Tung Nan is one of the ancient Chinese restaurants of Karachi from the time when Chinese cuisine was all the rage in this coastal city. Back then eating out meant going for barbeque or Chinese. Simple times.
Times have changed dramatically since then. Now you’ve the choice of a plethora of cuisines and restaurants to choose from – Italian, Thai, Mediterranean, Mexican, Japanese, you name it.
Chinese cuisine may have lost favor with the rich and elite, but it still resonates strongly with the classes just below it. The result – most of the Chinese restaurants based in the vicinity of Tariq Road for more than decades are alive and well, some in fact doing roaring business.
Tung Nan is located in a side lane of Tariq Road in between English Boot House and Zahid Nihari. Just across it is another old-timer Hong Kong.
We tried both Hong Kong and Tung Nan after more than a decade. Hong Kong was a disappointment with all the Chinese dishes reeking strongly of Pakistani touch.
Tung Nan on the other hand was a pleasant surprise. Smaller in size compared to Hong Kong which is quite big for a Chinese restaurant, it has a soothing ambiance very much what you would expect from a restaurant of this category- dark interior and all.
We ordered the usual dishes that we test at every Chinese joint- Hot n Sour soup as appetizer, followed by chicken fried rice, chicken chowmein, beef chilli, spring roll, fried prawn and sweet n sour prawn.
The hot n sour soup wasn’t the best that we’ve had at a Chinese joint, but it wasn’t bad either. To be fair, it was sufficiently loaded with all the goodies including prawns.
The rest of the stuff was some of the best you’ll ever have at a Chinese joint. Although none of us know what authentic Chinese cuisine does taste like, Tung Nan’s offerings were at par with the taste created by the giants of this category back in the 80s, if you consider that taste to be the barometer for judging authentic Chinese cuisine.
People who prefer less salt and spices are specially going to be thrilled by Tung Nan’s recipes. In this respect at least, Tung Nan is staying true to the Chinese roots. This is a healthy breakaway from the existing trend where most Chinese restaurants load their offerings with salt and spices.
Quantity-wise Tung Nan is just above average. In some dishes, it offers generous helpings like the fried rice but in others like sweet and sour prawns, quantity could definitely be improved upon.
All in all Tung Nan is a good place to have a quaint Chinese meal with your family at a price that is competitive with the other Chinese joints. A meal for five would cost around Rs.2,000 with everyone getting sufficiently stuffed.
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:
Kabuli chana chaat
Kala chana chaat
Cream fruit chaat
Aaloo ke pakoray
Kachori with bhaji
Chicken corn and hot n sour soup
Chicken tikka boti
Chinese fried rice
Chicken white sauce
Sweet n sour prawn
Chicken red curry
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.
Back in the 80s, when café rage was yet to hit the Karachi foodscape; branded franchise (Pizza Hut, KFC & McDonalds) were non-existent, and places like Copper Kettle and the Zamzama street were still in the womb, Chinese restaurants were the place to hit if you wanted to have an upscale eating out experience. Most of the Chinese restaurants in the city including Peking, Kowloon and Hong Kong were concentrated in the PECHS and Bahadurabad area. And the king of the lot was none other than Continue reading New Nan King – Just Another Chinese Brand?→