Category Archives: BBQ

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

Afghani delights at Al Asif Square Sohrab Goth

This is not for the faint of heart.

 

Women would not dare venture into this . Hell, even men would think twice about setting foot on this seemingly foreign land that doesn’t have any semblance to Karachi.

 

But if you can just find the guts to go there, you are in for some real treat. Here you’ll find the genuine Afghani pulao in all its glory.

 

The place is famously known by the name Al-Asif Square. It’s a small locality near Sohrab Goth, just where the Super Highway starts on the left hand side.  The area is the stronghold of pathans, particularly Afghanis. The moment you enter this strange land, you’re transported centuries back to the streets of Baghdad devoid of the modern amenities of life. The whole place is a maze of narrow lanes, an ancient bazaar protected from the onslaught of modernization.

[slickr-flickr tag=”asif”]

The food street is in the centre of the marketplace, where each café is selling pretty much the same Afghani cuisine with very little difference in the taste or price.

 

The place looks more like the set from the movie Prince of Persia rather than a piece of Pakistan, let alone Karachi.

 

So what’s on offer here? The forte of these Afghani cafes is the legendary Afghani pulao- the national dish of Afghanistan. Sure you can have it at a number of places around town, be it Boat Basin or Bar bq tonight, but nothing compares to what you get to have here.

 

Afghani pulao brimming with plum raisins (kishmish) and slivered carrot. The raisins seem to be roasted or fried as they’re maroonish instead of their usual color.  In the centre of it all, there’s a plum slab of beef or lamb.And of course, the rice are oozing with oil/ghee, enough to give you a heart attack.

 

Skewered beef boti simply marinated in garlic and onion water and barbequed with solely charbi (fats) to get a unique taste. And no masala of any kind.

 

The Afghani pulao large plate costs Rs.140 and the small one Rs.130. The seekhs (skewers) cost Rs. 180 a dozen, and they’re so small that one person can easily devour half a dozen.

 

You’ve the appetizer in the form of either a qeema masala or a chana daal and aalo bhujia.

 

The Afghani nans suck big time. You need jaws of steel to chew them.

 

Beef kabab marinated with a special Afghani condiment, laced with charbi and skewered just about right.

And everything is either beef or lamb. You won’t find chicken or anything else. It’s the typical Afghani cuisine.

In short,  this place serves the best combination of artery-clogging concoctions you can get.  So not only have you to be careful about any Pathan- Mohajir fight breaking out whilst you’re there devouring these delicacies, you’ve to ensure that your cholesterol level doesn’t skyrocket which it is guaranteed to do.

 

Like I said in the beginning, it’s not for the faint of heart both literally and figuratively.

Not recommended for a family outing.  It’s a completely male-dominated setting. It’s better that women steer clear of it.

Chullo Kabab Subhani-Remnant Irani Cafe

Chullo Kabab Subhani is one of the ancient Iranian eating houses in Saddar, from the days when the café culture was thriving, Saddar was then the real centre of Karachi instead of today’s congested and mangled mess of cars and smoke, and people used to frequent these cafes just for the sake of having an intellectually stimulating conversation. That culture of meeting people at cafes is being revived by T2F (The Second Floor) in DHA created by Sabeen Mahmud.

 

Chullo  kabab house may not be the popular haunt it once used to be amongst the masses, but it still packs a punch. Although it claims to be an Iranian restaurant, most of the dishes it offers are Pakistani. It’s claim to fame is the Chullo dish. Also called Chelo Kabab, it’s the national dish of Iran. Basically it comprises of plain rice with skewered pieces of kabab, afghani boti, chicken tikka boti, fish or whatever it is that you’ve ordered from the ‘Dishes for Foreigner’ category, lining the circumference of the oval dish in which it is served.  On top of the rice, a small slab of butter is placed which melts under the steaming rice.

 

The portion size is generous although at Rs.250, the price is a bit hefty considering you’re having a meal at an old restaurant in not the most pleasant of localities of Karachi.

[slickr-flickr tag=”chullu”]

The problem with the Subhani version of Chelow Kabab is that it’s far removed from the original recipe.

