It has neither starched tablecloths, nor peaky napkins. But the air of haute cuisine is deftly conjured in the food that is served at Chimes, and in the attention of those who present it.
This new restaurant in Sanepa has guests returning again and again, not just for the excellent food and impeccable service but for its relaxed atmosphere, sophisticated background jazz, the occasional live music and event lineups and its many taste experiments.
“The closest we come to fine dining is dining fine,” says VK Kunwor, who runs the restaurant with Shikhar Pandey and TJ Limbu. They met in 2015 and collaborated successfully on a casual eatery in Thamel, but always wanted a focus on good food.
During their recce of establishments in the city, they found many venues focussed on music or events, drinks or vibe, but the food seemed to lag as a secondary consideration. Pandey is a foodie and both Kunwor and Limbu are chefs, the latter freshly back from the UK.
Chimes is nestled entirely in a garden setting, surrounded by low-rise buildings a stone’s throw from busy Sanepa Chok, evoking the ambience of an convent establishment with the same name (but not spelling) in Singapore. French, Asian, Nepali or American food, the fundamental focus here is the kitchen’s operation and ingredients. For staff, the experience at Chimes is akin to working to international standards, a rarity in the Kathmandu hospitality industry.
When the food comes, it is a treat. The Guacamole and Paneer is a delight to the tastebuds, comprising elements of sweet and salty, creamy and crunchy, and grounded by a herb pesto and the subtle earthiness of perfectly roasted potatoes. This dish seeks to delight with every bite.
Then come Chimes’ Chicken Momos. Momos can be a little ‘gluggy’, thick-skinned and drenched in sauce. Not here. These are thin-skinned and silky, and Limbu takes pride in the four condiments they serve with their bamboo basket of deliciously hot and succulent dumplings smeared with house made sambal. For someone with an acutely Southeast Asian palate, it is sublime. It is a taste of home.