Category Archives: Desi

Can ‘Noonsey Nihari’ become the Queen of Niharis?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Babujee Iftar Deal at Port Grand Fails to Hit The Mark

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

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

Babujee Iftar Deal
Babujee Iftar Deal

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

Babujee Iftar Dinner Buffet

All in all the following items were on display:

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

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

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

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

Service was in general excruciatingly slow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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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

Sajjad Restaurant Iftar Buffet Dinner

Sajjad Restaurant is one of the lesser known restaurant chains in Pakistan dwarfed by the likes of Lal Qila abd BBQ tonight. In spite of the stiff competition, Sajjad has been able to carve out a niche for itself. It started out as one of the highway restaurants like Al- Habib but since then has spawned to include two more outlets, one at Do Darya beach avenue and the other in Sukkur.

Sajjad Restaurant is offering Iftar buffer dinner deal at its do darya outlet for Rs.1295. It hasn’t specified the number of dishes or even the type of dishes it’s offering or whether the tax is included in this Ramadan deal or not.

 

sajjad iftar buffet dinner
sajjad iftar buffet dinner

Sajjad Restaurant

Phone Number: 021-8267330, 03018229808, 03018290958
Address: Beach view Road, Do Darya, Phase VIII, DHA, Karachi, Pakistan

 

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

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.

Ponderosa – The Ultimate in South Indian Cuisine

Ponderosa is one of the oldest restaurants and the only one serving South Indian cuisine even now. It opened way back in the 80s and instantly became a raging success. People used to throng the place to try out what they perceived to be exotic dishes like Masala Dossa, Itli Sambar, Paun Bhaji and the venerable Thali.

This infatuation was fuelled by the arrival of the VCR in every household making Indian movies the staple diet of every Pakistani which showcased this cuisine in favorable light.

Although people in this part of the world are predominantly ‘carnivorous’ at least when it comes to eating out, they were in awe of these all-veg dishes from across the border which were nowhere to be found here except Ponderosa.

The location of Ponderosa also helped matters, situated at a major junction near the National Stadium.   Then it moved from that prime location and things have never been the same for them since then.

Ponderosa first moved to the building at Sea View which now houses the KFC. Didn’t work out although they had managed to create a pleasing ambiance there.

Finally Ponderosa moved to the Muhammad Ali Society food street where it now stands in a corner near the old Kaybees away from the limelight.

The place gives the impression of a restaurant that has seen better days. It’s still modeled on the 80s style so don’t expect the ambiance you would expect from a Zamzama café.

Taste-wise it’s still right up there where it was 20 years ago. South Indian food is basically Madrasi cuisine, and Ponderosa aptly captures the spirit of that cuisine. I would know that since I’ve had the opportunity to taste what the Madrasi people themselves cook, and it’s not farther from what Ponderosa has come up with.

The Dossa culture was introduced by Ponderosa which has been adopted by many other restaurants and small time cafes. Initially there was only the Masala Dossa which  basically comprises of Aalo ki bhujia. However, many variants have been created including Qeema Dossa, Chicken dossa, Paneer Dossa and even Onion Dossa.

We tried the paneer and the chicken version, having consumed the masala one many times before. Both were equally delectable, but at Rs. 200 and 260 respectively, they are definitely pricey.

The paneer version was filled with cubes of paneer with a healthy dose of onion and tomato. We felt that these two items were a bit too much compared to the paneer cubes. Overall the dish was delicious.

The other specialty of Ponderosa is the Thali, specifically the Madrasi special thali. It comprises of a big circular thal in the centre of which is placed plain white rice with three puris and a paapar on top. Along the circumference of the circle are seven small katoris (steel cups) having an assortment of dishes including halwa,daal, bhaji achar and the likes.

If you only go for the meat when eating out, this is one dish definitely trying out. Although not every item on the thali is sumptuous, most of them are, and at Rs. 210 per thali, a single person just won’t be able to devour it completely even if he’s famished. That’s how large the thali is. On top of everything, you get a glass of namkeen lassi with the thali.

Ponderosa has also come up with a Mughlai version of the thali. It costs Rs. 280 and pales in comparison with the Madrasi counterpart. To begin with, it has just five dishes on the thal two of which are omelet (very strange) and achar. The other three dishes on this day were chicken qorma, qeema and halwa. It just doesn’t offer you anything unique which can be had anywhere else. Better avoid it.

You can order extra puris which cost Rs. 60 for four purees. Very expensive indeed, but they are top-notch quality. They aren’t your halwa puri wali purees or bbq paratha wali, but a unique breed. They are neither soaked in oil nor do they crumble at the slightest touch.

With the city offering a plethora of diverse cuisines, south Indian cuisine has lost its allure. But if you’re stuck by a bout of herbivorous craving that won’t put a dent in your wallet, Ponderosa is definitely the place to hit.

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.

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.

Café Student – Losing focus on its Biryani

If there’s one success story that epitomizes the ‘Rags-to-Riches’ story in Pakistan, it is student biryani, now branded as Café Student. The brand has gone from strength to strength over a period of more than 30 years. And where did it all start? As a thelay wala biryani seller on the very spot where its first ever shop is now located in Saddar behind Rainbow Centre. Continue reading Café Student – Losing focus on its Biryani