 

To begin with, Chelo (Persian for rice) Kabab comprises of Persian rice and not the Pakistani basmati rice. Then beside the butter, the steaming rice is topped with raw egg and Somagh (powdered Surmac).

 

Finally, the dish is already accompanied by Iranian sidelines that includes  a plate of fresh herbs called sabzi (basil, cilantro, fenugreek greens, tarragon, Persian watercress or shaahi), a variety of flat breads, called naan or noon (sangak, lavash, barbari), fresh white cheese (panir), sliced and peeled cucumbers, sliced tomatoes and onions, yoghurt, and lemon juice. Persian gherkins (khiyarshur) and pickles (Torshi) are also considered essential in most regions.

 

And to down it with, doogh – a Persian sour yoghurt drink flavored with salt and mint – even carbonated water in some versions.

 

All of this was missing from the Chullu Café Subhani version

 

Even the tradition of how the dish is presented is missing. The Iranian way is for the sidelines and the steaming rice covered with a tin lid are served first. Then the waiter arrives with two skewers which are placed directly on the rice and quickly pulled out with the help of nan-e lavash (flat bread).

 

The two most common kababs served are one barg (fillets of beef,lamb or chicken) and the other koobideh (minced meat kabab of either beef,lamb or chicken). And this combination is famously called the ‘Sultani’ (for the sultan).

 

 

We tried the Afghani boti and chicken boti versions and found both of them to be delectable. But it’s not something that’s going to be liked by everybody. One of the downsides of the dish is that it’s too dry – you just have the plain rice and skewered meat, that’s it. And the skewered meat is not going to melt in your mouth; you’ll really have to work at it. There’s no gravy to go along with it and if you remove the butter as well, you’re pretty much left with nothing. There are no sidelines along with the dish although a few fries and a solitary skewered tomato are thrown in for good measure.

 

And its not spicy. So if you’re into spicy cuisines, then you’ll have to order one of the Pakistani dishes they’re offering to go along with the Chullo . But then you’ll lose the unique taste of this dish.

 

It’s location is pretty much accessible. Just turn left at the Mehran hotel intersection on Shahrae Faisal if you’re coming from Metropole Hotel side and right if you’re coming from the airport side. About a km or two down this road, there’s an intersection leading into Saddar. Chullo  Kabab house is just on the left corner of this intersection. It’s pretty much visible. You can’t miss it. The place has a family dining hall upstairs as well.

 

Chullo  Kabab house is definitely worth checking out if you want to try something different from the same old stuff. Just don’t expect an upscale ambience where you can take the entire family or that special someone. An evening with friends is definitely on at this place.

BBQ tonight needs to fine tune its menu

Barbeque tonight continues to uphold its position as the premium dining destination in spite of a plethora of bbq restaurants including Kaybees, Wimpy’s, Zameer Haider, Ghaffar, Bundoo Khan, Meerath Kabab House and the entire Boating Basin food street. And this does not include all the other restaurants that are not bbq specialist but do offer them including the upscale Copper Kettle itself. Then we have the buffet restaurants – Village, Lal Qila, Shan-e-Mughlia – all of which offer bbq dishes.

So, in spite of cutthroat competition from established brands, what makes Bbq tonight stand out? A lot of reasons. Location is one major advantage that bar b.q tonight has. Nestled right at the junction which leads to Park Towers, Boat Basin and the Bilawal House, you just can’t miss the towering three-storey restaurant the size of a mini shopping mall. It can easily be considered the biggest restaurant of Karachi in terms of size.

It wasn’t this size always. Back in the good old days, bar bq tonight was a single-storey building and you simply couldn’t find a table if you didn’t book in advance. It used to be a  scene of utter chaos, with tables clustered all over the parking lot and sidewalk, and the cars actually parked far away in the residential area behind that you would be feeling hungry once again by the time you walked up to it.

Things have dramatically changed since then, you don’t have to wait for ages for a table to vacate. In fact you can go on a weekend with the place jampacked and still get a table right away. They claim on their website to have a table for you even in the peak hours and they deliver on their promise.

[slickr-flickr tag=”bbq tonight”]

Parking space, however, is still not enough, but you do have the option of valet parking.

