Eat Fit & Qasr-e-Nakheel – Clean Eating Challenge Day 7

Lunch – EatFit

One of the problems with Eatfit, or maybe it’s an issue with FoodPanda app is that they’ve put a lower limit of Rs.350 for accepting orders. Now there’s nothing wrong with such limits especially since you’re offering free delivery.

You don’t want to delivering stuff which costs a mere 100 or 200.

The problem here is that although your meal costs well above Rs.350 with the inclusion of VAT, without the VAT you’re falling Rs.20-30 short, and FoodPanda doesn’t allow orders even for such miniscule differences.

So both Eatfit and FoodPanda need to work on this glitch. What this means is that you have to order two items and since no order is less than Rs.100, you invariably end up paying Rs.500 on a single meal time.

While that’s not such a big problem for me since I’m pursuing this as a sort of experiment, and it won’t matter that much either to the health-conscious SEC A and upwards, it’s not going to help someone below these Socio-economic classes to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

They may try these Eatfit or any other healthy option for some days, but they will not adopt it on a regular basis.

Think about it. Who in his or her right mind won’t spend Rs.500 per meal or Rs.1000 per day till perpetuity? It just doesn’t make economic sense.

Unless you’re filthy rich. In which case you don’t need these healthy meals to begin with. You can eat to your heart’s content all the artery clogging stuff and then just have a liposuction or some other procedure. End of worries.

But for the rest of the humanity, this is a big challenge. And a great opportunity for any shrewd entrepreneur. If you can come up with a meal plan for the entire month with per meal cost not exceeding Rs.300 inclusive of everything, then you’re going to harness the long tail of the population and hit the jackpot.

Right now the way these mom-and-pop health cafes are structured, they are only able to tailor their offerings for a niche.

Imagine what you could achieve if you can expand this business model and cater to the masses, or at least a few fattier segments?  

 

Coming back to my Eatfit lunch on this day, I chose the Chicken Greek Salad at Rs.320 and since it was falling short of Rs350, I chose the cucumber and carrot stick with ranch dressing for Rs.110.

Total bill came out to be Rs.463. Gave the complete Rs.500, the rest as tip.

It was a garden salad with what looked like over-cooked chicken. I was expecting the chicken to be grilled considering that Eatfit is a health café, but it seemed it was either fried or cooked over a stove. Definitely not baked.

Portion size was substantial. Taste-wise it was just ok, nothing compared to Nutrinizer’s Healthy Harvest Salad.

 

Dinner – Qasr-e-Nakheel

Nothing to write home about. Consumed the leftovers from the Qasr-e-Nakheel shawarma platter from the previous night.

Good as new. Only the hummus was as bland as the previous day.

5 Days Health n Wealth Report

I started off the Clean Eating Challenge focusing on just two parameters: waist line and weight line.

My waist stood at a staggering 37” and the weight at not an alarming 163 lb or 72 kg. So far there hasn’t been much difference but then again it’s been only 5 days into the challenge.

I started out looking like a python who had swallowed a goat, and well I still look the same.

5 day Healthy Eating Report
5 day Healthy Eating Report

Two things I haven’t changed in my experiment are:

  1. Amount of sugar I consume daily. 2 teaspoons X 4 cups of tea = 8 tbsp.
  2. Amount of exercise. Prior to starting the 30 Day Clean Eating Challenge, I used to do stretches and push-ups for like 5 mins in the morning, and some yoga stretches for 20 mins in the evening, and even that’s not a regular feature. Have kept the same regimen during the quest as well.

As far as my expenses are concerned, I’m bleeding Rs.1,000 on an average per day and chances are if I manage to complete this challenge, I would have parted with Rs.30,000, which is the minimum prediction. Could be much more. The need of the hour is to create a regimen that can be easily followed ad nauseam instead of worrying about the money. The expenditure would neutralize to some extent once other things are streamlined.

 

Nutrinizer & Qasr-e-Nakheel – Clean Eating Challenge Day 6

It’s day 6 and its already getting a bit monotonous. The only thing that’s keeping me going is the novelty factor – trying out new things every meal of the day.

Almost all the meals I order are through FoodPanda. 9 times out of 10, the app hasn’t disappointed me, at least so far.

Lunch – Nutrinizer

I had been watching Nutrinizer cautiously since the last week on FoodPanda restaurant browser and for some reason it just didn’t impress me. Then the fact that they are charging Rs49 as delivery charges didn’t help matters.

But since I’m on a path of pure exploration, I decided to have a go at it.

Interestingly, although the prices are apparently more compared to EatFit, they don’t charge the VAT or maybe it’s built-in to their menu, so at the end of the day its more or less the same price as Eat Fit.

I chose the Healthy Harvest Salad which claimed to have everything under the sun – Grilled Chicken, Fat free Cottage Cheese, boiled egg, cucumber, green apple, olives, ice burg and rocket leaves with light dressing.

Sounds too good to be true? It shouldn’t, when you hear that the price is Rs.490. But even at this price, restaurants like Health Act and Koel Café have managed to disappoint.

Nutrinizer didn’t.

It was the best salad I’ve had since beginning this quest. Just have a look at the picture! Damn. It looks good even in the picture.

Day 6. Lunch. The day I fell in love with a salad. #Nutrinizer #30daycleaneatingchallenge

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Plain awesome. And plenty of it!

And on top of everything, I don’t know what the hell they put into that salad, but I felt great after having it. It was like they had loaded the salad with weed or something. Ecstasy perhaps?

So if there is one salad that I would recommend that satiates your appetite, tantalizes your taste buds, and makes you feel great afterwards, look no further. Nutrinizer’s Healthy Harvest Salad is the Holy Grail of Salads.

Dinner – Qasr-e-Nakheel

For some inexplicable reason, Qasr-e-Nakheel gives you almost twice the quantity in its chicken shawarma platter if you go there and parcel the stuff instead of having it there.

