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.

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.

 

[yasr_multiset setid=0]

Salt’ n Pepper Village Restaurant Ramadan Deal

Salt’ n Pepper Village Restaurant Ramadan Deal  is a bit on the expensive side at Rs.1391.  What’s more Salt’ n Pepper Village hasn’t even mentioned whether this is inclusive of tax or tax is additional.  Nor have they listed the menu items in their Ramadan deal.

Compared to other desi buffet dinner deals pertaining to Ramadan, Salt’ n Pepper Village’s deal looks like middle of the road.

Salt’ n Pepper Village Iftar Dinner Buffet

Salt' n Pepper Village Restaurant Ramadan Deal
Salt’ n Pepper Village Restaurant Ramadan Deal

Daily Dubai Restaurant Iftar Buffet Dinner

Daily Dubai Restaurant located at main Badar Commercial Area in DHA Phase 6, Karachi is offering an interesting iftar buffet dinner at Rs.850 + tax. The following is the Daily Dubai restaurant menu as part of its Ramadan deal:

Daily Dubai Restaurant Iftar Menu:

  1. Fruit salad
  2. Green Salad
  3. Chicken spring roll
  4. Chana chaat
  5. Qeema samosa
  6. Hummus
  7. Juices, Rooh Afza

Daily Dubai Restaurant Buffet Menu:

  1. Mutton ribs
  2. Malai tikka boti
  3. Mutton qeema hari mirch
  4. Reshmi Kabab
  5. Chicken Karahi
  6. Mutton Paye
  7. Nihari
  8. Chicken biryani
  9. Afghani Pulao
  10. Mix sbazi
  11. Special daal
  12. Steam rice
  13. Kheer
  14. Custard & Jelly
daily dubai iftar dinner buffet
daily dubai iftar dinner buffet

Daily Dubai Restaurant Karachi DHA
Badar Commercial Street 10, DHA Phase 5 Defence
Karachi , Pakistan

Phone: 021-35244018

Cafe Aylanto Iftar Buffet Dinner

Cafe Aylanto is one of Karachi’s fine dining restaurants that offers primarily Mediterranean cuisine. Every year Cafe Aylanto offers Iftar buffer dinner during Ramadan the specifics of which change from year to year. Cafe Aylanto’s Ramadan deal this year is one of the most expensive in Karachi this year at Rs.1895+ tax and this does not even include the soft drinks. The choice of items are limited too.

Here’s what Cafe Aylanto is offering:

Cafe Aylanto Iftar:

[su_list icon=”icon: cutlery” icon_color=”#d40606″]

  • Fish n chips
  • Mini chicken drumsticks
  • Potato sliders
  • Mini chicken n vegetable sandwiches
  • Fruit chat
  • Dahi phulki
  • Chicken Wanton
  • Filafel
  • Choice of mint lemonade or sherbet

[/su_list]

Cafe Aylanto Buffet Dinner:

[su_list icon=”icon: cutlery” icon_color=”#d40606″]

   

  • Assorted bread
  • Caesar salad
  • Turkish Topkapi
  • Cold Mediterranean pasta
  • Spicy Penny pasta
  • Beef kobedeh
  • Sole Mediterranean
  • Chicken Mandhi
  • Chicken Morrocan
  • Chatteaurbriand
  • Brown Rice
  • Assorted vegetables
  • Rosemary roasted potatos
  • Mini chocolate fudge cake
  • Warm bread pudding
  • Fruit Tartlets
  • Profiteroles

[/su_list]

cafe aylanto iftari buffet
cafe aylanto iftari buffet

Mirage Restaurant Iftar Buffet Dinner

Mirage Restaurant the newest buffet restaurant on the Karachi foodscape at Do Darya is offering Iftar Buffet Dinner deal at Rs.1200 inclusive of tax. Mirage restaurant hasn’t mentioned the list of dishes apart from claiming that they are serving upto 100 dishes which includes a cornucopia of dishes from Pakistani, Thai, Chinese and Mughlai cuisine.

Judging from my prior experience at Mirage restaurant in pre-Ramadan days, this Ramadan deal is slated to be a mouthful.

Mirage Buffet Restaurant Karachi

Phone Number: 021-32046900
Address: 2 Darya, Foods Street Devils Point, Phase 8 D.H.A Sea View, Karachi, Pakistan
mirage restaurant ramadan deal
mirage restaurant ramadan deal

Kababji Sheraton Offers the only Lebanese Iftar in Karachi

Kababji is Sheraton’s, in fact Karachi’s premiere Lebanese restaurant. Although there are others like Abaan and Damascus, none come close to Kababji in terms of offerings and ambience.

Kababji Lebanese Restaurant Sheraton Karachi
Kababji Lebanese Restaurant Sheraton Karachi
Kababji Lebanese Restaurant Sheraton Karachi
Kababji Lebanese Restaurant Sheraton Karachi
Kababji Lebanese Restaurant Sheraton Karachi
Kababji Lebanese Restaurant Sheraton Karachi
Kababji Lebanese Restaurant Sheraton Karachi
Kababji Lebanese Restaurant Sheraton Karachi
Kababji Lebanese Restaurant Sheraton Karachi
Kababji Lebanese Restaurant Sheraton Karachi

Kababji sheraton has been revamped since we last visited it. Although the décor is still very traditional, the lighting has been intensified a tad too much.

Iftar Dinner Buffet at Kababji Sheraton

Kababji’s Ramadan iftar dinner buffet is not as lavish as some of the other buffets in town, having about 25 odd items compared to 50+ offered by other restaurants, but it’s based on just one cuisine not offered by any other that is Lebanese whereas the others are a cornucopia of cuisines.

It costs Rs.1800 (Rs.1500 + GST + soft drink+ tip) making it one of the most expensive, if not the most, iftar buffets in Karachi. The fact that Kababji is housed within Sheraton hotel has got a lot to do with that exorbitant price tag.

