For any foreigner, a visit to Thimphu is incomplete without dining at Babesa Village Restaurant. It is a highly recommended place which offers authentic Bhutanese cuisine in a medieval setting. I have already visited Simply Bhutan and Folk Heritage Museum, both living-museums which offer feasts for your eyes and palate, and Babesa Village Restaurant is also in my list.
When our sister wanted to treat us family for a birthday-dinner, we decide to go to Karma’s Dhaba for Indian ‘thali’. But it’s closed. Then we try another one nearby which is closed too. Finally we resort to Babesa Village Restaurant, as initially planned, but which we overlooked due to it being too far from the main town.
We are 7 adults and 2 babies, and the time is 8pm. We google and get the contact number for the place, which we call to confirm whether it’s open or not. Of course, google map mentions it as being open till 10pm. The gentleman on the other end of the line says it’s open, and even messages us the menu to pre-order.
By that time we are already en route via the expressway, so we decide to place the order after reaching there. Reaching outside the place, which is quite dark with subdued lighting showing the way, I feel excited. The house looks really ancient.
A girl is at the reception counter, and as I inquire about our reservation, we are informed (rather coldly) that the restaurant would close by 9pm. Will we be able to leave by then? she adds. I mention that it is open till 10pm, to which she counters that it would be only till 9:30pm. Still we decide to avail their service, even though we are asked to be done by their closing time of 9:30pm.
A bit chilly, we decide to go upstairs and sit down on cushions at a low table. The place is indeed in a medieval setting; the lighting, colors, atmosphere all are truly of a typical village-house.
The menu is printed in desho – Bhutanese paper, and assorted items are available. Though non-veg items are mentioned in the menu, it’s unavailable this month, being the holy month.
After going through the menu we choose Rice, Dolom-kam paa, Kewa-datshi, Ema-loem-datshi, Lom-paa, Nya-khag-chung-paa, Patsa-jaju and Gondo-jaju. The names are mouth watering, and the authenticity of the menu will soon be put to the test. I know my wife to be an excellent cook, as has been mentioned numorous times by guests who visit us. She specializes in authentic Bumthap dishes. So I am waiting for her reaction to the dishes.
As starters we drink Milk tea and Suja. The suja is poured from a jamjee. Tea is accompanied by zaw– puffed rice in a tsa basket. Suja is kinda okay, as my Ama prepares better ones using nya-sheng-gyurma with cow butter. Adding a bit of milk or grounded walnut to suja also enhances it’s flavor. And I have definitely eaten better zaw. Of course there is ara on the menu, but I don’t want to dilute my memory of good ara by drinking an inferior one. So I refrain.
After about 30 mins, the main course comes in. First is the wooden bowls and cups, called Dapas and Phorbs. Dapas and Phorbs come from Trashiyangtse Dzongkhag. The prized ones even go up to 100K ngultrums and more, but the base ones can be bought for as little as 1K. I know so, because my Apa sells these handicrafts.
The rice is bondey-chhum, sticky rice, which is presented in a dark clay-pot. This type of pot originates from Gangzur village of Lhuentse Dzongkhag. The other items are all presented in wooden bowls.
The dishes indeed lives upto their name. Every bite is a journey back to smoke-filled kitchen in Zama Dung homestead of Bumdelling. I can even hear the cowbells and the chirping crickets. My favorite among all is patsa-jaju, not too bitter but with a wholesome taste of butter and cheese. Even the absence of drinking-water is forgotten, till we leave the establishment. We all enjoy the meal, wife included. Dried vegetables are indeed a delicacy. It is a 👍👍from her.
We leave the establishment at 9:30pm.
To conclude, the rate is reasonable, the menu much better than I imagine. It’s just that I expect their treatment of local guests to be a bit more accommodating and friendlier.
My Ratings (not that it matters to anyone, as I am not a critic) are as follows:
- Food: ★★★★★
- Service: ★★
- Cleanliness: ★★★★
- Ambiance/Atmosphere: ★★★★★