Category Archives: Rs.1000+

OPTP Ramadan Deal

OPTP Ramadan Deal seems to be emulating KFC’s legendary bucket deals with their own version of drumsticks. One Potato Two Potato has even named them southern fried chicken.

OPTP’s iftar deal is not such a deal but a bit on the expensive side when you consider that OPTP is a local brand while pricing its offerings at par with the foreign franchises.

OPTP Ramadan Deal Offering

  1. 10 drumsticks
  2. 2 garlic sauce
  3. 1 1.5litre coke
OPTP Ramadan Deal
OPTP Ramadan Deal

Olivetto’s Iftar Deal

Olivetto, the brainchild of Afroza Bhamani, is the latest addition to Karachi’s fine-dining foodscape.

Olivetto’s foray into the Ramadan iftar deal bandwagon in its very first year is a mixture of buffet deal and a la carte. While it’s far better than the other iftar platter + main entrée + dessert combo deals like the one offered by Fuchsia, it falls far behind the ones offered by veterans like Hobnob Café, Arizona Grill and Roasters. Even Necos‘s iftar deal although slightly expensive than Olivetto, fares better than Olivetto.

When we say it’s better, the major reason is that of the diversity of items on offer. Not only any item, but main entrees. For instance, Necos is offering its main entrées, each item worth over Rs.500, as part of its iftar dinner buffet. Same goes for Hobnob Café, Arizona Grill and Roasters.

Olivetto’s buffet is confined to Iftar items only: chana chaat, fruit chaat, samosa, jalebi, pakora, dahi phulki, sandwiches, khatta aaloo – the usual suspects. However, it has tried to innovate a bit with the addition of falafel, hummous, baba ganoush, moutabel and pita.

Olivetto followed the brilliant marketing acumen of ‘Under-promise over-deliver’ to the hilt by offering a single slice of pizza and a glass of soft drink that wasn’t mentioned on the menu. What’s more, the slice of pizza was brought individually to the table and not kept on the iftar buffet table to ensure that people didn’t take it for granted.

[slickr-flickr tag=”olivetto”]

What’s more, it was hot, fresh and scrumptious, showing that Olivetto really put the effort to get it right in spite of the fact that customers weren’t even expecting it. Simply brilliant.

In addition to this, there was a bottle of mineral water served as well which again wasn’t mentioned. The only drinks mentioned were tea and rooh afza. It seems Afroza Bhamani knows a thing or two about marketing.

Yes, they could make this strategy even more brilliant by offering a second round of pizza and drinks. Judging by our satiated appetites by the items on offer, we don’t think many people would opt for the second helping let alone a third one, but the goodwill this simple gesture would generate would be tremendous.

One thing worth noting here is that even the two types of sandwiches on offer were not part of the menu and were in fact part of the ‘over-deliver’ strategy. In order to ensure that people don’t take these sandwiches for granted, Olivetto would do well to serve the sandwiches separately just like the pizza.

While the roast beef sandwich was just okay, the chicken grilled sandwich was simply divine.

The fruit chat although refreshing was just another chat. Olivetto could definitely have sexed it up by including as many seasonal fruits as are available these days instead of just the rudimentary essentials. What’s more they could have made a cream fruit chaat! Now that would have given the customers something to cherish and the competitors  to think about since fruit chaat is one area no one pays much attention to.

Baba ganoush was delectable. Hummus we felt was a bit of a let down in the sense that the tangy taste of baba ganoush was present in it as well.  There are numerous ways of preparing the hummous and one of the most common ways is sans the tanginess. Here when you’re already offering one sour salad it makes sense to vary the taste of the other one.

The pita bread served with the iftar was in the form of long narrow strips and strangely hardened to the point of being crisp. However, the one served with the main entrée was hot and soft.

Apart from this iftar menu, Olivetto offers two different platters from which you can choose one. One they call the house platter and the other Mediterranean platter.

Both the platters comprise of a main entrée with a sideline thrown in for good measure and a dessert. However, there’s not much choice within the two platters. Once you choose one of the platters, you’ll have to go with the fixed items on the menu.