The shawarma was the real deal unlike the ones that have sprung up all over the city. Most of them don’t know jack about creating a shawarma. The thing is, one of the basic ingredients of the real shawarma is the ‘charbi’ (fat) which is skewered on top of the slab of meat. When heat is applied to this arrangement via the burner, the charbi melts and permeates into the meat giving the trademark taste to the shawarma, something which is amiss in almost all the shawarmas available in Karachi. Kababji’s shawarma had this unique taste. So full marks to the Kababji sheraton team for maintaining the authenticity of the Arabic shawarma.

Ouzi or Baked lamb and spiced rice was the grandeur item personifying the Lebanese experience to the hilt. True to the Lebanese tradition, it was cooked in a gargantuan cooking utensil with an entire lamb, or in this case, a small goat. This colossal arrangement was placed at one end of the buffet table.

 

Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Shawarma at Kababji lebanese restaurant
Shawarma at Kababji lebanese restaurant
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton

Lebanese cuisine is rich with an assortment of kababs and we looked forward to dishes like the Orfali kabab or the Laham Mishwe Kabab or even Dajaj Kabab, unfortunately the only one available was Kafta kabab.

The kafta felt like too much had been done with them. Remember the adage too many cooks spoil the broth? That’s what probably became the fate of this distant cousin of seekh kababs. They were definitely made from lamb meat, judging from the overpowering taste of the meat, but in order to diminish this smell and taste, the cook had over-compensated by putting one spice too many. The result was a mishmash that tasted very artificial. Then one of the foremost requirements of a kabab is that it should be juicy and succulent and should literally melt into your mouth. These did none of those things. On the other hand, they were barren and when you chewed on them, they had a rough texture as if the concoction had been prepared ages ago.

Humour fish was good but we missed the Samak Harra which epitomizes Lebanese cuisine. Ironically it would have suited the Pakistani palate more because it provokes your taste buds something which the chef had tried to do with the other items. Humour which tasted baked was devoid of any spices or remarkable taste.

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.386865768033819.96417.161242853929446&type=3

The chicken wings surprisingly were the best dish on display surpassing even the Ouzi.

Shish Taouk was succulent and tender, the chicken cubes easily melting into your mouth, but even here you felt the recipe had been tampered with to gel in with the Pakistani palate.

The beef boti was alright, although there was nothing Lebanese about it.

And that’s precisely the problem with Kababji’s iftar buffet. Apart from the few standard items like Hummus, Tabouleh and Shish Taouk, most of the items were reminiscent of the Pakistani cuisine. Fancy names were given to the items which were derivatives of some Lebanese dish but had been adapted to suit the Pakistani palate. And if you check those fancy names, you wouldn’t find many of those dishes in Lebanese cuisine.

What was the reason for such a strange strategy is not known, but we could speculate that the management faced failure last year when it launched the Iftar buffet dinner with the authentic Lebanese cuisine and people didn’t respond to it well. So they resorted to these tactics.

Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton

But most of all what we missed the most and were expecting Kababji to offer in its Iftar dinner considering the exorbitant price was the Rubian Mekly – Breaded jumbo prawns fried, served with Lebanese tartar sauce and French fries. That would have made our day, justified the price every cent and evoked a WOW response from all the customers. It would have dwarfed all the shortcomings, and even turned this critical review into a flowery one overflowing with praises.

Although a lot of regular items from its ala carte menu were missing including Shish Kabab, lamb shawarma, muhalabiyyah and Konafa Bil Ashta, it wouldn’t have mattered one bit had Rubian Mekly made the Iftar buffet. And so it usually happens, restaurants get everything right, but the omission of one single critical factor spoils the whole effort.

Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton

What we particularly liked about Kababji’s offering was that although soft drinks weren’t included in the iftar dinner buffet, a plethora of juices and other drinks were on offer that were really refreshing. Ok maybe the orange juice wasn’t refreshing or even good, tasting like some medicine, the others including apple, lemon mint and grapes were up to the mark. Then there was the sweet and salty lassi. And of course the mineral water was included in the package.

The dessert section had more to show the Lebanese culture than the savory one, although here as well you could find the standard dessert dishes like the caramel custard, chocolate cake and chocolate pastries. But apart from that, you had the Baklava which is the darling of Lebanese sweets.

 

Overall it was a good experience at Kababji Sheraton but our last experience at their A la carte dinner was much better. Kababji should do away with trying to match the Lebanese cuisine with the Pakistani palate and instead focus on maintaining the authenticity of the Lebanese cuisine. You’re able to elicit a WOW response from your customers when you stop trying to be all things to all people and just focus on your forte.

 

Okay experience. Apart from a few standard Lebanese dishes, you couldn’t discern whether you were having Pakistani or Lebanese cuisine.

Too much effort made to make the cusine acceptable to the Pakistani palate instead of preserving and showcasing the authentic Lebanese delicacies.

At Rs.1800 (Rs.1500 + GST + soft drink+ tip) it’s a bit on the high side considering you can have pretty much the same stuff at a standard Pakistani buffet deal for much less. The WOW factor just wasn’t there at Kababji Sheraton.

Hobnob Cafe Iftar Dinner Buffet

Hobnob Café has risen from the ashes of Copper Kettle and straight away plunged into the Ramadan Iftar mania. Hobnob Café iftar deals which costs Rs.1200 includes all taxes and is more or less an emulation of Copper Kettle’s Ramadan deal offers the following:

  1. Chana Chaat
  2. Fruit Chaat
  3. Dahi phulki
  4. Chicken sandwich
  5. Aaloo Samosa
  6. Spring Roll
  7. Chicken corn soup
  8. Chicken wings
  9. Chicken crust
  10. Manchurian chicken
  11. Ginger chicken
  12. Egg fried rice
  13. Italian steak
  14. Bbq mix
  15. Fettuccine
  16. Beef chili dry
  17. Grilled fish olives and capers sauce
  18. Henny penny
  19. Beef and prawn sauce
  20. Mini-tarts
  21. Caramel Custard
  22. Chocolate cheesecake
  23. strawberry cheesecake
  24. Caked Alaska

 

One thing Hobnob Café has done tremendously well over its competitors is the use of soft drinks. While almost all its competitors offer a miserly glass of sherbet, or even if they do offer soft drink, it’s just a solitary glass, Hobnob offers an entire 1 litre bottle to each table in addition to a bottle of home-made lemonade. In fact they’re offering unlimited refills of soft drinks.

