The Folk Heritage Museum Restaurant is intended to offer an "authentic" Bhutanese dining experience. So you can probably guess who their main clients are: yup, foreigners. However its not just tourists who dine here, Thimphu's expatriate community in general seems to eat here frequently too. Well maybe its not always by choice, it seems to have become a favorite place for "official" meals that include foreigners. So high level-y stuff, and since I am not even remotely high level-y and I am not a tourist, I had never eaten a meal there before. Of course I have always been very curious. What exactly is an "authentic" Bhutanese meal? So when I was invited to join my visiting Swiss aunt and uncle and their friends there for lunch earlier this week I was quick to accept.
This is a little photographic account of our meal there. The table was set on with traditional-y Bhutanese wooden bowls, of course Bhutanese didn't really eat at dining table but it was a very pretty setting all the same.
Already set out on the table were three traditional woven baskets filled with what I think of as " tea snacks" since they are most frequently enjoyed with a cup of tea. One made of corn ( the yellow one) and two made form rice. All of them a crunchy and savory and a perfect companion to tea but the corn snack is the real danger since its deep fried and delicious.
Once we were seated someone came round to serve us butter tea or suja. I have to say that starting the meal with a cup of tea is indeed very Bhutanese. On almost any occasion that you visit someone you will be offered a cup of tea before anything else.
Then they started to set out the food-- white rice and mini-buckwheat pancakes ( from my region of Bhutan!) I was less then impressed with the pancakes-- at home we make them thick and large and eat them steaming hot. But I am sure these little sampler pancakes were ideal for unfamiliar tongues and taste buds.
Here is more of the meal: ferns ( which are back in season! Hurray!), a spinach dish , potato and cheese and a small bowl of typical Bhutanese condiment: fresh chili, cheese and tomatoes. The potato dish contains no chili at all so it was basically scalloped potato once again probably a concession to foreign tastes.
Here is a close up of the ferns which were delicious. They were more of less just fried with just a little seasoning so that you could really taste the flavor of the fern. Since the season started I have mostly eaten fern drenched in cheese so this was a welcome change but perhaps not a completely typical Bhutanese recipe.
But there was also some ema datshi ( chili and cheese) as well as some very fatty pork ( the more fat the tastier is the Bhutanese way of thinking about it) served up, both of which are stereotypically Bhutanese. The Swiss looked at the large strips of fat with something between horror and fascination but mostly struck to the chicken instead which was coated with in a tasty dry curry rub closer to something you might find in an Indian restaurant.
Here is my plate- don't worry I went back for seconds!
After the meal they served some cut fruit-- desert and sweet things are not very traditionally Bhutanese but if you look at the number of bakeries and pastry shops I think we have made up for lost time!
So final thoughts? It was a decent enough meal, but no more or less authentic or tasty than a meal that you could purchase in town or cook at home. I think what the Folk Heritage Museum Restaurant does best is provide a unique and pleasurable dining experience. The interesting and thematic decor ( for example they have traditional kitchen utensils hanging artfully from the ceiling), the attention to the presentation of the food and the pacing of how its served, as well as the prompt efficient service are all rather unusual in Thimphu.