Or maybe it was a mistake. In any case, they gave so much that it’s enough to last me for two dinners. And that’s not a bad thing when you’re bleeding money right and left ordering food from outside instead of having the proverbial good old home-cooked food.

Qasr-e-Nakheel – Clean Eating Challenge Day 5

Lunch – Home-Made Breakfast

Continued with my tried and tested recipe of having a late breakfast and skipping lunch.

Today I had 3 boiled eggs with bran bread, Malai and chai.

Wasn’t that satiating as the previous day so had a mango as well early evening to pick up my plunging glycogen level.

 

Dinner – Qasr-e-Nakheel

Qasr-e-Nakheel is one of the oldest cafes on Boat Basin serving Arabic cuisine, or at least some part of it.

And their chicken shawarma platter deal delivers bang for the buck. Alas, if only their hummus was appetizing.

Day 5. Chicken #shawarma platter at #qasrenakheel. #30daychallenge #boatbasin

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Unfortunately it’s not. Just a bland paste of chickpeas.

If you want to dip into a rollicking hummus, aim for Rowtisserie’s hummus, best in town.

The shawarma platter comprises of grilled chicken, hummus, onions, pickled carrots, beetroot and cucumber, and a raita type paste.

All in all the quantity is enough to leave you satiated.  

Damascus – Clean Eating Challenge Day 4

Brunch – Home-Made Breakfast

I’ve planned the weekend to be my cheat days but even then I didn’t commit any serious adultery.

Normally on my off-day I start off with a heavy breakfast much later in the day, say about 12.30 pm, and then skip lunch altogether.

So I’m following the same regimen in the 30 day clean eating challenge as well.

This time around it included 3 boiled eggs, a piece of Sheer Maal, Malai and tea loaded with sugar.

It’s not the healthiest of breakfasts in the world, but it’s not the worst either. And that three boiled eggs would give me enough proteins to keep me energized till dinner.

 

Dinner – Damascus

I had planned on binge eating something really dense, like Charsi Tikka, to reward myself for the previous 3 days of salad eating but then thought better of it.

Haven’t been to Damascus, Karachi’s oldest Lebanese café, for the longest time, so decided to have a go at it.

Went for their Chicken Arabic treat which costs Rs.1200 and is good for two people.

Here’s what it comprised of:

  1. Half chicken Furruouge
  2. 2 chicken shawarma
  3. Hummus
  4. Moutabbel
  5. Baba Ganoush
  6. 4 Filafel
  7. Fries
  8. 3 pieces Pita Bread
  9. Garlic sauce

Day 4. Dinner at #damascus. Chicken grand platter with #furrouge #shawarma #hummus #moutabbal #falafel and #babaganoush.

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Quite a list, huh?

While it wasn’t a pure-healthy option, what with the garlic sauce and fries, it was, by and large, a very good dinner to have if you’re on a clean eating quest.

And it was delectable. So those of you who are a fan of Arabic cuisine, definitely something for you to dip your hands into.

EatFit and New York Coffee – Clean Eating Challenge Day 3

Lunch – EatFit

EatFit has taken the lead in terms of bang for the buck. Not only do they offer comparatively better prices, the portion size is definitely much better than the rest of the competition.

You’ll probably starve to death if you rely solely on the salad options of most restaurants and cafes like Koel and Health Act.

This is probably the reason why Eatfit has survived and thrived for the last 3 years while so many health cafes came and went in that period.

This time around I ordered the Garden salad with seasonal fruits and nuts which cost Rs.240+tax and bean salad for Rs170+ tax. Total bill came out to be 463 with taxes.

#30daycleaneatingchallenge. A closer look at the garden salad by #Eatfit. Cost rs.273

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And it was really satiating. I could have dropped the bean salad and still felt full.

So this has been the biggest meal I’ve had so far with respect to portion size.

Once again I used FoodPanda to order the food and so far I’ve had not many issues with the service.

#cleaneating. Up close with the bean salad by #Eatfit.Rs.192

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Dinner – New York Coffee Café

I’ll be damned.

What an awesome quesadilla. I fkin loved it. No doubt it was expensive at Rs.646, but hey, the quantity was good enough. And the taste.

Man, what taste!

Maybe it’s the hallucinogenic effect of having too many salads when you’ve been a carnivore all your life. But this quesadilla has got to be the best unique meal I’ve had for a long time, and chances are its going to top this 30-day challenge, healthy or not.

To be precise, it was loaded with buffalo chicken, mozzarella cheese and I don’t know jack. All I know is that it was heavenly.

Here's the cross sectional view of the New York Coffee Cafe #quesadilla. #30daycleaneatingchallenge

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Kudos to New York Coffee for making such delectable dish. And offering discount. And free delivery. Koel and Health Act, you need to get your act together.   

Koel Café and Health Act- Clean Eating Challenge Day 2

Day 2 of the 30 Day Clean Eating Challenge was a complete disaster.

My fault.

Chose two so-called high end restaurants, Koel Café and Health Act.

What was I thinking?

Both were damn expensive. Charged a hefty delivery fee compared to free from others. And serving size was dismal.

Left me feeling hungry and jaded all day.

Lunch – Koel Café

Koel cafe was a huge disappointment. The Tuna Green salad cost a whopping Rs.545, and yet you had to really ‘fish’ for the tuna within it.

The Koel people were quite meticulous about what they put in the salad. Exactly two dices of grilled carrot, two slices of grilled brinjal, three quarters of a boiled egg, and of course a few teaspoons of mashed tuna.

The rest of the box was brimming with leafy greens. Seems like they are the cheapest ingredient.
No wonder clean and healthy eating is not picking up in this part of the world. When we’ve got the so-called upscale restaurants like Koel cutting corners and at the same time charging a fortune, who would dare eat healthy???