[slickr-flickr tag=”hobnob”]

And yes, there’s the option of hot beverage at the end of the meal as well. Now these three drinks wouldn’t put a dent in Hobnob’s pocket but the goodwill it generates is tremendous. If anything, this simple gesture won us over.

 

Although the service was generally good, we felt that the waiters were a bit late in identifying the empty plates on the tables and picking them up. This was evident even at Necos, the sister brand of Hobnob. The reason is that  both restaurants are a la carte, Ramadan being the only time they offer buffet meals. Therefore the staff is not that well-versed in the art of buffet.

 

Although both brands are owned by the same entrepreneur and serve pretty much the same categories of continental cuisines, you could clearly see the distinct demographics at each restaurant. While Necos had the A-listers frequenting it, Hobnob Café had an amalgam of SEC (Socio-economic class) A and B. Even Nilofer Saeed is well aware of this fact, hence her presence at Necos instead of Hobnob Café.

 

Overall there’s more diversity and depth in menu at Hobnob café compared to Necos.

 

The crusted chicken was an awesome experience. Akin to Arizona Grill’s chicken with mushroom, Hobnob’s version had the same feel to it but more generous pieces of mushrooms and an eclectic creamy cheese feel to it.

 

Fettuccine was a peculiar dish, eons away from its authenticity. By definition, Fettuccine is a type of pasta in the form of narrow ribbons. Here the pasta was nowhere to be found, unless the chef had shredded the pasta into pieces. All you could find was the sauce with all the frills. But without the main attraction, the frills all but fizzled out.

 

The egg fried rice was the standard  affair. So was Beef chili dry.

 

There’s something wrong with the recipe of chicken wings and drumsticks being used both at Necos and Hobnob Café. Not only was the taste awful, the chicken actually stunk!

 

The chicken sandwich was a pleasant surprise. Not many restaurants put much effort into getting their sandwiches right, but Hobnob Café came up with something that was truly scrumptious. The fact that it was served hot also enhanced the flavor.

 

We didn’t try most of the traditional items, but judging  by the taste of samosa and roll we did try, they weren’t anything to write home about.

 

Grilled fish olives and capers sauce was a no-frills affair. If you like your fish to be least tampered with; you’re going to love this. Generous fillet with no rich condiments.

 

Beef and prawn sauce had an overwhelming taste that pervaded your olfactory buds.

 

If you loved Copper Kettle’s Henny Penny, then you’re going to be disappointed with Hobnob Version. We don’t know what went wrong, but the magic just wasn’t there.

 

The Italian steak was a mixed bag. Just like Karachi’s ethnic wars on top of gas and electricity shortage, it had too much going at the same time. We felt the benign presence of pepperoni, then there was this larger slab of beef that wasn’t so benign. Sometimes you felt it wasn’t a steak but lasagna. They could definitely do with simplifying matters here.

 

The bbq mix was an assortment of bbq chicken pieces and seekh kabab. While the chicken pieces were sumptuous, the seekh kababs were pretty ordinary. It was a strange dish, completely out of line with the rest of the menu, and probably put there to add another dimension to this iftar deal.

 

And it was a hit with the customers as the dish was finished quite soon and wasn’t refilled.

 

Chicken Manchurian and chicken ginger didn’t look very inviting, probably put there as a filler material to up the number of dishes. Besides, there was enough attraction in the rest of the menu that you could afford to leave these two items. Therefore we didn’t test them.

 

We also skipped the chicken corn soup.

 

In the dessert section, you had a plethora of standard items including assorted mini-tarts, chocolate and strawberry cheese cake, caramel custard and pudding. And to trump it all, Caked Alaska in all its glory. Okay, maybe not in all its glory as the brownie tasted a bit out of character especially the freshness factor. It wasn’t on the buffet table and was served when you asked for it.

 

Contrary to Necos, most of the dessert items were fresh. In fact the chocolate cheese cake was finished by the time we had advanced to the desserts. And it wasn’t refilled. In a way that’s both good and bad. Bad in the way that the customer gets pissed off when he can’t get his hands on something that others had. And good in the way that nothing is left over to be used to piss off the customers the next day.

 

 

Compared to Necos, Hobnob Café offers more bang for the buck. Not only is the menu more diverse, it also offers soft drinks and the deal costs almost Rs.150 less than Necos. The difference between the two brands is that of demographics as well as the method of preparing the food. While Hobnob’s dishes are oozing with creamy concoctions with a bit of desi touch, Necos focuses on sparing use of artery clogging concoctions as well as sticking to the authentic recipes instead of introducing the desi dimension.

 

 

Of the deals we’ve tried in the last three years, Hobnob Café offers the most value for money in the category of Continental Iftar buffet. Maybe the reason is that this is the first year of Hobnob Café after the demise of Copper Kettle. Having a point to prove, they’re doing that extra bit to exceed the customer expectations.

 

In any case, if you’re looking to stuff yourself silly this Ramadan for just once with something other than desi and bbq items, we recommend you do it at Hobnob Café. Just ensure you make prior reservations.

 

You can have a look at the buffet table pictures posted on Hobnob Café Facebook page to help you nail your decision.

N’eco’s Natural Store & Café Iftar Deal

N’eco’s Iftar Deal Rs.1343 inclusive of tax and service charges.

8-C- Lane 1, Bukhari Commercial Area

Phase 6, D.H.A.

Karachi, Pakistan.