The Mediterranean platter comprises of the following:

  1. Lamb Chops and Beef Kabab or Samak Harra
  2. Shish Taouk with lemon and coriander sauce
  3. Vermicelli rice
  4. Om e Ali or Crème Brulee

We tried both the lamb chop version and samak harra version (you could choose only one in a platter).

Samak Harra is a Lebanese chilli fish. It is basically Sautéed fish fillet topped with garlic, cilantro, pureed tomatoes, onions and spicy seasonings, and sometimes sprinkled with toasled pinenuts. The Olivetto version was scrumptious.

Shish Taouk is a common Lebanese dish that comprises of grilled chicken skewers  marinated in olive oil, lemon, parsley, and sumac. While every other restaurant these days is offering this delicacy including BBQ tonight, the shish taouk at Olivetto far outweighed the rest of the competition. The biggest difference was in the quality of the meat itself and the way it was prepared. The chicken pieces were not only succulent; they literally melted in your mouth. Normally the chicken you would find in shish taouk at most Pakistani restaurants is rough and dry. What’s more, lemon is an inherent ingredient of shish taouk which almost all pakistani restaurants fail to incorporate. At Olivetto what you get is a rare gem.

The lamb chops were delectable as well. Maybe a bit over-marinated to offset any smell that is associated with lamb meat, but worth digging your teeth into.

For dessert, you could either go with Om e Ali or Crème Brulee. We tried both.

Om e Ali is an Egyptian dessert that contains phyllo dough or puff pastry, milk and nuts. There’s no rule as to what nuts to use, and we felt that Olivetto went a bit overboard with the nuts and all. It was too rich a dessert, but if that’s your cup of tea, then you’re going to love it.

Crème brûlée also known as burnt cream, crema catalana, or Trinity cream is a dessert consisting of a rich custard base topped with a contrasting layer of hard caramel. It is a strange dish, with sugar sprinkled on top of the custard and caramelized with usually a butane torch.

Although the custard base can be flavored with pretty much anything including chocolate, orange and coffee, at Olivetto it was vanilla flavored and served cold. Although we couldn’t get through it, having stuffed ourselves already, it was pure heavenly bliss. And if you yearn for your toddler days, the semblance of Cerelac taste in this french dessert is sure to give you a jolt of nostalgia.

The House Platter comprised of :

  1. Penne Arrabiata
  2. Chicken with mushroom sauce or pepper steak
  3. Gratin/mashed potatoes in sauce
  4. Roasted vegetables
  5. Italian bread pudding with ice cream

The chicken with mushroom sauce that we chose over pepper steak was simply divine.

The Penne Arrabiata however was mediocre.

The roasted vegetables were done sparingly. If you like your vegetables to be a bit raw, you would enjoy it.

The mashed potatoes with sauce wasn’t anything to write home about either.

The Italian bread pudding with ice cream was sumptuous, with the quantity enough to satiate your desire.

Although both the platters are enough to satiate your appetite especially when you take into account the iftar items and the pizza, on the face of it, it looks like you’ve been duped. Maybe because the menu claims it to be a platter and what you’re presented with is a solitary plate with all the items advertised bunched together.

Maybe they need to change the wording, removing the word ‘platter’, or if they continue to use it, rearrange the items to appear more expansive.

Although the service was generally good, one minor irritant we felt was the over-eagerness of waiters to leap to our table at every opportunity to pick up the plate irrespective of whether they were empty or not!

There’s a very thin line between being too attentive and too ignorant and the staff ought to be taught about the right timing.

Olivetto may have become relatively popular but the fact that it was completely deserted (once the Iftar deal was over) on a Saturday night ought to be a cause for concern. Maybe people were present in one of their private dining rooms but not a soul was in sight in the main hall. Maybe they need to constrain the liberal use of their private dining rooms so that customers have nowhere but to use the main hall. Unless there are sufficient people in a party, use of private dining room shouldn’t be allowed. If they don’t put a check on this practice now, pretty soon what they’ll have is an empty dining hall while everyone would be sitting smugly in their private rooms. That would not augur well for the brand one bit.