The second biggest competitive advantage Bbq tonight is that of speedy service. In fact, make it the speediest service you’ll find at any a la carte restaurant in Karachi, which is commendable considering the number of people dining at any one time. Bar bq items are not something that you can prepare in a jiffy and yet bar bq tonight is able to do just that. The waiters will tell you that the food will be served in 15 to 20 minutes but it arrives even sooner than that, provided that you’ve not ordered a steak or something along those lines.

The portion size as well as the sumptuousness factor varies from dish to dish. For instance the Shish Taouk (a Turkish dish) that we tried was really delectable but the quantity was abysmally low considering that it’s priced at Rs.400. At that price point, a mere two seekhs and that also comprising of tiny chicken pieces is not acceptable.

The Royal Kabuli Pulao, well, there was nothing royal about it. If anything, it was more like a commoner than a royal. Priced at Rs.350,  the portion size was sufficiently large but the taste wasn’t up to the mark. For one, you would expect either lamb or beef to be used in a kabuli pulao, Bar bq tonight used chicken. What this did was keep the pulao bland which definitely would have benefited from the use of red meat which has its own unique flavor unlike chicken and would have brought the flavor in the pulao.

The bar bq mutton ribs are more of a royal treat than the pulao. Priced at a hefty Rs.850, the portion size is enormously generous, fit for three persons. And they’re definitely sumptuous, having just the right amount of charcoal effect without the bitter taste that ensues if they’re a bit overdone.

One minor glitch is the way they’ve coined their menu. Just look at the items under the Chef’s Recommendation heading. If their chef is recommending stuff like french fries and dal, then God help us.  In fact literally everything on the menu is either a specialty or a chef’s recommendation.

Our verdict is that although overall Barbeque tonight is a great place for enjoying some truly sumptuous offerings, not every item on the menu is worth trying out. The place also offers steaks and stuff, but you wouldn’t want to indulge in them here of all the places. Stick to barbeque items if you’re dining at barbeque tonight.

Ghaffar Kabab House -Still going strong

Sheikh  Abdul  Ghaffar Kabab House has been around the Karachi foodscape for almost two decades, and yet it hasn’t gained the popularity as some of the other eateries in its genre. Two major reasons for that. One, the place is situated in an obscure lane in a residential district of Delhi Mercantile Society. Secondly, it is the only major eating house in that particular lane, hence it cannot be really called a food street, although looking at the number of people swarming around with cars jampacked, it definitely is a happening lane.

However, most of the people visiting it are the people living nearby. Very few people outside of this area know about it, and that also only through word of mouth.

In contrast, hardly a few blocks away is the Alamgir welfare street with Gaffar’s nemesis Zameer Haider that is generating far more publicity and customers than Ghaffar.[slickr-flickr tag=”ghaffar”]

Ghaffar offers a plethora of different items although its specialty remains kabab and malai boti. On this particular visit, we tested three items from its menu, namely, malai boti, behari boti and maghaz nehari.

Nehari is not Ghaffar’s forte and yet it manages to churn out quite an acceptable taste. The spices were also quite balanced unlike the Nihari Inn one which is brimming with spices so much so that you can’t discern the actual taste of the dish.

The Malai Chicken Boti was as always delectable, with the spices just enough to tingle your taste buds without burning them to hell. However, the quantity has gone down drastically (see the snapshot) whereas the price has climbed to an exorbitant Rs.150. Before, two people could share one plate if they had one other item to go with it. Not anymore.

The Behari Beef Boti was delicious as well, and although its price is barely reasonable at Rs.86 per plate, the quantity is an issue here as well. Also the pieces of beef were a bit too stiff and they needed to be marinated and grilled a bit more.

The Nehari quantity was quite a mouthful, but then so was the price at Rs.140.  Paratha, particularly the one that goes with the barbeque items is not something every eating house can churn out perfect. Most of the time it’s way too ‘karak’ and crumbles in your hands so much so that you cannot make a decent ‘nivala’ with it.

Ghaffar’s paratha are as close to perfect as you can get- large in size, no crumbling fuss, and sufficient width, simply great. The chatni they serve with the meal is not that good, and they really need to improve on that count. The Nan’s were good as well.

