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Every flavor imaginable

My Republica 2019-07-12 11:08:00

If you’re an adventure sports enthusiast, you probably have heard about or been to Astrek Climbing Wall – the tallest and one of the oldest climbing walls in the country. For the past two months, the area around this climbing wall, that is located in Thamel, is being developed as a modern park space. The marketing manager of Astrek Group, Shannon Gomez, reveals that the park will be named Astrek Park and will most probably host its opening ceremony soon this year.

“We conducted a sort of soft opening a while back and a few businesses that are already set up have also been running but since the construction of a few other outlets and spaces haven’t finished yet, we’re planning to officially launch Astrek Park right before Dashain this year,” shares Gomez.

She also mentions that the idea of expanding the climbing wall into this kind of park came about as the Astrek team realized that there aren’t proper parks in Nepal. Even though Astrek Park will not fit into the conventional mold of what a park is supposed to be, it’s still an area where people can come and enjoy a lot of activities.

The park has two entrances: One from the climbing wall area and the other from the Chhaya Center. It’s very clear that the park hosts different activities as soon as you enter. On any given day, you’ll see people donned in climbing gear huddled near the climbing wall, discussing climbing strategies and warming up their bodies to take on the climbing wall, you will some people indulging in the food, and some just strolling around enjoying all the hustle and bustle while some people will even be busking.

The overall plan for this park is ambitious – according to the director of Astrek Group, Tenzing David Sherpa. It’s supposed to host eight eateries in individual shipping containers, a diner (Dal Bhat), a spa, an outdoor calisthenics gym, a private booking movie room, and a few branded shops. They are also planning to add a zipline next to their slackline that is already in operation.

When I visited the Astrek Park, the only outlets in operation – beside the climbing wall and the slackline – were the food containers and the Clubhouse bar that is owned by Astrek Group. These eight food containers all house individual restaurants that serve different kinds of cuisines. Sherpa states that Astrek Group doesn’t own any of these restaurants and that they are simply renting out the space. And although all of these restaurants have their own menus, you can order a bunch of dishes from different restaurants at the same time and pay for your entire meal together without having to hop around the containers to order and pay for your food individually.

Harajuku, a Japanese waffles and crepe rolls eatery, and Hikotori, a Japanese cuisine restaurant, are two of the most popular food outlets at Astrek Park. Kushal Khadka, founder of both of these eateries, grew up in Japan and had been planning to start restaurants that serve Japanese food for a while. He explains that since he is friends with the founders of Astrek Group, he booked two shipping containers for that very purpose as soon as he heard of the plans for Astrek Park.

I tried the Yakiniku Donburi (Rs 500) – a grilled pork rice bowl served with miso soup and radish pickle – at Hikotori and the Chicken Mushroom Cheese Crepe Rolls (Rs 300) from Harajuku during my visit. And I have to admit, Khadka definitely knows what he’s doing. These savory crepe rolls are his own creations that aren’t done anywhere else and although crepe rolls filled with meat and vegetables doesn’t sound right, you’ll change your mind when you try these. The Yakiniku Donburi was one of my favorites among all the things that I tried at Astrek Park – everything from the soft chewy rice to well cooked pieces of pork and vegetables makes this dish equal parts tasty and healthy.

I was served Aloo Dum (Rs 200) and Steamed Chicken Momos (Rs 250) from Moktu restaurant. I was a little surprised with the Aloo Dum here because it isn’t anything like the soupy aloo dum I’m used to eating. It’s basically boiled potatoes that are cooked with a lot of spices with little to no soup. I liked the fact that the potatoes were rich in flavor but because they were super spicy, I had a hard time finishing them. I think they’ll go well with something like a rice bowl that will balance out its spiciness. The steamed chicken momos were served in a cute lidded bamboo box and are standard Darjeeling momos served with sauce and chicken bone soup.

Saigon Shack is a Thai restaurant that occupies one of the shipping containers at Astrek Park. Here I tried the Beef Rice Bowl (Rs 500) that comprises of rice, beef, cucumber, bean sprouts, lettuce, pickled carrots and daikon and was topped with fresh cilantro, scallion, and fried onions. I don’t know what it is about the rice bowls at Astrek Park but both of the rice bowls I tried at Astrek Park (from Saigon Shack and Hinotori) turned out to be my two favorite dishes. Five hundred rupees for a single food item does seem like a lot but these rice bowls are so worth it. They are filling, tasty, and healthy. And because the portion is quite big, two to three people can actually share it.

The Veg Combo Pizza (Rs 480 – small and Rs 550 – large) is a standard vegetarian pizza from La Pizza Point. I’m not fond of vegetarian pizzas made at most eateries in Nepal but I’ll be the first to admit that this is a well-done veg pizza. I liked the crispy crust and even the eggplant toppings were tasty. 

At the end I had Strawberry Smoothie (Rs 300) from Sprout – a vegan dessert station at Astrek Park. I really liked this smoothie. This soymilk based drink was thick, sweet, and had banana in it. I did think it was little overpriced but Sprout also serves Buddha bowls, yogurt bowls, lemonades and juices, all of which seemed to be reasonably priced. I didn’t get a chance to try anything from Cafe 88 but going by how nothing at Astrek Park disappointed me, I’m going to assume it would have been good. 

From my experience, I can safely say that Gomez wasn’t exaggerating when she said that all the food outlets at Astrek Park serve quality food at reasonable prices. She mentioned that after the opening, the park will regularly conduct festivals and markets and I’m really excited about that. They’re already planning to conduct a beer festival every three months, night markets, monthly events that promote their food outlets besides the regular wall climbing events that they already host. I had a pleasant experience at Astrek Park and I’ll definitely go there whenever I can.