Nevada County People: Nepalese villagers reopen restaurant locally
Buddhiman Tamang is not your average Nevada County resident. He’s Nepalese by birth and Buddhist by faith.
You might meet him if you dine at his newly reopened restaurant Daju Bhai on Rough and Ready Highway. But at first sight, you’d never guess how far he has come – from living in a remote village in the Himalayas to co-owning a business in Grass Valley.
“My village is about 77 miles northeast of Katmandu,” the capital of Nepal, said Tamang, 41. “You have to take a bus from Katmandu to a place called Melamchi, then walk for two days to reach the village.
“We are at a height of 12,000 feet, without electricity and running water. Our village has six houses only.”
Tamang first came to the U.S. in 1988 to visit his sister, who lived in Nevada City, he said. “She was a nurse at the hospital,” Tamang added.
On that trip, Tamang worked briefly at Wang’s, a Chinese restaurant housed in the same facility on Rough and Ready Highway where Daju Bhai stands today, Tamang said. But he soon left the job and returned to Nepal.
Tamang returned to America in 1997 and worked in the Bay Area as a landscaper until 2004, when he bought Wang’s and changed its name to Didi Bhai, he said. Didi means older sister; Bhai means younger brother.
But the business changed hands again in 2005, when Tamang relocated to the Bay Area where his wife, Seeta, was expecting their child, he added.
He bought back his restaurant for $65,000 in May and re-opened as Daju Bhai. Daju means older brother.
“It wasn’t as though I had a dream to own a business here, but my wife insisted I reopen the restaurant,” Tamang said. “I came to this town on my first visit to the U.S., so I really like it here. The people here are nicer and friendlier than in the cities.”
Today, Tamang and his partner, Sujit Kandel – also from Nepal – serves a 12-course buffet, including Indian, Chinese and Nepalese dishes, at Daju Bhai from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. In the evening, the restaurant serves a la carte meals, Tamang said.
“Business now is not as good as it used to be,” Tamang said. “Didi Bhai used to be very busy. But I have a belief: It will be good again some day.”
Tamang now lives in a three-bedroom house near downtown Grass Valley. His wife and two sons, Akash, 7, and Badal, 3, still live in the Bay Area, he added.
“I think of returning home sometimes,” Tamang said. “Half of my family still lives in my village. But I call them once a month. My older brother calls me, too, from Katmandu.”
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