On top of everything, they charged Rs.100 for delivering it when most of the restaurants aren’t charging a dime.

Taste-wise, it was, well what would you expect a bowl filled with raw green vegetables taste like? Exactly. Just like any other. A commodity. And yet Koel charges 500 bucks for it. I wonder how many people dig that stuff there.

 

Dinner – Health Act

You know you are having a shitty day when twice in a row you get fucked up by two ‘upscale’ restaurants. At lunch it was Koel. At dinner it was Health Act’s turn to take a dig at me.

Their chicken roasted pineapple salad which cost upwards of Rs.500 had exactly three tiny pieces of the fruit. And it was loaded with capsicum. It was as if it had rained capsicum the previous day and they didnt know where to put the darn stuff.

 

The only logical place. My salad.

 

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And to further compound my misery, the box was filled exactly half.

Nice going, #healthact.

Dont worry. Your noble gesture wont get unnoticed.

Clean Eating Challenge Day 1 – EatFit and Rowtisserie

I had started using FoodPanda app just this Ramadan and I found it quite useful. Not many glitches so far. Will try some other app as well just to see how they measure up.

Day 1 of the Clean Eating Challenge started off with me ordering from EatFit for lunch.

EatFit- Lunch

If you don’t know what EatFit is, it is one of the many so-called ‘healthy eating’ cafes that opened up when the wave of clean eating hit our shores about three years ago.

Turns out it was just a fad, as most of the outlets have closed shop. EatFit however survived and continues to prosper.  Perhaps the biggest reason it was able to do this was because of the fact that it’s a  delivery-only business whereas its competitors had made the mistake of opening up a glorified café and accruing more expenses than they could manage.

I ordered Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breast with vegetables for Rs.320+tax, which was supposed to set my calorie counter back by 394 calories.  

Day 1 of 30 Day Clean eating challenge. #Eatfit grilled chicken and salad.

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The stuff was good. Only that the stuffing was there. If it was, it was hidden very shrewdly that only the most discerning consumer could find it.

The portion size? Not very good. Won’t feel you satiated by a long shot. I had my suspicions about it so I ordered a Corn and Bean Salad as well to be on the safe side. Cost Rs.150+tax.

Portion size? Extremely disappointing. For that cost, they ought to have a full casserole filled with the stuff, considering the content, just corn and chickpeas.  What I got instead was a small plastic container, the one you use to feed the birds. Not a comforting thought.

So while I found Eatfit’s stuff reasonably good, they seriously need to work on their price points and portion size, considering the fact that they don’t have a physical location and as such do not have any overbearing overheads.

Rowtisserie – Dinner

Dinner had me ordering Mezze platter from Rowtisserie.

Mezze or Meze comes from the Persian word ‘Mazze’ and it refers to a collection of small dishes which are served prior to the main course. It’s the Western world’s equivalent of appetizer.

This dish or collection of dishes is prevalent in all cuisines of the former Ottoman Empire. So you’ll mostly find it in Middle Eastern cuisines.

 

Rowtisserie’s mezzeh comprised of hummus, baba ganoush, olives, feta cheese, pickles, grilled chicken cube and some strange looking dish with cucumber dipped in a tangy oil that burned in your throat.

Day 1 of Clean Eating Challenge. Dinner: Meze Platter by #Rowtisserie. Cost Rs.734.

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I reckon the quantity was alright. But the price….well at Rs.650 +tax which comes out to be almost Rs.750, it’s not for the faint of heart.

Taste was delectable, as I’ve always found Rowtisserie’s products.

That wrapped the first day of clean eating challenge, setting me back by Rs.1300. So it’s going to be a long month.  

30-Day Clean Eating Challenge

Forgive me Father, for I’ve sinned.

I’ve sinned to gastronomical proportions.

One of the Seven Deadly Sins. Or Capital Vices. Or Cardinal Sins. Whatever you want to call them. I’m not too sure about the other six, but ‘Gula’ is something I’ve indulged in excessively.

And I’ve got the proof. A pot belly which would make any pregnant woman’s heart swell with pride. A bulging waist, going from an envious 32.5” to a monstrous 36.5”.

And then there’s the proverbial weight. I’ve added a staggering 6 kg in record time. Will have to check with Guinness World Records whether they have a record for adding weight in swift time. So right now, I weigh 172lb or 72 kg.

And it’s interesting that neither the weight nor the waist shrunk an iota, considering that the Ramadan are just over, and I devoutly kept all the Rozas. Unfortunately, I also devoutly ate like a starving lunatic all through the month. Hence the lack of gains, or losses, to be precise.    

But what has got my unenviable eating record got to do with a restaurant review website?

The thing is, in the absence of any motivation to change my sedentary lifestyle, I’ve decided to go on a month-long discovery of healthy eating options available in Karachi’s foodscape, and see how much I’m able to reduce myself by opting for only those throughout the month without changing anything else in my life.

And at what cost.

They don’t come cheap, let me tell you.

It’s just Day One of my experiment, and already I’ve been set back by Rs. 1,300. Not for the faint of heart, eh? You bet.

But someone had to take up this seemingly mundane challenge. So why not me, the armchair critic who’s also the very first food blogger this country saw before even today’s tech-savvy had-haram generation was born.

What’s in it for me? Who knows. Perhaps one of the restaurants I feature on this quest would happily sponsor it me. Or just feed me.

Perhaps FoodPanda, my go-to app for this quest, would make me their brand ambassador. You never know.

For the record, no other variable in my lifestyle would be changed so that we’ve an objective analysis of the results 30 days down the road.

So while I continue to dish out my meagre morning routine of 5 min exercise, or evening routine of playing Kinect games on my Xbox, which won’t impact the results since that is already part of my routine and has had no effect on my health or lack of it, till now, I’m not going to exercise anymore than that so that we have a level playing field.

