Have you ever wondered why we get so excited to dine at roadside eateries on road trips? If you’re anything like I, then the thought of trying new places on the way to a destination fills me to the brim with excitement and tempting thoughts.
That goes no different for the country I live in, Nepal.
Nepal is a marvelous country, filled with many local places and unique stories too. I love nothing more than stopping off in the car and trying eateries I’m in, in any part of the country.
Recently, well I say 3 weeks back, I was returning from my Christmas break in Pokhara, a stunning city with a serene lake. The drive on the Prithvi Highway I was making was around 7 hours long, and it was back to my home city, Kathmandu.
Now, if you’re not familiar with Nepal, there’s a great place to stop from Kathmandu to Pokhara or Pokhara to Kathmandu, which breaks this journey up.
The location is called Mugling.
Whether you’re a tourist or a local, Mugling is often seen as just a transit town. In fact, tourists to Nepal don’t even stop here if they get a tourist bus.
It may look like something out of a wild western to a foreigner, but with a lot of heavy goods trucks and buses passing through. Plus the occasional dust. Those who choose to stop over are lucky to experience cheap, traditional, and local cuisine at its finest.
While renowned News outlets like the Kathmandu Post have covered Muglings local hotspots, today I want to feature an up and coming restaurant, which has set the benchmark for Mugling.
Dal Bhat Power Mugling
Towards the end of Mugling, next to the bridge, is a modern restaurant called Dal Bhat Power, set up at the end of 2019. To be honest, it’s not hard to miss as it has a modern funky, vibrant logo, is in English, and covers most of the upper half of the building.
I know you’re probably cringing at the ‘Dal Bhat Power’ reference, but I can assure you this restaurant does more than just a simple Dal Bhat (lentils and rice). Upon entering the restaurant, the owner immediately greeted me, who asked if I wanted to sit in the non-smoking or smoking area.
Obviously, I opted for the non-smoking area and sat down. When looking around me, I was impressed with how clean the restaurant was. There was hand sanitizer on every table, a gigantic open kitchen, and many other guests.
To the left of me, there was the indoor smoking area. However, inside, there was an enormous coffee machine and a barista (this is something I’d not expect for Mugling).
I was already excited about the coffee post-lunch.
Upon ordering, I had the options to pick from a 4-page menu, but I stuck to just getting a chicken thakali and some local fish to snack on. What I was more impressed with was that they made fresh pizza too and even had pizza boxes on the counter, ready to serve.
The food was scrumptious; by the way.
If you don’t know already when you order Dal Bhat in Nepal or Thakali, you will get your tray topped up with rice, dal, and veg, if you’re still hungry (it’s included in the cost).
What I wasn’t expecting, though, was to be checked up on each time. Every time I wanted more food, the owner Bijay Rana came and asked me about the food and chatted, then he bowed.
This was no special service either; I noticed he did this to every guest in the restaurant, irrespective of their nationality, age, or gender.
But, having training in karate for over 15 years, this was no Nepali bow. The gentleman was a humble Nepali, but one who eats breathes, and sleeps the Japanese culture and etiquette.
I know a Japanese bow when I see one.
After lunch, I got chatting with Mr. Rana about his restaurant. He told me he lived in Japan for 16 years in Tokyo, working in hospitality, primely the food industry. What I was equally interested in was, next to me was certificates in Japanese.
The certificates were similar to those I acquired from Japan when I got my Shodan (blackbelt). Next to them was an image of a muscular man in prime physique looking ripped and proud.
Bijay Rana had spent his time working, earning, and becoming in peak shape during Japan. He was a bodybuilder and had won competitions gaining 4th place and 2nd place in Tokyo.
Throughout our conversation, though, he kept highlighting how fond and proud he was of the toilets of Dal Bhat Power Mugling.
So I took note of Bijay’s mention of his toilets and when to investigate them myself. Usually, restaurateurs are normally proud of their food and service, but toilets wouldn’t usually be in their bragging skill set.
So I went into the ladies’ restrooms. As soon as I entered, I noticed there were signs everywhere!
There was a sign indicating the cubicle for the squat toilet, a sign for a western toilet, signs for diaper station, signs for where to put your sanitary products, and even a wall sanitizer next to every toilet.
Next to the toilet seat, there was even a sign asking users to sanitize the toilet seat after using it.
The men’s restrooms had lots of signs too.
Here Mr. Rana was bringing his knowledge and experience of Japanese cleanliness and bathroom etiquette to Nepal. He was drilling it into locals’ heads of how to be clean and use bathrooms effectively.
It’s evident; he spent a lot of thought and time decorating the restrooms to educate customers on their hygiene. This couldn’t be any more relevant than with the global pandemic going on.
Finishing up my meal
After viewing the restrooms, I rounded off my meal with a lovely latte. It was fresh, tasty, and filled with caffeine.
If only I asked him what beans he used to roast.
When it came to the end of the meal, it was not expensive at all, It cost for food for two people and coffee it was around 1000 NPR!
But ultimately, what impressed me was Bijay’s hospitality, dedication to service, and etiquette. This gentleman may have spent a lot of years in Japan, but he’s brought himself back to better the lives around him and set standards for Mugling.
Who knows, every passerby may learn from his quest for cleanliness and implement his sanitizing signs into their businesses?
After visiting his business, I went online to look at his Facebook. His dedication to customer service does not stop at the door; he’s constantly active on his Facebook, streaming live videos showing the restaurant’s produce and cleanliness.
Dal Bhat Power is a beacon of hope leading the way for the local restaurant scene of Mugling.
Visit his Facebook page here.