Olivetto’s tentative foray into iftar deals is quite good but if Olivetto is to compete with the likes of  heavyweights Hobnob Café, Arizona Grill, Roasters or even Necos, it will have to delve into the iftar dinner buffets big time.

N’eco’s Natural Store & Café Iftar Deal

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

8-C- Lane 1, Bukhari Commercial Area

Phase 6, D.H.A.

Karachi, Pakistan.

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

N’eco’s Iftar Buffet Menu:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[slickr-flickr tag=”necos”]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We tried neither kheer nor custard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arizona Grill’s Buffet Dinner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Diner’s Iftar Deal

Diner’s is one of the new breed of upscale restaurants that are dotted on the DHA landscape away from the Zamzama crowd, owned by the couple who run Sawasdee nearby.

Located smack in the middle of the Khayaban-e-Shahbaz commercial area, we had been receiving mixed reviews about the place for quite some time. People either loved the place, or hated it altogether. There were no mixed feelings about it. The most common complaint was that the quantity was way too low to justify the prices they were charging.

We decided to check out their Iftar deal and in the process get to know what Diner is all about.

From the outside, it projects an aura of a sophisticated food joint with dimly lit interior offering you the opportunity to dine in ample privacy. From the inside, it’s sophisticated alright, but the privacy part does not hold good as it has a fairly bright lighting which we felt they need to tone down to ensure a more calming ambiance. Overall the ambiance is top notch.

Right, now getting down to the business. This Ramadan most of the restaurants have changed their strategy of offering dinner buffet. Now they offer you an Iftar platter after which you’re allowed to choose just one item from their regular menu. While some restaurants are straightforward about their deal, others are not.

Saffron for instance has claimed to offer Iftar dinner buffet but in reality they’re offering the buffet for just Iftar items and in the end it’s back to just one item from the main menu. Which is pretty steep considering that they charge a staggering Rs.1250+ tax which comes out to be Rs.1463 and that does not include the soft drinks! No wonder the place was deserted even on a Saturday evening. Even the rich this summer are selective about throwing their money away.

Diner on the other hand has gone the traditional way of offering a complete dinner buffet like the category leaders Copper Kettle, Arizona Grill and Roasters. But there’s a catch here. It’s not exactly buffet but ‘Eat all you Can’ in the same vein as Pizza Hut. You’re given a menu and you have to order anything you like and as much as you like from that. Then there’s another catch. You can only do so till 9pm. You would think two hours starting from the time of Iftar would be enough to try everything out. If you’ve been to Pizza Hut’s deal, you know it’s a pretty chaotic scheme.

We got to Diner’s in the nick of time and found the place partially filled; in fact the top floor was pretty much deserted. And yet the service was slow, no, make it excruciatingly slow. Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion. On that entire floor, there was just this one table occupied (our entry made it two), there were three waiters on the prowl, and yet they couldn’t decide what to do.

Going by the way the waiters were scurrying about excitedly, it seemed Diner’s had for the first time received even this much customers for their Ramadan deal. The Iftar platter which should have been delivered right away along with the dates, was brought six to seven minutes late. To be fair to them, they were all very courteous and it is the restaurant management’s responsibility to direct their activities.Iftar platter- diner

There was no prayer area. They had just designated a miniscule corner for praying that could accommodate only two persons. And the least they could have done was keep proper ‘Jaanamaz’ for that purpose instead of making people pray on large-sized white napkins.Iftar Menu- Diner

On top of everything, people who were sitting downstairs were coming up to pray in this corner, making it extremely difficult for us to offer our prayers on time. After fifteen minutes had elapsed with no sign of us getting the turn, we asked the waiters to arrange for our prayers in the other corner of the room which had space since the place was mostly deserted even by that time.

Maybe Diner’s hasn’t allocated proper space for prayers because most of their customers don’t offer the prayers after Iftar. That is the only sound logic we could come up with.