Tel: (92-21) 3-584-4517 | E-mail: [email protected]

N’eco’s Iftar Buffet Menu:

  • Aaloo Samosa
  • Aaloo Roll
  • Pizza
  • Dahi pulki
  • Chana chaat
  • Fruit chaat
  • Chicken sandwich
  • Pepper Steak
  • Pasta in Tomato Sauce
  • Cumin Chicken
  • Beef in oyster sauce
  • Chicken wings in bbq sauce
  • Mexican chicken
  • Necos fish
  • Seafood Al-Forno
  • Plain rice
  • Tiramisu
  • Chocolate cake
  • Cup cakes
  • Chocolate mousse
  • Kheer
  • French Toast
  • Custard
  • Lassi
  • Imli Juice
  • Lemon lime
  • Cucumber detox drink

N’eco’s Natural Store and Café is a novel concept in Karachi’s foodscape. Nestled in the midst of pimp habitat and infamous spas in the obscure Bukhari commercial area (DHA phase VI), Necos is an ultra-niche café fixated on natural and organic products. It won’t appeal to everyone’s olfactory sense and it hasn’t tried very hard to do that. Until now.

It’s a fairly small café with hardly enough accommodation for roughly 30-35 people.

Although Necos is only a year old, with chips broken from wall edges, it seems that the place was being used for some other purpose and that it wasn’t renovated properly when Necos management took over.

Necos Iftar deal will not be able to hold a candle to the likes of Roasters, Arizona Grill or even Lal Qila and Village both in terms of variety and value for money, but it does offer unique varieties worth having a go at.

Nilofer Saeed, the owner not only of Necos but also Hobnob Café and Hobnob bakery, was seen schmoozing around right off the bat, playing the proverbial hostess. It looked as if she knew pretty much everyone present. It also points towards the fact that Necos has a very specific clientele who return and keep the café running. Obama needs to take a leaf from her book if he stands any chance of getting re-elected.

What’s more, contrary to other restaurateurs, Nilofer Saeed was happily devouring her own delicacies along with the others, showing by example that she herself is the biggest brand evangelist of Necos.

[slickr-flickr tag=”necos”]

One of the biggest flaws we found with Necos Iftar deal was also one of the simplest. For a café having the brand essence of being in line with nature and then going ahead and serving lemonade made from the packaged Limopani is definitely not on.

How much would have real lemons cost Necos? It’s all the more ironic because they also served one of their fresh detox juices which was flavored with herbs and cucumber.

The Imli juice tasted more like vinegar drink and didn’t appeal to our senses. Then there was the chilled lassi as well. All in all the drinks section was covered pretty well contrary to Necos’ contemporaries who are content with serving a miserly glass of lal sherbet.

The chicken mozzarella pizza was delectable. The thing commendable about it was that the entire crust was loaded with mozzarella with the chicken pieces interspersed in just the right balance instead of being stuffed. Nilofer Saeed had also done well to keep the  pizza coming in small quantities right from the oven as well as keeping the plate on a small burner to ensure the ‘Al Forno’ effect.

The beef steak with pepper sauce had to be the best of the lot. But it’s no wonder considering Nilofer Saeed’s prior expertise with steaks at Copper Kettle. Of course those who prefer the rare or well-done steaks are going to be disappointed, because the pepper steak was just about medium but the beef tender enough.

Cumin chicken was sumptuous, a concoction where the herbal condiments of Necos were felt in all their glory.  It comprised of grilled chicken breast topped with roasted cumin sauce. Cumin (Zeera) actually is a small plant of the parsley family whose aromatic seeds are used for flavoring purpose. Strangely enough, the true taste of zeera didn’t come through, which was a good thing.

The chicken wings were the worst of the lot. The crime? Stale foul-smelling chicken. In fact the smell was so strong that even the strong sauce couldn’t stop it from pervading your senses.

Lesson: It’s better to serve one item less if that item has the potential to be your undoing.

Necos fish seemed to be another entrée accentuated with herbs and stuff to the extent that the real taste of the fish was lost in between. It comprised of fillet of sole, pan-fried and served in an Asian style yellow-curry sauce. Maybe a bit toned-down version would do the trick. Not that the entrée wasn’t palatable.

Seafood Al Forno was an interesting concoction of shrimps and fish. In cooking, al forno is an Italian phrase describing food that is “at/from the oven”. What’s more, it is usually used for pizza, bread and pasta.

In this case Al Forno phrase didn’t make much sense as the entrée didn’t appear to be ‘straight from the oven’ by any stretch of the imagination.

Mexican chicken, a sort of a chicken chilli was remarkably mediocre and looked like to be a filler item rather than any worthwhile entrée. Here again grilled chicken breast was used immersed in what they claimed to be spicy Mexican-style sauce.

Pasta with chicken and tomato sauce may not compete with the high-end pasta varieties but surprisingly scrumptious.

Beef in oyster sauce had the most peculiar of tastes, with the beef coming across as if it had been overcooked.

Desserts overall were disappointing. And the major reason for that wasn’t just the lack of variety but the lack of fresh products on offer.

To begin with, both varieties of cupcakes although appealing to the eyes were downright stale beneath the façade. Same goes for the humungous chocolate fudge cake with cream sandwiched in between that you could just devour with your eyes. Unfortunately not with your mouth, because your taste buds instantaneously told you that the cake had seen better days.

We didn’t try the Tiramisu but have a feeling it wouldn’t have fared any better than its chocolate sibling.

The saving grace was the chocolate mousse and the French toast with whipped cream and banana.  Their forte was their freshness which came out refreshingly in each bite.

We tried neither kheer nor custard.

Although a total of 48 dishes were being advertised by Necos, 26 dishes were on offer for the deal.

We feel Necos could do a whole lot better by offering more specialties from their main menu in the Iftar deal. One particular entrée conspicuous by its absence was the crepe. Crepe are not only cost-effective but they would add another dimension to this iftar deal.

We also feel that Fettuccine Alfredo would serve much better than the simple pasta with the tomato sauce, adding prestige to the buffet menu.

Also Crispy Fish which is deep-fried fish fillet and comes with sautéed vegetables and tartar sauce is a much better choice than Ne’cos fish.