All in all, Ghaffar is a good place to crash if you are in the mood for some BBQ delicacies but don’t want to spend a fortune at BBQ tonight.

Wimpy’s Snacks -BBQ Specialist

Wimpy’s is one of the oldest players of Muhammad Ali Society food street specializing in barbeque items. Along with Kaybees it was a force to be reckoned with in the 80s and early 90s. It packs a punch even today but has lost most of its luster owing to winds of change as well as more competitive entrants in the arena like Pizza Hut and KFC. Then there is its arch rival Kaybees which has gone far ahead of it in terms of brand image and promotion.

On top of everything, Wimpy’s does not have the most enviable of locations, standing deep in one of the by-lanes. And yet the place keeps buzzing on weekends.

It’s not that it hasn’t tried to reposition itself, creating better seating arrangement and ambiance and adding further depth to the menu by including snacks. However, it’s forte remains its barbeque items, some even better than its foe Kaybees.

[slickr-flickr tag=”wimpyssnacks”]

The one competitive advantage that Wimpy’s has on that entire street is that it has chicken lever on its menu, in fact the best bbq chicken lever in town although it also offers the option of fried lever.  The fried version is in the form of katakat and is delectable as well. Both versions cost a reasonable Rs.100 and the katakat version is more than sufficient for two persons.

It’s parathas are disappointing though, so crispy that they literally crumble in your hands. Kaybees parathas are the complete opposite with just the right balance of crispiness and firmness to be enjoyed with a meal.

Other bbq items of Wimpy’s are good, but with so many bbq walas operating in the city, Wimpy’s just doesn’t have that clout it used to have anymore.

Coming to its fast food items, we tried the grilled chicken sandwich. Priced at Rs.165, quantity-wise it scored high with ample serving of fries and coleslaw, but the sandwich itself wasn’t up to the mark. It was deep-fried to the point of being burnt and the taste was pretty much bland.

The beef burger priced Rs.125 was a major disappointment. The beef patty tasted like it had been cooked in prehistoric times. The bun wasn’t fresh. What’s left to report? At least the fries and coleslaw quantity was sufficient enough.

The club sandwich priced Rs.135,however, fares much better than both the beef burger and the grilled sandwich. It is much more palatable with just the right balance of chicken,egg and salad. And it will fill your stomach nicely.

Wimpy’s has tried to emulate Kaybees by adding lots of seating space. However, it has failed to match the ambiance provided by its rival. In other words, the sort of gentry that comes to Kaybees won’t end up at Wimpy’s. The best place to consume Wimpy’s delicacies is still outside in the fresh air where it has put up chairs and tables.

Zeenan Snacks-80s Star

Zeenan is one of those ancient restaurants that have survived the winds of change. Located on a strategic corner of Muhammad Ali Society Food Street opposite the ever-green Kaybees, it’s past its glorious days of the 80s and early 90s when the street was famous for everything barbeque. Then the wave of fast food swept the city and Kaybees was the first one to leverage it and go way past the compet

ition.

Zeenan just waded the water of the snack category instead of taking the plunge. In the end it manages to be specialist of neither. However, it’s still standing unlike it’s neighboring restaurant Spinzer which was part of the raging success along with Kaybees and Vimpy’s in the good old days.

On a weekend night, Zeenan manages to get quite a few customers but for the rest of the week it’s mostly deserted.

Part of the reason it manages to survive is its enviable position on a corner of a famous food street. The other part has got to do with its offerings. The best dish we have tasted so far is the Grilled Chicken Cheese Sandwich which is the best in this category. Most of the grilled sandwiches you will try in the same category of restaurants are either too well-done or just filled with chunks of chicken pieces with no real taste. Zeenan on the other hand has a definite taste, and its sumptuous factor is comparable to that of the Kaybees’ grilled sandwich.

The other good thing about Zeenan’s offering is the coleslaw. Very few cafes and restaurants are able to prepare the perfect coleslaw. Zeenan apparently has mastered this ability. On the face of it may not appear that big a deal but the way this salad has seeped imperceptibly into the hearts of the Karachiites, no snack is complete without it. And the better the taste of this sideline, the more appealing the meal. Even the compulsory fries were better than most snack bars.