We visited the place on the tenth of Ramadan. Why the management hadn’t learnt from its mistakes from the last ten days is beyond us.

Oh, by the way, an appetizer platter  arrived while we were waiting for the prayer turn.Appetizer- Diner

The platter comprised of chicken strips, Buffalo wings and mini beef burgers. The strips were simply divine – chicken with cheese with a thick crispy coating. Buffalo wings are basically deep-fried chicken wings cooked in spicy hot cayenne pepper sauce. They were first made popular by Anchor Bar, Buffalo, New York in 1964, hence the name. The wings were dipped a bit too much in the sauce and they were more sour rather than spicy, but good enough.

The mini beef burger were sumptuous as well but won’t appeal to everyone. If you like your beef heavily marinated in all types of spices and stuff to tone down its authentic smell and taste, then you’re not going to like these. They were the real deal – beef with all its ‘Heeng’ glory.

After this we ordered from the menu which comprised of 12 main entrées along with a host of soups, appetizers and salads, a total of 17 items. The format, as already revealed before, is that you could order any item any number of times, and the total cost of all this is Rs.895+ tax which comes out to be Rs. 1,047.15. You add a further Rs. 75 for a soft drink and that makes it Rs.1122.15. It is pretty steep but considering what the others are offering this year, it’s not a bad bargain.

For the first round we ordered four dishes. The chicken and mushroom crepe was delectable, remarkably similar to the Roasters one. The Fettuccine Alfredo with Prawn, quite a mouthful, the name, isn’t it? Fettuccine (literally “little ribbons” in Italian) is a flat thick noodle made of egg and flour which is wider than the conventional round ones. Alfredo is basically the name of the restaurant ‘Alfredo alla Scrofa’ in Rome. It was named by the Italian restaurateur who owned the place and created this dish back in 1917.Chicken mushroom crepe- Diner

Fettuccini Alfredo with prawn

pepper steak- DinerThe dish would have got full marks had it not been for the prawns. The prawns we felt were a bit on the stale side judging from the strong smell emanating from it. The pasta itself was palatable.

Next up was the Mushroom steak. We had directed the steak to be well-done. What came out was a small lump of meat which was burnt on the outside and raw from the inside.

The Margherita Pizza was a disappointment as well. The razor thin crust wasn’t so much as a problem than the razor-thin topping. It is named after Queen Margherita of Savoy when she visited Naples in 1889 and was served this pizza resembling the colurs of the Italian flag, red (tomato), white (Mozzarella) and green (basil).

This wrapped the first round. The second round for which we ordered almost immediately took more than half an hour to arrive while the first one arrived within fifteen minutes. This was mind-boggling considering the same type of dishes were ordered the second time around.

The grilled chicken with tarragon sauce was the highlight of this round. Tarragon is a type of herb also called ‘dragon herb’. The chicken was succulent and the sauce sumptuous.Grilled chicken with tarragon sauce

penne arabiataFiesta chicken pizzaThe Penne Arabiata with chicken and tomato sauce was the weakling of this round. Arrabbiata is a Roman sauce of garlic, tomatoes, and red chili cooked in olive oil. In this case, it was simple bland with no distinct taste.

The roast beef sandwich was pretty ordinary as well. The fiesta pizza with chicken fared just marginally better than its Margherita counterpart.

If you look closely at the pictures, the portion size is frugal. If that’s tailored to the Iftar deal so that people don’t waste much, then it’s alright. However, if this same size is served in normal offerings as well, then people have been complaining rightly about it, because at more than Rs.500, you expect the dish to satiate you enough.

In the end we tried the solitary dessert on offer, vanilla ice cream with brownie. The ice cream tasted like one of the popular yet bland brands, the brownie was mediocre although served hot.

Overall, we found Diner’s Iftar deal a mixed bag. It definitely scores a whole lot better than what’s on offer at some of its contemporaries, but the slow service especially the serving of the meals which was to be supposed to be buffet-style should have been prompt. We felt there may have been an element of deliberately stalling for time so that the customer consumes the least amount of dishes in the allocated time till 9pm.