The second improvement needed is that of freshness, especially that of the desserts. If any of the items is not fresh, it’s far better to avoid serving it, even if that means curtailing the menu. By now they should have a fairly good idea of what customers love and thus adjust the quantity of each item accordingly.

All in all Necos iftar deal is fair enough viewed in the context of their normal menu prices.  Go for it only if you’re looking for something different from the mainstream buffet bandwagon and are not concerned about the number of dishes or the value for money.

However, if you fancy a buffet loaded with artery-clogging concoctions, this is not the place for you.

Necos is finally spreading its wings, aggressively promoting itself on KarachiSnob. However, it’s torn between focusing on its organic retail products and its café offerings. It would do well to divide them into two different sections, placing emphasis on each one at a time. In short a rethinking of their branding strategy.

Arizona Grill’s Buffet Dinner

Nadeem Raja’s Arizona Grill is one of the category leaders in the upscale ‘restaurantscape’ of Karachi. As such it has a reputation to protect especially when it comes to Ramadan deals. Today’s consumer empowered by the social media has become extremely unforgiving. One false move on the restaurateur’s part and before you know it, the whole wide networked world is talking about it.

We checked out Arizona Grill’s stamina for dishing out the perfect iftar dinner by visiting on the very last day of Ramadan’s gastronomical orgy.  Apart from a few hiccups, the iftar bonanza is something you could rely on to tantalize your taste buds.

The purely continental iftar dinner is something which Evolution restaurant is credited for coming up. Although Evolution was a latecomer to the foray of upscale restaurants, it revolutionized the iftar dinner by offering its main entrées as part of the buffet offering. Before it, the restaurants refrained from including the expensive items and instead used the standard buffet items to fill up the table.

Evolution came and upped the ante, as well as the prices. In 2002 when the prices for a buffet iftar used to be somewhere between Rs.200-350, it came up with a buffet costing Rs.500 which was astronomical by that era’s standard. Of course today 500 bucks would fetch you only the cheapest buffet in town.But in those days 500 bucks was a great deal of money.

That didn’t deter the consumer from thronging the place. There was limited space for moving about what with the buffet items taking up half the space, and people were falling over each other trying to get their hands on the steaks and the pastas. It was complete mayhem. We know this for a fact because we checked out Evolution’s iftar buffet back in 2002 when it was first introduced, and we can safely conclude that Arizona Grill’s offering pales in comparison to that buffet both in terms of taste and the number of items on offer.

However, whether that offering holds good even today is  a big question mark since we haven’t checked on Evolution’s quality standard since 2007.

Notwithstanding the comparison with Evolution, Arizona Grill’s iftar dinner buffet is a force to be reckoned with. At Rs. 895 plus tax equal to Rs.1056, it may not have the most number of items on offer, roughly around 35, it’s the weightage of certain items that tips the balance in its favor. Here’s the complete listing of the offering:

Iftar Items
1. Chicken Wings
2 Samosa
3 Spring Roll
4 Pakora
5 Chana Chaat
6 Fruit Chaat
7 Dahi Barey
8 Egg n cheese sandwich
9 Beef sandwich
10 Chapali kebab
Dinner Items
11 Hot n Sour Soup
12 Black Pepper Steak
13 Chicken Shashlik
14 Beef Chilli
15 Chicken Mushroom
16 Vegetable Chowmein
17 Fried Rice
18 Sweet n Sour Prawn
19 Fried Fish
20 Country Fried Chicken
21 Pasta a la Pesto
22 Mushroom Lasagna
23 Mashed Potatoes
Desserts
24 Vanilla Ice Cream
25 Malt Cake
26 Cheese Cake
27 Egg Pudding
28 Apple Crumb
29 Bread Pudding
30 Fresh Fruit
31 Chocolate Mousse

In addition this, there were about 3-4 salads and two sauces, one with the chicken wings and the other with the fish. Both were sumptuous and could be had easily with the other items as well.

The fish was by far the best item on offer. It was golden crisp just the right amount without any hint of over-cooking. The same cannot be said of the sweet n sour prawn which left the impression of something which is slightly burnt. The same goes for the beef chili. In fact no one so much as touched this dish which even looked uninviting. The country fried chicken was quite good, just a tad short on salt, which was the case with the pasta as well. It not only tasted devoid of the requisite herbs that give a pasta its exquisite taste, but any other worthwhile meat ingredient.

The chicken mushroom was delectable, so was the shashlik. The steak was a bit on the bland side. Not the best steak Arizona Grill offers otherwise anyway. The lasagna was palatable as well loaded with mushrooms and stuff.

The iftar items were your standard affair. Nothing remarkable about them.

Coming to the desserts, the malt cake was scrumptious. The verdict on cheese cake could go either way – depends on how much you prefer the sweetening factor to sour. The Sports Bar iftar dinner offers the perfect blend in its cheese cake. Arizona Grill’s version was dominated by the cheesy part with even the base almost non-existent. If you prefer your cheese cake that way, then your’re gonna love it.

The apple pudding was surprisingly horrible. The mousse was simply divine.

We do feel that Arizona Grill could change this experience from being just pleasant to delightful from next year by just tweaking a few changes at little or no investment:

  • The salt content wasn’t upto the mark in many instances. It was either too low or too high. Just by ensuring the appropriate salt level, the taste of the dishes could be enhanced manifold.
  • Drop the beef chili. No one was interested in it anyway. Introduce either chicken steak or better still ‘chicken and mushroom crepe’. It already is a smash hit at its sister brand Roasters so Arizona Grill won’t have any trouble adding it here as well.
  • Both Shashlik and sweet n sour prawn taste essentially the same having the same reddish sweet gravy. A better option would be to remove the shashlik and introduce prawn tempura instead. No other restaurant is offering two prawn dishes. It would help Arizona Grill stand out from the crowd, especially since people love prawn dishes. And if it can afford to include its heavenly divine battered fried shrimps, that would be fantastic.
  • Ensure the prawns are not overcooked. Also since it’s the prawn pakora-style, it’s better to make it bigger.
  • Improve the level of service by focusing on even the minor things. We had one short date on our table. We asked at least three waiters for the extra date before it arrived. It wouldn’t cost a fortune to place some extra dates on each table.
  • One glass of lemonade is too stingy on the part of Arizona Grill. It doesn’t cost much, and it would help increase its standing in the eyes of its customers by offering unlimited drinks of the lemonade or any sherbet for that matter.
  • Replace the bland branded vanilla ice cream with a homemade version. Or maybe have a brand alliance with Hot Spot or some other well-known ice cream parlor and offer that. It would go a long way in enhancing the value of the overall dessert experience.
  • And now the worst part about their service. There was no prayer space. None at all. There was this tiny ‘dasterkhan’ on which you can offer your prayers one at a time and of all the places, right at the entrance where people were coming and going. Even if majority of your customers don’t pray, it doesn’t mean you can ignore this essential part of an iftar deal. There are always going to be a few who would. And the least you can do for them is to buy a decent Jaanamaz for them  and a secluded space to pray. This was the worst arrangement we found at any Karachi restaurant, upscale or otherwise. Even Fuchsia fared much better on this count.

In spite of all its shortcoming, Arizona Grill’s iftar deal was one of the best deals we tried this Ramadan.

Village Iftar Deal

This is the first Village Restaurant opposite Avari Towers and not the Salt n Pepper Village on Seaview that most people are familiar with. It has been around for more than four decades, one of the famous restaurants of the yore. It opened up on the famous Mereweather Road behind Palace Cinema in the 60s proabably owned by the cinema owner. Now it appears just a shadow of its glorious past.

One of our fellow critics fondly remembers visiting Village frequently in his childhood, which was a happening place back then. We decided to have a go at their Ramadan Iftar deals which they religiously come up with every year. Their price goes up every Ramadan just like the rest of the bunch, but is still cheaper than most of the others at Rs.650 which includes the tax, unlimited Roof Afza and tea. The cold drink costs Rs.40.

Judging from its ambience, price point and menu items, it can safely be put in the category of Mela type restaurants. And herein lies its problem. Mela has become such a branded force to be reckoned with in the mid-range category, that no one can compete with it by a long shot. Offering 54 varieties at Rs.449 + tax( which comes out to be Rs.526), it blows away the competition.

Village like Mela is open-air. However unlike Mela whose ambience gives the feeling that you’ve come to attend a wedding (it is located in a defunct marriage lawn) Village fares better on this count. It has a very retro sort of ambience  with greenery aesthetically embedded into the setting which exudes an air of calmness and sooth. Then there’s the candlelight placed on each table which further adds depth to the ambiance. Just be prepared to wrestle with the mosquitoes once the sun sets. Mela on the other hand does not have this nuisance.

Another advantage Village has over Mela is it’s location. Located just across the towering Avari with the defunct Metropole Hotel adjacent to it, it’s not only easily accessible but upscale enough. And this is something which may deter people from visiting Mela. Previously located on Shahrae Faisal opposite the majestic Lal Qila, it is now located smack in the middle of marriage lawns on Main Rashid Minhas Road. Just ask someone from the other side of Kala Pull to come to Mela and his response will tell you exactly what I mean.

Then Mela offers just one glass of Rooh Afza at the Iftar time while Village provides you with unlimited supply of the red sherbet throughout the evening.

One final advantage Village has over Mela is the number of visitors. Village has so few customers that you can easily access all the items whenever you want. Not so at Mela where you have to literally stand in a line if you want to have one of the sought-after items like prawn, fish and barbeque. It’s that crowded.

But that’s just about it. Village lags far behind Mela in terms of items offered. While Village offers a paltry 13 main items, Mela boasts of 20 plus items including the delectable Sajji. Village offers just two desserts, Mela around 10. There were just two salads at Village, Mela has a huge assortment of salads. And don’t forget Mela is Rs.125 cheaper than Village.

In terms of prayer and Wudhu facilities, both of them offer adequate space.

Here’s the complete list of items on offer at Village:

Iftar  Items:

  1. Kabuli chana chaat
  2. Kala chana chaat
  3. Fruit chaat
  4. Cream fruit chaat
  5. Aaloo ke pakoray
  6. Kachori with bhaji
  7. Samosa
  8. Spring roll
  9. Jalebi

Dinner Items:

  1. Chicken corn and hot n sour soup
  2. Palak ghosht
  3. Chicken Karhai
  4. Chicken tikka boti
  5. Seekh kabab
  6. Chinese fried rice
  7. Chicken white sauce
  8. Chicken chowmein
  9. Sweet n sour prawn
  10. Chicken red curry
  11. Chicken wings
  12. Fish n chips

The iftar items were your average stuff. Nothing remarkable about them. The salt content of the kachori bhaji was way too much though.

The dinner items were a mixed bag. The palak ghosht was full of bones with a rare ghosht here and there.

The bbq chicken boti was top notch. Usually what buffet style restaurants do is add a lot of bone-pieces to the platter. Not Village. They had ensured that each piece had succulent flesh to it. The seekh kabab were your standard offering.

The sweet n sour prawn were palatable with enough prawns thrown in to mix. The fish finger was disappointing. The crust was too thick, the pieces too small. The chicken wings were good but you couldn’t tell the difference between the bbq and them. The Chinese platters chowmein and fried rice were pretty much okay.

The chicken karhai was scrummy but we felt that the chicken pieces were not fresh. The nan and kulcha were dry and hard. Biryani is one dish that is present in every buffet big and small and here it was conspicuous by its absence.

The lack of salad and dessert options was a big damper to what overall could have been good value for money. Really, jalebi and gulab jaman alone do not make for a good sweet tooth experience. At the very least they should offer a pudding, a kheer and a kulfi/ice cream. Even one of those items would suffice.

The gulab jamans, by the way, were awesome. The tea, although not the Kashmiri type, was good as well.

