasant sharpness to the wodges.
The final dish we have a go at is the schnitzel burger (purists may argue this is a sandwich and not a burger because nothing’s minced). It is served with a side of fries—the restaurant has opted to go with factory-made frozen fries, a move adopted by most restaurants in the city these days. The bun’s top and bottom have between them lettuce, rings of red onions, generous slabs of tomato, melted cheese and chicken schnitzel, and a generous spread of what I suspect is the same dressing used in a caesar salad. The bread is light but strong enough to hold its constitution and it has a slight sweetness to it. The chicken schnitzel, the heart of the burger that is supposed to carry the dish to glory, is a major letdown. The deep-fried, crumb-clothed chicken is too thin and seems to have been fried just for the sake of it. Just like the chicken parmigiana, the chicken here is insipid and rubbery. But unlike the parmigiana, there are no side dishes to save it. As for the fries, they taste just like any other deep-fried frozen fries.
There’s no denying that The Yard by Oasis Garden Homes has a setting that just a handful of restaurants in Kathmandu can boast of, and it’s the only thing you should come here for. Because when it comes to food, it’s like playing Russian roulette. You never know whether what you order is going to be a hit or a miss.
The Yard by Oasis Garden Homes: Rs 200-1,300pp