And I won’t bother you with calorie counters and other trivial stats. Research has shown that these things only manage to overwhelm a person and make him quit rather than motivate or inspire him in any way.

So I’ll follow the KISS method. Keep it Simple, Stupid.  What does consuming healthy foods have an impact on your waistline and weight? That’s it. Nothing more.  

So let the 30 Day Quest begin.

Can ‘Noonsey Nihari’ become the Queen of Niharis?

After seeing everyone going gaga over Noonsey Nihari on SWOT, I decided to take my family there. Now I’m usually the type who orders a little more than is necessary so that there are ample leftovers for the next day as well.

Followed the same strategy at NSN as well, only this time NSN committed the Cardinal Sin of not packing the complete stuff. They left out the beef nihari, the item that was remaining in the most quantity.

Now this is something which I hate the most. A cockroach in food. That’s ok, it can happen. Dead fly. No big deal. But all the leftover food not packed? Unforgivable.

Up until that point, the experience had been more or less good, but this pretty much undid whatever good work they were able to do. It was no use calling them up to have a go at them as we found out the next day when we opened the packet.

Noonsey Nihari Beef Nihari
Noonsey Nihari Beef Nihari
Noonsey Nihari Chapli Kabab
Noonsey Nihari Chapli Kabab
Noonsey Nihari Chatkheelay
Noonsey Nihari Chatkheelay
Noonsey Nihari Ambiance
Noonsey Nihari Ambiance
Noonsey Nihari Interior
Noonsey Nihari Interior

It would have been understandable if the place was jam-packed, but there were only a few people there. That means it wasn’t an accident but a deliberate act.

From a marketer’s perspective, the last experience your customer has with your brand counts the most, and not the first impression, as in human interactions.

And for that last folly, I would re-christen the place to ‘Noon Se Naalaiq’ instead of ‘Noon se Nihari’.

Now let me divulge the actual experience of eating out there and will try to prevent the last heinous act from influencing my judgement.

Full marks to the management for the ambiance. You would be hard pressed to find a nihari house that good.  They could do away with some of the lights, however.

One major shortcoming here. For some inexplicable reason, they’ve installed fans in addition to the ACs. That’s not as bad as the fact that the fans are coupled with the lighting. We found out about it when the food came and I asked the waiter to switch off the fan directly overhead which was throwing air at us ferociously with the grim determination of turning our food to ice in a matter of seconds.

The waiter sheepishly replied that he couldn’t because he would have to turn out all the lights as well. I then asked him to at least slow down its ferocity a bit, and to my amazement he said that wasn’t possible either. If I was a BHAI, us kay naam ki parchi ab tak nikal aati. Alas, that has gone out of vogue in Karachi.

To all darling restaurateurs out there, try not to be a miser while laying the foundation of your restaurant by coupling all lighting and air-conditioning under a single switch. Spend a few bucks to buy some extra switches. You’re going to win all that money back in any case once you get started by charging an arm and a leg, why not provide your customers some semblance of convenience while you’re fleecing them?

Coming to the food. The chapli kababs were delectable. They had just the right amount of spices. The meat under the crust was tender and not over-cooked like I’ve seen in so many others. And the quantity was good too.

The Nihari was OK. No more. No less. But for a staggering price of Rs.580 which does not include even the Maghaz or the Nalli, it was not OK by any stretch of the imagination. In fact if you include both these sidelines, you’re looking at a whopping price of Rs. 750!

Unless you’re putting gold dust into that Nihari [maybe pearls would do too], I wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole. Which I did. My bad. But never again.

And therein lies the real problem with a high-end Nihari business model.  If you’re opening a fine-dining restaurant with exorbitant prices, its better to put some high-end dishes in it that at least have a perception of being high-end. Nihari, just like biryani, is the staple diet of Karachiites. They’re used to having a mind-blowing version at Javed, Sohail and Zahid at less than half of what Noon Se Nihari se charging.  It’s not something for which you would get all dressed up to have a restaurant.

A double plate of supremely sumptuous Nihari with all the bells and whistles at one of these joints would cost no more than Rs.300. And NSN’s version couldn’t hold a candle to these veterans’ delicacy.

Would you go for a biryani that costs almost a thousand buck? You wouldn’t. Unless of course you were sitting at a five-star hotel. And your friend was paying for it.

Right now people are thronging to NSN merely because of the novelty factor and not because of the taste. In some instance it’s also a battle of ‘Oh-my-you-haven’t-tried-that-out-as-yet’. But once the dust settles down, which it invariably will, NSN will have a tough time getting in repeat customers based on their Nihari’s current level of scrumptiousness. The fact that it does not have the best of locations will hurt it too.

So unless NSN re-invents its Nihari and takes it taste to the level of the Big Boys, it will have a tough time surviving merely on the Burger Awam’s penchant for hygienic Nihari.

We as a nation aren’t attuned to relishing hygienic foods. Otherwise the food joints which have been closed down time and again by the government’s food and health department for unhygienic conditions would have been shunned by the public, never to be profitable again. And yet they are thriving.

So if you think you can make this business model successful whereby you charge exorbitantly for something based on just hygiene and not taste, good luck with it.

4G To Offer the Ultimate Buffet Dining Experience in Lahore

4G is a buffet restaurant slated to open in Lahore that will prove to be a game changer in the highly competitive foodscape of Lahore.

On the face of it, it appears to be like any other buffet restaurant, but it aspires to differentiate itself from the rest of the pack.

But why the name 4G? It sounds more like a telecom brand rather than a restaurant brand.

The name 4G has many connotations. On one level, the name 4G symbolizes the four grand cuisines on offer at the restaurant, namely, Chinese, Lebanese, Italian and Mediterranean. No other restaurant in Lahore or even Karachi comes even close to this. At best, what you can expect to get at a standard buffet restaurant is a three cuisine buffet, which is rare. And even then, only the common dishes of that particular cuisine are offered. 4G buffet restaurant on the other hand offers the top of the line dishes in these four cuisines.