At Rs.650, it’s not a bad deal considering that they aren’t many people visiting the place so you can have a peaceful private dinner, with not even the waiters infringing upon your privacy. Which was in a way a drawback. Whenever you went for another helping, your previous plate was still lying around when you came back. Almost all the waiters were huddled together at the back doing God knows what.

So service is a big flaw at Village.

village map

Rangoli- The next Buffet King?

‘I’m the owner of three satellite channels and I had a very bad experience at your restaurant. Your staff is very rude and I have made video of your place with my mobile and I intend to show this on my channels’.

This was the latest entry on the comments book at the front desk of Rangoli, the buffet joint that has managed to inch towards the top 3 buffet restaurants. The person hadn’t written his name but had given his cell number, which is a bit strange. Rangoli has established itself as a major player on the buffet scene which is paradoxical to this complaint. If the customer service of a company, especially that of a service provider sucks, then there’s no way it can become a top player. And yet Rangoli is still climbing the charts.

Maybe this complaint was a one-off case, but then our own experience wasn’t swell either as far as dealing with the desk staff is concerned. This would be revealed later in the article, but first the good things.

As far as the sensory branding strategy is concerned, Rangoli has really made inroads, making full use of 3 out of total 5 five dimensions, namely, sight, sound and taste. It would do well to integrate the other two dimensions (touch and aroma) as well.

The first thing that hits you (after dealing with two sullen fellows at the desk guaranteed to piss you off) is the pleasing ambiance. Although the food hall is brightly lit, the dining hall is dimly light with spacious seating arrangement and enough space between tables to allow sufficient privacy. A balanced privacy in a public place such as a restaurant is an important factor which many restaurants especially those at Zamzama choose to ignore. Rangoli has done justice to this factor.

Then in line with the brand essence of Rangoli, there’s the desi live music with tabla and harmonium and all. What’s interesting is they are rendering the latest Indian songs in the traditional folkloric style, imbibing the senses with a soothing effect.

Coming to the food items, first the salad bar. Unlike Village and Lal Qila, Rangoli has come up with a comprehensive salad bar with all the standard items and more. At Village and Lal Qila, you couldn’t even find the coleslaw, an item that has really hit off with the masses.

The second differentiating factor is the prawns. Prawn and fish are two items that you are almost certain to find in all buffet restaurants irrespective of whether they are desi or continental. However, the way they are cooked varies from restaurant to restaurant. The Tempura style is increasingly becoming popular for the prawns, and you’ll find it at both Village and Rangoli. However, Lal Qila and Shan-e-Mughlia are still stuck on the desi style of basun smeared prawns which isn’t as good as the tempura.

The third differentiating factor is the Sajji. Although Mela does offer it and it’s as good as the Rangoli one, Mela doesn’t belong in the league of these upscale buffet restaurants. In this league, there’s no one else offering the Sajji.

Then there are a number if minor plus points, like the pasta which is cooked right then and there for you and was by far the best dish amongst the plethora of offerings.

Like Village, Rangoli isn’t big on barbeque items, offering just two- chicken boti and seekh kabab. However, both were good enough with succulent chunks of chicken on offer. On the other hand, Lal Qila excels at this cuisine offering a number of diverse bbq items.

One of the minor shortcomings of Rangoli is the division of the food hall into two areas. The problem is that the second smaller section which holds a slew of delectable items like Sajji, Mutton Roast, Pasta, Chicken Handi and Pani Puri is obscurely located with no sign pointing towards it. What’s more, you couldn’t see into that room because the view is blocked by a frosted glass door! We noticed it only after we had moved onto the desserts.

The beef pasta was a pleasant surprise as not many buffet restaurants are able to make this properly. The fried rice were too ordinary. There’s the chowmein missing which has also become part and parcel of most desi buffet dinners. There is however the spaghetti which is alright.

Apart from the afore-mentioned dishes, no other dish on the menu is worth discussing. That’s because they are pretty much what every other buffet dinner offers with no great taste. There’s the nihari, karhai, haleem, Anda Chana, fried rice, thai fish and a number of other items with no great taste.

In the dessert section, although the ice cream on offer had only one flavor – vanilla, it was quite delectable. It wasn’t one of those tasteless ice cream brands which you find at most restaurants but a homemade specialty. Apart from this, the other items more or less the standard affair.

Now we come to their customer service part and why that owner of three satellite channels may have been rightly pissed off. When we arrived at the place at about 8.45pm, we were ushered into the dining hall with the warning that the first shift was going to end at 9.30 pm and that we better hurry up. We were taken aback and asked the head waiter how could he expect us to wrap up the dinner in less than an hour, and that also a buffet one?

What did he say? Okay, we could stay half an hour more but then we should remember taking care of him at the end. Sounds familiar? For all it could have been our policewalas asking for a bribe politely.

We went back to the counter, asked for the dinner+ bowling game deal where we would play first and then come back in the ‘second’ shift where there would be no time constraints. Now, here’s the best part. The guy at the counter refused to reserve seats for us even though we were paying him in advance to book the seat. His audacious reply – that the place gets full by the time we would come back and that they couldn’t risk even a small table lying vacant when it could be earning money by accommodating a customer!

That’s the worst reply you can give to your customer, that the next money making opportunity is more important than the present customer, that he’s no more than a money-minting opportunity. Well, in reality that is the case but you don’t bluntly say it to his face.

No wonder the three-satellite owner guy was pissed off, something similar surely must have happened to him.

It wasn’t just what the desk clerk was saying but his entire body language gave the impression that he didn’t give a damn about the customer, what he only wanted to achieve was filled tables. Period.

Although customer service is not the most promising aspect of any Pakistani business, the utter disdain for your customer is something which is seldom witnessed. With this sort of attitude, Rangoli is surely going to suffer in lean times in spite of all its competitive advantages.

Salt n Pepper Village – Feeling the Heat

Salt n Pepper Village, one of the most famous buffet restaurants of Karachi burned down a couple of years ago. It made a comeback after just a few months of complete renovation.