Their beef burger, however, is no match for the grilled sandwich. Which is surprising considering that the sidelines are the same good ones. We found that the patty was a bit rubbery although taste-wise it wasn’t that bad. And the size of the burger was way too small considering its price of Rs.100 +.

The brain masala wasn’t much to write home about either.

The biggest reason Zeenan hasn’t met with the sort of success Kaybees has enjoyed is its lack of presentation and an aesthetically pleasing ambiance. While Kaybees has piled on the bells and whistles to its brand positioning, Zeenan offers a bland picture reminiscent of the scene in the 80s.

Zeenan Snacks could be a whole lot more if only it invests shrewdly into its presentation. While going head-on against Kaybees may not be the cleverest thing to do, emulating some of their tactics especially the aesthetics part would work wonders for it.

Donisl – BBQ or Karhai Specialist?

Donisl is one of those- hmmm –let’s see, it’s not exactly a restaurant or a fine dining haven, for you eat on the roadside – but more of a classic café in the European sense. Anyway, it’s one of those places that has spawned an entire food street in its wake. People refer to that particular street either by Donisl or Cool 90s ‘patti’ (strip). So it’s that old and famous.

But is it good enough? It must have been in its heydays, because no brand can become a hit with the consumers without offering real value to them, or at least value which they perceive to be substantial.

So, has Donisl gone past its ‘best-before’ date? We paid it a visit to check on its current brand equity.

Going by the crowd at the place, the brand equity is still going strong, there’s no question about it. It’s just that when you look beneath the surface, the value is gradually eroding as perceived by us the consumer.

For starters, the service is way below par. You ask for something, and it’s going to be given to you after ages. And I’m not even talking about the edible item as yet. The bill was the only thing that was delivered promptly, and one person out of our party was so disgruntled with the service that he exhorted us not to dish out a single penny for the tip.

We ordered the standard Chicken Karhai- the gravy version- priced at Rs.540. Going by the quantity delivered by the other karhai walas – we ordered a plate of Behari Kabab and Beef Boti as well, just to make sure we don’t return hungry.

The Karhai came almost 45 minutes after, and even that after much coaxing, but still there was no sign of the BBQ items.

Taste-wise their chicken karhai is nothing to write home about. Just the standard one with lots of tomatoes and a few green chillies thrown in for good measure, something which you can have at any average karhai wala. The quantity wasn’t fantastic either. If you’re not going to be having anything else other than the karhai, then the Rs.540 karhai is sufficient for just three healthy adults. You add a fourth person and you would need to order additional items.

After another 10 minutes came the BBQ items. Although we had ordered a behari kabab and a boti plate, both items were boti. What’s more it was so mildly BBQed that the meat was a challenge to chew. Even here the quantity lacked punch, costing Rs.85.

The parathas were the only highlight of the evening. Most brands are unable to churn out the perfect paratha with the right balance of crustiness and tenderness. Donisl excels at this.

Finally when the bill came, although both boti items were served, one item was priced for the kabab. Since there wasn’t much difference in terms of price of the two, we let that go.

Maybe the place serves you better on a weekday than a weekend because of the huge workload on a weekend, but that’s no excuse for Donisl not to deliver the value on a weekend. After all, the consumer is paying the full price even on a weekend for which he rightly expects value for money.

Donisl needs to get its act together if it is to continue to prosper as a brand.

Spicy Chicken on Boating Basin

Chicken handi alongwith karhai gosht is one of most famous desi cuisines in Karachi. Once confined to consuming at home, it became the darling of eating-out when the fad of going to roadside ‘khokas’ on the highway became a full-fledged trend. The conversion of fad to trend was largely helped by the advent of proper restaurants that opened up on the highway seizing upon the opportunity of karhai mania.

A decade later chicken handi is going through metamorphosis and several different versions have made their way into the hearts and stomachs of voracious consumers. Spicy Chicken on Boating Basin is one such café that is leveraging the handi love affair to the hilt.

We paid them a visit on a recommendation to try out their chicken makhni handi. We were told they used barbequed chicken pieces in their handi, however, they didn’t taste like barbequed when we tried. If they were barbequed at all, it was really rare.

