The Land of the Thunder Dragon, nestled in the eastern Himalayas, is an exciting place to dine. Renowned for their fiery, chilli-based flavors, Bhutan’s culinary staples include ema datshi, a spicy stew of cheese and chillies, and distilled rice wine ara. From Swiss food in the hills of Bumthang to the bars of bustling capital Thimphu, here’s our guide to ten of Bhutan’s best restaurants.
Folk Heritage Museum Restaurant
For a taste of authentic Bhutanese cuisine, book a table at the Folk Heritage Museum Restaurant. Opened to enlighten visitors about Bhutan’s rich food culture, the restaurant sources the best seasonal, organic ingredients in the country and prepares them using the traditional cooking methods of bygone Bhutan. The colorful, authentic setting complements the food perfectly – guests sit on cushions around a low table and eat from handmade wooden bowls, as Bhutanese custom dictates. The extensive menu, which boasts 60 vegetarian dishes and over 100 meat dishes, features such Bhutanese fare as khuli, a pancake made from buckwheat, kekti kewa (spiced baby potatoes) and ja sha maroo, a dish of minced chicken. Perfect washed down with a glass of ara, a local rice wine.
Bukhari at Uma by COMO
Visitors to Bhutan would be hard-pressed to find a more opulent dining experience than Bukhari, a lavish restaurant at hotel Uma. Bukhari, a uniquely semi-circular space, takes its name from the traditional Bhutanese fireplace that dominates the beautiful restaurant. A short ride from Paro, Bukhari resides on a hill overlooking the town, with stunning views of the surrounding valley. Indonesian chef Dewa Wijaya, who has years of culinary experience, has created an exquisite menu of both local and international fare – inspired contemporary food with a distinctly Bhutanese twist. Expect imaginative dishes like grilled Angus sirloin steak with sweet onion, Bumthang Gouda and herb butter or pan-fried snow fish with eggplant, quinoa and fennel salad.
The restaurant at Hotel Galingkha sits in a prime location on Dondrub Lam overlooking the main street’s busy southern traffic circle – the perfect place to see Thimphu’s white-gloved traffic police in action, famously reinstated after the city objected to the introduction of traffic lights. Situated on the ground floor, Galingkha restaurant features indoor seating and a charming patio area complete with a Feng Shui waterfall and a traditional Bhutanese gate of welcome with beautiful wood-carving detail. The multi-cuisine menu offers an array of dishes from continental to Bhutanese, Indian and Chinese, with Indian dishes like butter paneer masala and creamy, lentil-based dessert dal halwa enjoying great popularity.
Galingkha, +975-2-325387, Norzin Lam, Thimphu, Bhutan
Swiss Guest House
For a dose of modern Bhutanese history while you dine, try the Swiss Guest House, nestled on a hillside just outside the town of Jakar in the Bumthang Province. The original building, a small, traditional farmhouse, was once the home of Karsumphe Angye, the older sister of Gangsa Ugyen Wangchuk, the first king of Bhutan. Later, in the 1970s, the house acted as headquarters for the country’s Dairy and Forestry Project which employed a number of Swiss nationals, earning the place its name. The guest house is run by a Swiss-trained cheese maker and a range of Swiss dishes are available served in traditional chalet-style surroundings. Opt for a hearty cheese-based dish, like fondue or raclette, bratwurst or zuri gschnatzlets – diced veal with mushrooms and cream.
Baan Thai offers a great alternative to Bhutan’s abundant native cuisine. Situated in busy central Thimphu, this airy restaurant serves authentic Thai cuisine with a dose of Siamese hospitality. Fresh and locally sourced produce is transformed by an experienced Thai chef into perfectly seasoned and authentically spicy dishes. Choose from dishes like vegetable spring rolls, som tam (green papaya salad), tom kha gai, a coconut-based chicken soup, or sweet and sour pork with jasmine rice. Insider tip: Baan Thai’s window-side tables give spectacular views across the bustling city.
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