And it doesn’t stop there. It plans to get its customers involved in the creation of its buffet menu with the passage of time. This co-creation initiative will go a long way in creating organic brand ambassadors for 4G.

One other aspect of the name 4G is that it aims to offer the fastest internet hotspot in the entire country with speeds of 32MBPs. That way 4G symbolizes the lightning speed of the current era.

Although it is a buffet restaurant, it is not designed in line with your average buffet restaurant. On the contrary, it is designed as a sleek and sophisticated lounge.

Being a product of the digital age, the 4G management has a lot of activities in store for its customers on the digital front that is guaranteed to create a stir in the market.

Get ready to immerse yourself in a surreal dining experience at the 4G Buffet restaurant.

You can find 4G on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtage #4GBuffet.

TGI Fridays Ramadan Iftar Deal

TGI Fridays is offering an Iftar deal for Rs.1395 + tax = Rs.1618.2 which on the face of it appears quite expensive.

The following are the items TGI Fridays is offering part of the iftar deal:

  1. Portion of Bean Fries
  2. Soup of the Day/Salad
  3. One main entrée from a selection
  4. Soft drink/mineral water/iced tea

To get a glimpse into this deal, have a look at the TGI Fridays Iftar deal review.

TGI fridays Ramadan Iftar Deal
TGI fridays Ramadan Iftar Deal

Babujee Iftar Deal at Port Grand Fails to Hit The Mark

Babujee at Port Grand is offering Iftar Buffet Dinner at Rs.1000 + tax which comprises of 20 items give or take a few.

Babujee has been around ever since Port Grand opened up four years ago.Babujee may appear to be small but in fact is quite big with two dining rooms, upper terrace and a ground floor open area. But due to the cramped up arrangement of the tables and chairs, it appears as not spacious.

Babujee Iftar Deal
Babujee Iftar Deal

The choice of buffet items is not the best. Almost all the restaurants I’ve visited in Ramadan, great and small, offer at the very least vegetable fried rice as part of the rice brigade. Babujee had kept simple steamed rice!

Babujee Iftar Dinner Buffet

All in all the following items were on display:

  1. Chicken haleem
  2. Beef nihari
  3. Steamed rice
  4. Chicken biryani
  5. Fish in garlic sauce
  6. Chicken n vegetable sauce
  7. Chicken karhai
  8. Tawa fish
  9. Chicken boti
  10. Seekh kabab
  11. Prawn tempura
  12. Caramel custard
  13. Kheer
  14. Fruit trifle
  15. Cake
  16. Tarts
  17. Jelly
  18. Assorted salads

The day we visited seemed to be a bad hair day for Babujee management. There was a short circuit and the lights on the open deck were out for all intents and purposes so that you only. That could be considered unfortunate and beyond the control of Babujee management, but the rest of the foibles were something that could have been taken care of easily.

Babujee Iftar Deal
Babujee Iftar Deal
Babujee Iftar Deal
Babujee Iftar Deal
Babujee Iftar Deal
Babujee Iftar Deal
Babujee Iftar Deal
Babujee Iftar Deal
Babujee Fish n chicken boti
Babujee Fish n chicken boti
Babujee Fish n chicken boti
Babujee Fish n chicken boti

To begin with, the two juices and rooh afza that was served at the Iftar time wasn’t chilled at all. Moreover, when we ordered soft drinks later on during the dinner, they were completely warm as well. We registered our protest, and the best Babujee could do was give us ice cubes and that only after waiting for eternity.

Service was in general excruciatingly slow.

Beware that they will put a large of bottle of mineral water on your table as it its free and then go on to charge you for it.

Some devious tactics were being used at the prawn tempura stall as well. The cook was deliberately focusing on frying onion rings claiming that they were more in demand than prawn tempura, which is incredulous. The aim was to make people wait so long that they give up on it altogether.

The tawa fish was delectable, no doubt about that, and probably the best item on the menu. A close contender was prawn tempura, what little we saw of it, courtesy the cook at the prawn stall.

The BBQ chicken boti was a mixed bag. Some botis were soft and chewable while others were completely unchewable.

The only redeeming feature of the evening was the couple adjacent to our seat. Since Babujee in their greed had placed the tables so close to cramp in as many as possible, we were practically sitting in their laps. Or maybe it’s not the greed, but Babujee actually encourages eavesdropping sessions so that people are entertained by listening to the banal conversations of their next-table neighbors. What a benevolent act by Babujee management.

Coming back to the elusive couple, it was the Iron Lady married to Forrest Gump. There was an eerie silence at their table broken intermittently only by the iron lady barking out some order to the hubby. The hubby for the large part just nodded or uttered single syllables, lest he said something and brought on him the wrath of the dragon sitting next to him. At the very least, he anticipated a smack on the head if he did something wrong. Maybe he was her servant in another lifetime or even a slave.

What must have been life like for the poor man at home, we were afforded a glimpse of that when a rather aged man walked past the dragon lady and in the process caused her to spill whatever the hell she was drinking. She let out a loud ‘Oh shit!’ and glared at the guy with such fury that I was certain would melt the guy on the spot. Maybe the fast had diminished her magical powers, and the old man escaped her wrath by hurriedly walking away apologizing profusely.   

By the way she was dressed, all shrouded in red, it looked like a newly wedded couple. Yep, newly-weds alright, whose honeymoon period had been cut short because the iron lady just thought so. Seeing their interaction, or lack thereof actually endorsed the adage that women are from Venus and Men from Mars. No wait. Mercury is the hottest planet right next to the sun, so I would bet this lady was actually a ‘Mercurian’ with a mercurial temperament.