Made with cream and possible cheese, it is one of the heaviest gastronomical delights you’ll ever taste, it is that rich- guaranteed to make your cholesterol level shoot through the roof. And it doesn’t come cheap. A full handi worth a single kg of chicken costs a whopping Rs.700, the half version Rs.400. But it is definitely a dish to be tried.

Spicy Chicken however is not the pioneer of this version. It is not clear who is, but there are many cafes who offer this version including Baithak on the same food street.  The level of spiciness varies from place to place.

We also tested their Afghani Tikka and Behari Kabab. Afghani tikka is not everyone’s cup of tea. Made with lamb meat on skewers along with the fats (charbi) separately placed, many people are repulsed by this arrangement. And it’s not spicy either. However, if you like lamb meat or relish the thought of devouring skewered lamb charbee, you’re gonna love this. Recommended only for fans of Afghani cuisine, especially since just two skewers cost Rs.240.

The behari kabab was your standard affair, way too spicy but scrumptious nonetheless. At Rs.150 it was on the expensive side as well.

The garlic nan (Rs.30) didn’t have enough of garlic essence to be really consider a garlic nan. The paratha (Rs..25) was crumbling like hell.

The raita although delicious was devilishly expensive at Rs.50.

All in all, Spicy Chicken is a good place to delve into local delicacies. But don’t expect it to have any advantage either cost-wise, ambiance-wise or even taste-wise compared to the rest of the bunch on Boating Basin.

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

The Copper Kettle on Stadium Road

Copper Kettle is the father of the ‘cafesque’ restaurant category in Karachi’s foodscape. Pre-Copper Kettle, Chinese restaurants ruled the roost followed by a few Usmania-style restaurants. With the advent of Copper Kettle, the whole scenario underwent a paradigm shift.

With competition in this category heating up, Copper Kettle has responded with diversification and expansion. The diversification strategy culminated in the creation of a new brand Hobnob – a bakery which serves most of the dessert delicacies of the parent brand. The expansion strategy has been much more subdued with just a single other outlet operating in Karachi on National Stadium road.

Although the prices at this joint are the same as the original one on Zamzama, some innovation has been introduced into this joint to make it more appealing. And that innovation is a buffet dinner on the first floor whereas the A la carte version is maintained on the ground floor.

We didn’t try the buffet version but the grapevine has it that it’s nothing to write home about. But then, what can you expect from a buffet that costs a mere Rs.500 at an upscale joint? We did check out the items on the buffet, and although there aren’t that many to begin with, whatever items they do offer look to be good value for money.

We went for the A la Carte version and apart from their usual items, we decided to have a go at their desi offering as well.

The desi item we did try – BBQ platter – was alright, nothing spectacular that you would expect from CK. It comprised of two large seekh kababs and an assortment of behari kabab,bihari boti and chicken boti. The nans that were served with it were horrendous. It would have been better had they served paratha or even chapathi with it.

Henny Penny-chicken stroganoff
Henny Penny-chicken stroganoff

The fried shrimps weren’t any good either. In fact when you consider the price and the comparison with Arizona Grill and Roaster’s Battered Fried Shrimp, it would pale in comparison. Its biggest drawback was that the crust was too thick reeking of ‘bason’ and overshadowing the taste of the core ingredient- the shrimp. Simply the worst item that we ordered on this visit.

BBQ Platter -Copper Kettle
BBQ Platter -Copper Kettle

The Henny Penny (Boneless chicken stroganoff in fresh cream and mushrooms, served with  fried rice) was as usual brilliant but the quantity was a bit on the down side.

Jumbo Prawns-Copper Kettle
Jumbo Prawns-Copper Kettle

The Chicken Chuck was good as well with just the right amount of stuffing, remarkably similar to what is on offer at Secret Recipe. Quantity-wise it topped the list.

Chicken Chuck-Copper Kettle
Chicken Chuck-Copper Kettle

The Caked Alaska wasn’t upto the mark either. Presentation-wise it was right up there but the brownie/cake didn’t have the usual brilliant taste. On top of that the ice cream was melting like hell and we had to plunge into it at full speed before only the milk remained. At Rs.230 plus tax, you expect better than this.