We paid a visit to check how it has been faring in the second life. Although Village and Lal Qila are not the pioneers of theme-based restaurants in this part of the world, they are the ones responsible for making this category a hit with the masses. Buffet has never been the same with the arrival of these two more than a decade ago. There’s not much to choose between the two in terms of choice of food or even the sumptuous factor. Some people rate the sumptuous factor of Village more than the Lal Qila’s, but all in all, both are essentially the same.

However, when it comes to pricing, Village takes the lead. Village, however, has brought some innovation in its pricing structure lately. Now a buffet costs Rs.650 from Monday to Thursday, and Rs.795 from Friday to Sunday, both prices inclusive of taxes. The soft drink which is, as per buffet style default not included, costs Rs.50. The Floating Ship however broke away from this tradition when it first opened and offered cold drinks free with the buffet. Not anymore though. In fact, the restaurant itself appears to be no more, for it was closed when we passed it on the way to Village.

Now that’s a tragedy. Karachi doesn’t have that many buffet restaurants, and now one of the few has gone down. Maybe it is due to the cut-throat competition or maybe it’s the after-effects of the recession. And this seems to be affecting Village as well going by not only its pricing structure, but by what ensued on our latest trip there.

Village well, I called it earlier to make reservations. The guy at the other end assured me that there would be no need for reservations and that we will get the table easily. I found it odd, but then agreed to it. However, when we reached the place at about 10pm, the place was swarming with people especially in the waiting area. When I approached the receptionist, she said we would have to wait. On which I narrated the earlier conversation with their staff about not reserving the table. Suddenly, as if by magic, a table was made available for us.

So, yes, sometimes it pays to create a scene, especially in front of prospective customers. The ploy to keep the rates down during the week-day seems to be working for them. Or maybe there was going to be a holiday the next day- Kashmir day- that made people come to Village in droves.

The last time we were here was before the fire, and the first thing that hit us after the perfunctory round around the main table was the shrinkage of the menu compared to pre-fire era. There were only three BBQ items – chicken boti, chicken and beef seekh kabab, that’s it. Compared to its competitor Lal Qila, that is peanuts. The salad bar was too limited. There was no nan or chapatti available, just a strange looking paratha and a puri paratha, unlike Lal Qila which focuses specifically on these items.

Here’s a brief list of the main items with the verdict:

S.N Food Item Verdict
1 Tawa Fish Average
2 Fried Shrimp Excellent
3 Chicken boti Average
4 Chicken Seekh Kabab Very good
5 Beef Seekh Kabab Good
6 Chicken Fried Rice Good
7 Chicken Chowmein Very Good
8 Sweet & Sour Fish Good
9 Batair Average
10 Beef Lasagna Good
11 Pizza Bad
12 Mutton Steam Roast Good
13 A La Chicken Bad
14 Chapali Kabab Average
15 Chicken Karahi Good
16 Anda Chana Good
17 Fried fish Didn’t taste
18 Nihari Didn’t taste
19 Haleem Didn’t taste
20 Biryani Didn’t taste
21 Sautéed Vegetables Didn’t taste
22 Mutton Karahi Didn’t taste
23 Aalo Tarkari Didn’t taste
24 Saag Didn’t taste
25 Mirchi Fish Didn’t taste
26 Paya Didn’t taste

All in all, there were about 25 main course items. Although the number of items has gone down, it’s not the quantity but the choice of items on display as well as their sumptuous factor.

For instance, many items conspicuous by their absence were tandoori chicken, reshmi kabab, malai boti, behari boti or kabab, kata kat, shami kabab, chargha and even  chicken lever, something which the Revolving Restaurant is offering.

The next thing we noticed was the crowd build-up at the Batair and Fried Shrimp stalls. People were literally standing in a line to get their hands on these two delicacies. While the fried shrimp was simply divine, far better than its competitors Lal Qila and Shan-e-Mughlia, the Batair wasn’t up to the mark

For some inexplicable reason, people were flocking to the pani puri and chaat stall which was designed in the form of a traditional thela. You would have thought that people would be eating that stuff some place far cheaper than a Rs.650 buffet, but then, consumers don’t think or act rationally, something which shrewd brands realize and exploit to their advantage.

The Tawa fish was a real disappointment, especially since it looked appetizing. The problem it had was, well, it had no taste. Just plain white meat. Meat which was oozing with miniscule ‘kaantey’. Extremely bad choice of fish for a buffet. A fish of this type is eaten when it is the sole object of focus and you have all the time in the world to consume it, not in a buffet where people are on a rampage of gastronomical proportions to try everything out.

The chapali kabab tasted like it was made with those standard packaged Shan and National Masalas, and not the genuine recipe.

The chicken and beef seekh kabab fared much better. A glaring observation was the lack of meat on the ‘chicken botis’ found in most of the chicken entrees. This was epitomized by A’ la Chicken, something which ought to have boneless meat, and yet when I took a succulent looking chicken piece in my mouth, I was treated to a teeth shattering piece of bone.

A pleasant surprise was the chowmein. Now this is a dish which is omnipresent in all buffet dinners irrespective of whether it’s a desi, continental or Oriental cuisine. And in almost all instances, it is made bad, average or worse. At Village, it was very well made. It looked to be cooked in a sort of garlic sauce with just the right amount of garlic essence to tantalize your taste buds.

The dessert section was more or less the same story. Some good stuff and the rest nothing to write home about. The ice cream bar with just two choice of flavors was a disappointment, specifically because the ice cream wasn’t any special offering of Village but one of those packaged ones, probably Wall’s. The Gulab Jamans were good, so was the Caramel Custard. The Gajaraila, although looked good, was nothing to write home about.

The item most popular with the masses was the Kulfi. There were two varieties available – one the falooda type, the other ‘dandi’ wali.

Salt n Pepper Village rose to the pinnacle of the buffet category by sheer quality and taste. It looks like to be losing the plot, something which so many restaurants do after having achieved the No.1 position. All is not lost though. They just need to realize that in spite of the crushing recession coupled with inflation, the competition is still getting tougher, and the way to combat both simultaneously is stick to those virtues which made you famous in the first place.