So that was the redeeming act of the evening. Otherwise if Babujee had its way, we were in for a miserable evening.

Babujee is not offering a grand buffet by any stretch of the imagination. It’s your standard stuff – a few desi items with a couple of bbq items thrown in for good measure. If you’re looking for something extraordinary or uniquely different, Babujee is not the place for you.

 

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TGI Fridays Makes a Hash of Iftar Deal

TGI Fridays makes a comeback to Karachi after a hiatus of more than 12 years. Back then it opened shop at one of the most happening places of Karachi – The Point – now popularly called the Park Towers.

The Point was the place to be in 1998 as the mall culture hadn’t taken hold of this coastal town yet, and it was for all intents and purposes the start of that culture. And TGI Fridays was smack in the middle of this metamorphosis/paradigm shift.

20140726_204621

TGI Fridays
TGI Fridays
TGI Fridays
TGI Fridays
TGI Fridays Karachi
TGI Fridays Karachi
TGI Fridays Karachi
TGI Fridays Karachi
TGI Fridays Karachi
TGI Fridays Karachi
TGI Fridays Karachi
TGI Fridays Karachi
TGI Fridays Karachi
TGI Fridays Karachi

We did have some good times there as it was the hangout for teenagers. It also was probably the first restaurant that kickstarted karaoke nights in this part of the world.

Sadly TGI Fridays couldn’t capitalize on it and left the Pakistani shores just a few short years later. It’s back again in town, and this time around it’s not in an envious position since the location isn’t very flattering, and the Karachi market is brimming with foreign franchises. Back then the Pakistani consumers didn’t have access to so many choices.

We decided to take TGI Fridays for a spin to see whether they have learnt any lessons from their last experience and offering something different especially when it comes to Ramadan deals.

TGI Fridays wasn’t very keen to offer any Iftar deal in Ramadan even in their last outing in Karachi, and although this time around they’re offering a deal, they might as well have not offered anything at all. That’s because their Ramadan deal isn’t adding any value to the customer.

TGI Fridays Iftar Deal

So what is TGI Fridays’ iftar deal all about?

Frankly, it’s one of the worst iftar deals I’ve come across in my 14 years experience of dissecting Ramadan deals. Not because of the items it is offering in its deals, but because of the actual value it is offering to the customers.

TGI Fridays Iftar menu
TGI Fridays Iftar menu
TGI Fridays Iftar Deal
TGI Fridays Iftar Deal
TGI Fridays Iftar Deal
TGI Fridays Iftar Deal
TGI Fridays Iftar Deal
TGI Fridays Iftar Deal
TGI Fridays Iftar Deal
TGI Fridays Iftar Deal
TGI Fridays Iftar n normal deal bill
TGI Fridays Iftar n normal deal bill

TGI Fridays is charging Rs.1395 + tax = Rs.1618.2 for its so-called Iftar deal. But if you buy all the items in this deal individually, the price comes out to be the same, and in some cases, less than the deal. So in reality, you lose money when you opt for this deal.

The following are the items TGI Fridays is offering part of the iftar deal:

  1. Portion of Bean Fries
  2. Soup of the Day/Salad
  3. One main entrée from a selection
  4. Soft drink/mineral water/iced tea

Now let’s do a simple calculation to determine the value if you bought them individually:

  1. Portion of Bean Fries Rs. 300/3 = Rs.100
  2. Soup of the Day/Salad = Rs. 325
  3. One main entrée [Say Fish & Chips] = Rs.625
  4. Soft drink/mineral water/iced tea [soft drink] = Rs.125
  5. Grand Total = Rs. 1175

See what I mean? You could have had all this at only Rs.1175 instead of the Iftar deal of Rs.1395 if you bought it out of the deal. Even if you the bean fries at full Rs.300, even then the total price comes out to be Rs.1375, Rs.20 less than the Iftar deal price.

Yes, restaurants make a killing in Ramadan season by offering enticing deals to lure the hapless customer. But in almost all of them, there’s a semblance of value addition for the customer and it’s not a complete rip-off.

Like I said before, TGI Fridays’ Ramadan offering is probably the worst iftar deal Karachiites have ever seen. And TGI Fridays needs to spank the naughty boy who came up with this raw deal for the customers. Not a good start for their first Ramadan after the comeback.

When you consider awesome deals like what Johnny Rockets is offering, this one just pales in comparison.

 

And now we dissect the items themselves in the Iftar deal.

TGI Fridays Cream Mushroom Soup

The soup of the day as part of the iftar deal at TGI Fridays that day was cream mushroom soup. And it was delectable. Contrary to what most restaurants serve, the soup had a hefty helping of mushrooms and the taste was enough to send your taste buds into overdrive. It got us all excited about the main course ahead. Little did we know what horrors lay ahead of us.

TGI Fridays  Cream Mushroom Soup
TGI Fridays Cream Mushroom Soup

TGI Fridays Fried Mozzarella

As part of the Iftar deal, we were supposed to get the fried bean fries but instead they gave the fried mozzarella served with a sauce that use as base for a pizza. It was alright, nothing to write home about.

TGI Fridays Fried Mozzarella
TGI Fridays Fried Mozzarella
TGI Fridays Fried Mozzarella
TGI Fridays Fried Mozzarella

TGI Fridays Tennessee Grill Chicken

Now I’ve never been to Tennessee and apart from the fact that the place is crawling with ghosts and ghouls, which Hollywood flicks have led me to believe, I can’t really comment on how Tennesseans like to have their grilled chicken. But I can’t really believe they like to have their grilled chicken rock hard, as if it has been languishing in a hell-hole for centuries just like the ghosts of Tennessee’s, and that it has been set free just now by some accidental human intervention.