Caked Alaska-Copper Kettle
Caked Alaska-Copper Kettle

Overall, this outlet seems to have something amiss with respect to the original joint. The taste wasn’t quite there nor was the quantity. Is it a deliberate ploy or just some operational shortcoming isn’t clear.

Whatever the shortcomings, the joint itself is doing good business. It’s neighbor Domino’s had a terrible time with the place deserted most of the time. It eventually moved from there to the happening strip of University Road adjacent to the Pizza Hut.

Marketing-wise Copper Kettle is following the standard format – have a facebook page with all the offerings of the brand including hi-resolution pictures of the items, and then offer special promotion deals from time to time specially for the lunch time when business is slowest.

And Copper Kettle is doing well here what with 10,667 fans as of writing this review. The page and the strategy was developed by Shahjehan Chaudhary’s Homexpress which is responsible for most of the upscale restaurants’ social media strategy.

It is an effective strategy which works for most restaurants making use of it although it can backfire a bit as well like it did for CK when someone complained on their facebook wall about the quality of caked alaska being offered on the special deal.

But at least they’re getting the feedback in real time, and if they’re serious about maintaining their quality, they will pay heed to the comments emanating online.

Qasr-Al-Nakheel – The great Arabic Hype

Qasr-Al-Nakheel is a very shrewd restaurant simply for advertising regularly in Jang. And the ad it has positioned in Jang gives an impression of a large restaurant. In reality it’s just one of the small café-esque joints on the Boating Basin food strip, the one with no point of differentiation between them, let alone innovation. Except the advertising aspect which Qasr-Al-Nakheel is utilizing to the maximum, which is evident from the number of people frequenting the place as opposed to its neighbors.

This just goes on to show the power of advertising, pure and simple, even though it’s ad is not that good. All it has done is place an average ad in the right place, that’s it.

So Qasr-Al-Nakheel has succeeded in communicating its offering to its target market. However, the quality of its offering is a different matter altogether, as we found out ourselves.

It has a diverse menu and we tried a number of things across different cuisines. We tested the Aghani platter, Aghani pulao and Prawn Tikka, and paratha to go along with it.

These days the platter/thali phenomenon is catching on fast and Qasr-Al-Nakheel has a number of such dishes. However, it would do well to not only increase the quantity of items in the platter but also the quality, in other words the sumptuousness factor.

In the Afghani platter we tried, it offered afghani boti and afghani kabab, salad, a couple of chatnis and some rice. For one, we were hard pressed to find the difference between the boti and the kabab. Not only did they both look the same, they tasted the same as well. The rice were below par. The salad and chutni/raita were good. Overall it didn’t make for a very appetizing delicacy, especially since it cost Rs.280.

The Aghani pulao fared better. You could literally feel the difference between the rice served in this pulao and the one in the platter. The Prawn tikka was alright, but it’s quantity was not. At more than Rs.200 you would expect the tikka to be fulfilling enough. It was also a bit on the spicier side, but that’s not a shortcoming since most consumers prefer the hot stuff.

The problem with Qasr-e-Nakheel is the problem which most restaurants in this part of the world have, that is, confused positioning.  They want to offer everything to everyone but end up offering average offering. The same problem persists with Qasr-Al-Nakheel. The name implies that it’s a Arabic café and although it does offer items like the Shawarma and Hummus to augment that brand essence, there are just not enough items to justify the Arabic orientation. What has Afghani cuisine got to do with Arabic cuisine? What has Shashlik go to do with Arabic cuisine? Absolutely nothing.

And therein lies Qasr-Al-Nakheel’s problem. In trying to be everything, it is unable to offer scrumptious dishes because there are just too many items on offer to allow the chef to focus on that critical factor. It may continue to do good business for some time on the strength of its ad in Jang and its location on the Boating Basin. But if it really wants to stand out from the crowd and build a brand that lasts like Jan’s Broast or Student Biryani, it will have to cut down on the number of cuisines and focus solely on Arabic dishes.  Experiment but all within the confines of that one cuisine that is your brand essence.

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.