The pandemic confined people to their homes. During the lockdown, the eating-out culture disappeared overnight. Now it is slowly making a comeback. And business is picking up in Korean eateries in Kathmandu as well, primarily thanks to valley locals. More and more Kathmanduites seem to be taking to Korean delicacies. Fancy a bite yourself? Here are five places to choose from.
Gangnam Galbi Restaurant
South Korean national Ilsoo Choi established the Gangnam Galbi Restaurant near the Narayanhiti Palace Museum, Kathmandu, in 2015. Having arrived in Nepal seven years before that, he liked the country enough to stay behind and open a restaurant.
The restaurant mainly offers non-vegetarian items, so it’s basically a place for meat lovers. Chicken and pork BBQ are among the most popular items, with price ranging from Rs 400 to Rs 3,000. Customers can even make the barbeque themselves. There is parking facility to accommodate six four-wheelers and 20 motorcycles at a time. Among the Korean beverages available here: Soju, a Korean Raksi, and Makgeolli, the Korean Chhaang.
Founder Choi suggests chicken or pork BBQ and Seafood Pajeon, a Korean-style pancake with green onion and seafood. Spices for these food items are brought directly from South Korea.
Sitting arrangement comprises wide and open outdoor spaces with tables and chairs. Price is fixed; there is no discount. Payment methods include cash, credit/debit cards, eSewa and Fonepay. On average, 15 peoples visit the restaurant daily these days; the number was above 40 before the pandemic.
Opening time: 11 AM
Closing time: 8:30 PM
Hankook Sarang Korean Restaurant
Upon his return from South Korea in 2000, Chij Man Gurung wanted to do something in his own country. In 2002, he started the Hankook Sarang in Pokhara. At the time there were only a handful of restaurants serving Korean food in the tourist city. His other motivation for staring a Korean restaurant is a personal belief that Korean food is more hygienic and healthier than fares from other countries. In 2018, Gurung brought the restaurant to Tangal, Kathmandu,
Pork and chicken items are the most sought-after delicacies at Hankook Sarang. Set menu such as Budae Jjigae (a spicy sausage stew including ham, sausage, spam, baked beans, kimchi and gochujang) and Jeyuk Bokkeym (a stir-fry spicy pork dish) are also popular. Gurung recommends newcomers to Korean cuisine to start with Bibimbap, a mix of rice and vegetables, which is both “healthy and tasty”.
Food is relatively cheap. “A normal set-dish costing around Rs 1,000 is enough to feed two,” Gurung informs. “I don’t focus not just on food but also try to represent the Korean culture so that our clients can learn about the country,” he says. The restaurant offers no discount.
Gurung used to sell Soju, a Korean beverage, before the pandemic, but no more. Instead, customers get to taste a special Korean chhaang. You can sit on floor cushions or on chairs. For lovers of beautiful landscape, outdoor sitting is also available. You can pay in cash, or by credit or debit cards. On average, over 100 people visit the restaurant daily. Parking is available for 4-wheelers and 2-wheelers.
Opening time: 10 AM
Closing time: 10 PM
Saan Sarang Korean Restaurant
Established around 11 years ago, Saan Sarang Korean Restaurant is located at Boudha, Kathmandu. Ang Yangdu Sherpa, the founder, started the restaurant to complement her family business, a trekking agency. Her clients wanted to taste Korean food, but there wasn’t a Korean eatery in the Boudha area at the time, prompting her to start one. Gradually, she also managed to titillate the taste-buds of locals.
Saan Sarang is a place for family dining, Sherpa says. She recommends customers taste pork BBQ first. “Pork barbeque is a major dish in Korea. Here, customers can make it themselves. A family can spend quality time doing the barbeque on their own,” she says.
Prices range from Rs 300 to 1,500, with sushi, kimbap, and pancake on the cheaper side and seafood on the more expensive side. Most popular are pork BBQ, grilled fish, and kimbap. Parking is not a problem: outdoor or underground parking are available for 4-wheelers and 2-wheelers. The first floor has tables and chairs for sitting, while the second floor has traditional floor cushions. Available Korean beverages include Soju and Korean chhaang. There is also an outside garden for smoking.
Payment options are varied: cash, credit card, debit card, FonePay, and eSewa. About 100 people visit the restaurant daily.
Opening time: 9 AM
Closing time: 10 PM
Korean Kitchen Picnic
Established in Thamel in 2002 by a Korean photographer and his wife, and later handed over to the current Nepali owners, Korean Kitchen Picnic offers Korean food with genuine Korean taste, informs Sunil Magar, the manager and cashier. Food price ranges from Rs 375 to 1,850. Korean noodle ramen and kimbap are budget dishes, while pork BBQ is the most popular.
Magar recommends pork BBQ for newcomers to Korean food. “Korean restaurants are almost exclusively famous for pork items. That’s why people who love pork must try it Korean-style.”
Korean beverages are not available these days, but there are plenty of Nepali alternatives to choose from. There is shared parking for both 2 and 4-wheelers.
Of its four rooms, two are Korean-style sitting rooms while two have chair-and-table arrangement. The restaurant doesn’t offer any discount. Apart from cash, customers can pay by credit or debit cards apart from cash.
What makes Korean Kitchen Picnic different? “The taste of our food,” says Magar. “Our clients who have already visited Korea can attest that the food here has authentic Korean taste.” The owners also run an import and export business, and source all ingredients from South Korea.
Around 100-200 people visit the restaurant every day.
Opening time: 10:30 AM
Closing time: 8:30 PM
Shuimter Korean Restaurant
Started in 2002 but later closed and reopened three and half years ago, Shuimter Korean Restaurant in Thamel offers you delicious Korean foods at an affordable price. The owner, Bijaya Yonzon, learned about Korean food while working in Korea. Pork BBQ and chicken BBQ are the two most popular items here. “A person visiting the Shuimter Korean Restaurant spends Rs 900 on average,” Yonzon says. “Although the restaurant is a little space-constrained, the food here is delicious. I cook them myself.”
Earlier, Yonzon used to sell Soju and Korean chhaang. Soju is not available these days. Customers can either sit on the floor or make themselves comfortable on tables and chairs. The restaurant has no outdoor space and you can pay only in cash. “The most important aspect of the restaurant is tasty food,” Yonzon believes. On average, the restaurant sees 12 visitors a day. Yonzon recommends pork and chicken items.
The downside of being located in the congested Thamel is lack of parking. Prices are fixed.