Penthouse serves good food with a side of luxuryThe à la carte menu, which features innovative dishes with localised flavours, was designed by celebrity chef Santosh Shah.
It was one of those summer days when the air seemed stagnant, lazed by its own warmth. Braving the mid-day heat, I pulled up to Penthouse, a rooftop restaurant and bar on the fifth floor of Durbar Mall in Durbarmarg. The entrance—featuring a curved gold-paper wall, a domed ceiling and a minimal reception desk—was something out of a video on Architectural Digest, that too of a celebrity who has probably never flown on a commercial jet.
As I made my way through the reception, I was greeted with matte black furniture—sofas, tables—all complimented some way or the other with gold. To the right was a magnificent bar with Roman-inspired murals and beautiful bird-like lamps hanging from the ceiling. Their soft yellow colours came together, and it was like observing a flock of birds gliding through the sky at dusk.
The style of Penthouse can be summarised by one word: exclusive. Its focus on every black and gold, and use of mirrors and reflective surfaces around the walls to ceilings add a sort of distanced gracefulness, one that feels welcoming yet reserved at the same time.
Our server for the afternoon, Sanil Bhandari, kindly led us to our table. We sat near the outer rim of the rooftop from where we could see the upper facade of the Narayanhiti Durbar, once home to Nepal’s royalty, now turned into a museum. The sky was particularly clear that day, and the green hills to the East rose high and above the horizon.
Bhandari introduced us to the executive chef of Penthouse, Poshan Raj Thapaliya, who has a decade-long experience working in the restaurant industry in the UAE. Thapaliya returned to Nepal and joined Penthouse in January this year when the restaurant officially opened.
Thapaliya revealed that the menu was designed by celebrity chef Santosh Shah, who took inspiration from flavours from all over Nepal. “Initially, our dishes were experimental and innovative, but we soon realised that our customers are comfortable with familiar flavours, so we modified the menu accordingly,” he says.
We started with drinks. With two ornate bars taking up much of the space in Penthouse, it was evident that drinks were meant to be a large part of the experience. The handy bartender, Ankit Biswokarma, started us off with ‘The Penthouse’ (Rs1,400)—a signature cocktail made with rhododendron-infused vodka, syrup and a dash of lime. Perhaps alluding to the alleged intoxicating property of laligurans, the drink had a deep red hue and a rhododendron petal floating on top. In a turn of events that rendered day drinking acceptable, the drink was sweet and sour, with the vodka’s warmth hitting you only after a while. If you’re in Penthouse with heavy pockets and a mood to party, go ahead and order this drink.
The other three mocktails, ‘Carrot Chilli’, ‘Green Light’, and ‘Butterfly Pea’ (Rs800 each) delivered as promised. Carrot Chilli was particularly unique, as it had a certain kick to it. All the drinks were refreshing and blended sweet and sour in a cohesive harmony. They pair perfectly with any sauce-heavy, meaty or savoury dish.
Talking appetisers, the ‘Quinoa and Chia Seeds Salad’ (Rs1,399) was light. The chewiness of quinoa and chia seeds was complemented by the sharpness of the other ingredients—pomegranate, cucumbers and bell peppers. The lemon vinaigrette bound everything together, ensuring it didn’t overshadow the rest of the flavour profile.
Our second appetiser, the ‘Watermelon Chaat’ (Rs799), was a delight. Cold solid watermelon cubes were placed in a bowl, surrounded by feta cheese, coriander chutney and tamarind chutney. The blend of sweet and salty–the signature flavour of chaats—was emulated within the bowl, and each bite left a lingering tamarind aftertaste. If the chefs were to be more generous with the feta, this dish really would make for a perfect starter.
The first main that arrived at the table was the ‘BBQ JD Pork Ribs’ (Rs2,999). Two sizable slabs of pork chops—slathered with sauce—dominated the plate. To the side was a burnt apple chutney, some fries and coleslaw. The slow-cooked pork ribs fell off the bone. The BBQ sauce added a hint of sweetness to the bites, which merged well will the succulent pork. The potato wedges were good, too, with crispy skin and a soft inside. However, the BBQ sauce, at times, did overshadow the fattiness of the pork ribs, which almost always taste great on their own.
The second main was ‘Pizza al Salame Piccante’ (Rs1,399) or pizza with small pepperonis, prepared right before us in the gas oven. The pizza chef, Rioz Lama, presented a medium-sized, thin-crust pizza topped with pepperoni, oregano and basil. The marinara was thick, with tomato chunks still present, which added depth to the sauce. The mozzarella was, well, mozzarella—eternally delicious.
The final course—the dessert—was a plate of mini-Yomari (Rs999) with dark and milk chocolate filling topped with a fresh slice of orange. These bite-size Yomari—perhaps in bit of a controversial move—chose chocolate over the traditional fillings of chaaku or khuwa. But weirdly enough, it worked. The subtle sweetness of chocolate mixed well with the chewiness of the rice flour. The orange slice, too, added a citrusy element, which rendered the bite refreshing.
Despite the high price point—perhaps also because of where it’s located—Penthouse served us memorable food and drinks. Nothing felt too much or overpowering; the dishes served revelled in the subtlety of taste and texture in a way that doesn’t fatigue but energises the body post-meal.
If you wish to be a part of the Durbarmarg way of life—even if it’s for a single day—by submerging in its glitz and glamour, Penthouse could be the spot for a good lunch or dinner.
Location: Durbarmarg, Kathmandu
Opening hours: 1:00 pm to 11:00 pm
Price: Inclusive of all taxes