TGI Fridays Tennessee Grill Chicken
TGI Fridays Tennessee Grill Chicken
TGI Fridays Tennessee Grill Chicken
TGI Fridays Tennessee Grill Chicken
TGI Fridays Tennessee Grill Chicken
TGI Fridays Tennessee Grill Chicken
TGI Fridays Tennessee Grill Chicken
TGI Fridays Tennessee Grill Chicken
TGI Fridays Tennessee Grill Chicken
TGI Fridays Tennessee Grill Chicken

That’s how harrowing the grilled chicken experience was. Portion-size wise, it was one of the most substantial portions I’ve ever seen on a platter of grilled chicken in any restaurant. But then again, when you’re charging Rs.1025 plus tax for a mere grilled chicken, you better fill the plate properly. And fill they did with three large breast pieces sidled with a generous helping of fries and a not-so-generous one of onion rings. The two sidelines are a customer’s choice.

So the platter was enough to satiate your appetite. Only problem was, how to get through the ordeal of munching on centuries old chicken. You knew you were in for some hard times when you tried to slice your way through the first chicken breast. It was harder than cutting a piece of rare beef steak. And if by some miracle you did manage to cut off a piece, trying to chew it was a challenge that would have delighted the likes of Fear Factor participants.

And it was really mind-boggling because the presentation of the Tennessee grilled chicken was spot on.

Something just wasn’t adding up. You looked at the inviting chicken breast, your mouth salivated. You munched on the breast, your entire mouth went dry as if the chicken had sucked all your saliva into it.

There was a sort of a sauce that came with the chicken in a small pot that seemed to have a specific gravity even less than water! Now wait, it was a gravy. I’ve no idea what the hell it was, but it did nothing to ease the tormenting, apart from lending a sweetened taste to the whole proceedings.

We tried in vain to ease the suffering by adding the mustard, the bbq sauce, whatever we could find on the table one after the other. All in vain.

In the end we gave up. The damned chicken from the depths of Tennessean hell won.

TGI Fridays Swiss Mushroom Burger

TGI Fridays Swiss Mushroom Burger was a treat to watch. It appeared large, with a succulent albeit rare beef patty sandwiched in between with a hefty dose of melted swiss cheese, mushrooms, pickles and onions.

Until we bit into it. The sensation was…….. nothing. Yep. You heard me. Nothing at all. No wait. That’s not entirely true. You could taste the pickles. But that’s just about it.

It really is a feat to devise a burger garnished with a dozen things and yet they all add up to a create a senseless sensation. We were a bit apprehensive about the rare beef patty since it looked almost raw- it was that pink. But our fears were unfounded. There wasn’t any taste in it.

Yet again, we were starkly reminded of the Tennessean connection. Maybe it wasn’t beef at all, but the remnants of a witch that was buried centuries ago in a Tennessee haunted house and now imported directly from that God forsaken place for the twisted palates of the Pakistanis. Scenes from the movie The Conjuring conjured up in our mind.

TGI Fridays Swiss Mushroom Burger
TGI Fridays Swiss Mushroom Burger
TGI Fridays Swiss Mushroom Burger
TGI Fridays Swiss Mushroom Burger
TGI Fridays Swiss Mushroom Burger
TGI Fridays Swiss Mushroom Burger
TGI Fridays Swiss Mushroom Burger
TGI Fridays Swiss Mushroom Burger
TGI Fridays Swiss Mushroom Burger
TGI Fridays Swiss Mushroom Burger

The only positive aspect of this fiasco is the freshness of the bun, something which is seen wanting at most foreign franchises. Moreover, the beef patty was thicker than the bun itself. Now if only it had some semblance of taste as well.

At Rs. 900 plus tax, it promises to stuff you silly without bothering your taste buds.

TGI Fridays Prayer Area

The prayer area was basically a corner in the main dining hall that was in full view of the public and could accommodate just one person at a time. However, that wasn’t much of a problem considering most of the diners weren’t bothered to offer their Maghrib prayers, so you could easily offer yours if you wanted to. But if you’re female, that could be a bit of a problem, unless you’ve no issues offering it in stark view of everyone in the diner.

TGI Fridays Iftar Deal Verdict

TGI Fridays may have positioned itself as casual dining the world over, but the prices they’re charging in this part of the world are way above what the casual diner pays in Pakistan. Casual dining in this part of the world means having a Rs.200-300 fast food or a plate of biryani at a local restaurant, not something in the range of Rs.1000-1500.

So TGI Fridays prices are skewed more towards the fine dining range, and as such when a discerning customer pays a visit, he will expect an experience a whole lot more than just casual in terms of the quality of food he’s being served, considering the price he’s paying for it.

TGI Fridays does appear to have made a comeback considering the crowd they’re pulling in right at the outset, but that can be a misleading indicator in a city where foreign franchises are a dime a dozen and competition from the local food operators is stiff.

If TGI Fridays can just add some zest to their offerings, it does stand a chance to not let history repeat itself.

 

TGI Fridays
TGI Fridays

 

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Johnny Rockets Ramadan Blast

Johnny Rockets has been around in Karachi for just a year, and in that time it has managed to attract a decent following. Mind you, Johnny Rockets couldn’t have launched at a worse time than this, when all the burger walas both local and foreign are locked in a cutthroat battle to dominate the scene.

If Johnny Rockets had launched just a couple of years ago, it would have definitely garnered far more followers in half the time because there weren’t that many burger brands to begin with. But now with the advent of Hardee’s, Fatburger and Burger King, not to mention the local gourmet burger brands, the competition is intense.

Due to all this, Johnny Rockets did not have a good response at the launch. I checked it out just a day after the launch and although Johnny Rockets appeared to be doing brisk business, it was nowhere the response that Hardee’s or even Fatburger. People had to stand in queues just to enter Hardee’s for at least two weeks after the launch.

So it hasn’t been easy going for Johnny Rockets. But to tilt the odds in its favor, Johnny Rockets has come up with a tantalizing Ramadan deal for the iftar.

The deal may not have been so lucrative had the other burger franchises including Burger King, Hardees and McDonads come up with ‘bigger bang for the buck’ deals. As things stand, none of the foreign franchises has come up with anything to write home about and Johnny Rockets has been able to run away with the prom queen.

So what’s so special about Johnny Rockets iftar deal that others can’t match it?

The great thing about Johnny Rockets Iftar Deal

Johnny Rockets has been able to pull off what Pizza Hut did so well for almost a decade before losing their mind and dropping the deal. Pizza Hut plugged into Pakistani consumer insights that they like to be run loose on food without any constraints, and that they’re given the license to wolf down the food with unlimited drinks. This Pizza Hut deal was a runaway success and was emulated by so many not only local pizza parlors but other restaurants as well.

Johnny Rockets iftar deal is not exactly an ‘all you can eat’ offering but it does include unlimited drinks. What’s more the food offered is enough to satiate the appetite of the fattest of us. Most restaurants in Pakistan both local and foreign underestimate the importance of unlimited drinks. Soft drinks are the cheapest aspect of any restaurant’s offering, and by giving unlimited drink option to their customers, not only are they limiting the eating capacity of the customers thereby saving on the more expensive food, they’re fulfilling the craving of the Pakistani consumer for fizzy drinks, more so since this Ramadan has come in summer.

But Johnny Rockets leveraged this insight to the hilt. And maybe because of this, their food offering appeared to be more fulfilling than it actually was. That’s a brilliant strategy.

So what exactly is Johnny Rockets offering as far as the food is concerned?

Johnny Rockets Karachi Pakistan
Johnny Rockets Karachi Pakistan

A salad bowl, chicken tenders, burgers [choice of three flavors] and ice cream all for Rs. 800 + tax or simply Rs.928 per head. It may look pricey but when take it into perspective of the other deals in town which will set you back by as much as Rs.1500-2000, this is actually a bargain.

Johnny Rockets salad
Johnny Rockets salad
Johnny Rockets chicken tender
Johnny Rockets chicken tender
Johnny Rockets salad
Johnny Rockets salad
Johnny Rockets chicken tender
Johnny Rockets chicken tender
Johnny Rockets salad
Johnny Rockets salad

On the face of it, this may not sound sufficient but believe me, when you get down to eating it, it’s enough to make your stomach bloat like a balloon.

Johnny Rockets Smoke House Burger

Johnny Rockets Smoke House Burger comprises of a beef patty topped with beef bacon strip, crispy onion ring and cheddar cheese and smeared with the ‘smoke house’ sauce.

 

Johnny Rockets Smoke House Burger
Johnny Rockets Smoke House Burger

 

Johnny Rockets Smoke House Burger
Johnny Rockets Smoke House Burger

 

Johnny Rockets Smoke House Burger
Johnny Rockets Smoke House Burger

 

Johnny Rockets Beef Bacon Burger

Johnny Rockets Beef Bacon Burger is pretty much the same as smoke house burger minus the crispy onion rings. For all we know, this may have been a mistake by the cook because they both tasted remarkably similar.

 

Johnny Rockets Beef Bacon Burger
Johnny Rockets Beef Bacon Burger

 

Johnny Rockets Beef Bacon Burger
Johnny Rockets Beef Bacon Burger

 

Johnny Rockets Beef Bacon Burger
Johnny Rockets Beef Bacon Burger

 

Johnny Rockets Beef Bacon Burger
Johnny Rockets Beef Bacon Burger

 

Johnny Rockets Beef Bacon Burger
Johnny Rockets Beef Bacon Burger

 

Johnny Rockets St.Louis Burger

Johnny Rockets St.Louise Burger was the one markedly different from both smoke house and beef bacon. It comprised of the standard beef patty, swiss cheese, grilled onions, iceberg lettuce, pickles and some special ‘St Louise’ sauce.

Johnny Rockets St. Louis Burger
Johnny Rockets St. Louis Burger
Johnny Rockets St. Louis Burger
Johnny Rockets St. Louis Burger
Johnny Rockets St. Louis Burger
Johnny Rockets St. Louis Burger
Johnny Rockets St. Louis Burger
Johnny Rockets St. Louis Burger

Whether it was the sauce or the combination of different ingredients, the St. louse burger resonated with my taste buds more than the other two. In any case, it was nearer in taste to the classic hamburger with the patty appearing to be juicier as well.

Johnny Rockets Ice cream

There wasn’t any choice of flavors. You could only have vanilla. And the vanilla tasted pretty much like the vanillas of the branded ice cream walas like Wall’s and Omore instead of the taste of a homemade or in-house ice cream as claimed by Johnny Rockets. Hardly their forte if they indeed are making the ice cream on their own.

Johnny Rockets vanilla ice cream
Johnny Rockets vanilla ice cream
Johnny Rockets vanilla ice cream
Johnny Rockets vanilla ice cream

The bad thing about Johnny Rockets Iftar Deal

  1. The biggest shortcoming of the Johnny Rockets iftar deal is that it is limited to either four or six person. Any other number and it would cease to be a bargain deal.
  2. The second shortcoming was the actual size of the burgers for the deal. This wasn’t the same burger I had couple of months ago at Johnny Rockets. Those were humungous burgers that Johnny Rockets was offering at the start of its venture in Karachi.

         Now either Johnny Rockets has reduced the size of its burgers altogether, or it has come up with a shrunken burger tailor made for this Ramadan deal.

 

  1. The chili fries were a bit of a disappointment. It was claimed in the ad that the fries would be topped with cheddar cheese. Instead they were topped with some black ‘garam masala’ wala sauce that was not palatable.

All in all Johnny Rockets iftar deal is a must-try this Ramadan, but only if you can come up with four or six people.

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The sizzling Foodscape Of Karachi

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