However, if you haven’t been to Diner before and really want to sample their offerings, this deal is as good as any to do that.

Fuchsia’s Iftar Deal

Fuchsia is one of the handful restaurants in Karachi offering Thai cuisine. Baan Thai was probably the first one who brought this cuisine to this coastal city and as such still retains the first mover advantage.

Fuchsia has been around for quite some time now and thus can safely be deemed as one of the success stories since surviving on the cutthroat Zamzama street is no child’s play, restaurants have been known to crash and burn on this upscale food hubbub many times before.

We decided to check out Fuchsia’s Iftar deal 2010. Priced at a steep R.995+tax which comes out to be Rs.1164 +soft drink+ tip, it comprises of an Iftar platter, a single main entrée of your choice, a single-choice dessert, and a hot beverage (tea or coffee or green tea). In addition you get a mineral water bottle, a single glass of either lemonade or rooh afza, and a pinch of aab-e-zam zam.

The proceedings kick off with the Iftar platter which comprises of two pieces of chicken on toast, two chicken rolls, two ‘aaloo ke pakoray’, two tiny shrimps, sweet n chili chutney and a palak ka pakora.

Indeed a very sparse platter. On top of that the chicken on toast had so much salt it promised to give a high-blood pressure patient a kill-blow right there on the spot. Although the menu promised a Thai-based platter, it was a pretty much desi platter. We just couldn’t find the Thai angle in it, apart from the two tiny shrimps.

Prayer area was way too insufficient. They had designated their small private dining room for this purpose and there was no segregation of the sexes. Maybe most of the clientele who come for their Iftar deal do not pray hence this   miniscule arrangement.

The main entrée menu was heavily edited compared to their original menu. We felt that Fuchsia could have added a whole lot more items from their main menu considering they’re charging a 1000 bucks for a non-buffet dinner.

And this is always going to be a major problem for all those restaurants that offer a limited dinner set menu instead of the full-fledged buffet at a price that is pretty much the same as that of the buffet. Heavyweights like Copper Kettle, Arizona Grill and Roasters are offering an iftar buffet dinner at Rs.1000. So when you have to compete against this sort of offering from the giants that are literally across the street from you, you better come up with something special.

In this regard, we feel Fuchsia really lets its customers down.

So, coming back to their main entrée menu which was heavily curtailed, we picked three items from the 10 items on offer:

  • Green Curry Chicken with Baby Eggplant & Sweet Basil Leaf
  • Wok fried prawns with sweet basil and oyster sauce
  • Crispy fried fish with tangy Thai tamarind sauce

Here’s their original menu.

Along with these dishes, plain white rice were served as many times as you want. Not that you want them much, because they were over-cooked, more like a rice-paste or halwa. Maybe it’s Thai style.

The fried prawns were good, the big succulent type that people relish. The quantity can definitely be improved upon considering the price of the deal.

The fish was alright, cooked in a sauce which lacked a distinct taste.

The green curry chicken was the biggest sore point of the evening. Maybe Thais love this kind of stuff, none of our party took to it. The curry was way too strong, reeking of coconut essence, the sort of curry you get along with Masala Dossa.

The dessert, again Fuchsia offers 8 choices of desserts but in the Iftar deal they have confined themselves to just one: chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream. Although both the cake slice and ice cream (homemade) were delectable, the quantity issue reared its ugly head again. See it for yourself.

The tea was your usual tea-bag stuff. Nothing Thai or anything special about it.

Service was prompt and up to the mark. No shortcomings there. The family at the table next to us, however, were not satisfied with something. The only thing we overheard of their complaint was something about freshness.

Although Fuchsia had quite a few customers coming in, if it is to scale the height of success its neighbors have done, it will have to reposition its offerings.

One thing it could do is instead of offering just one main entrée, offer them the choice of three or four different items which would arrive in a big thal with small bowls loaded with these dishes. That way, the customers will have the satisfaction of having had a sort of mini-buffet. The second equally important benefit this would have is that a customer won’t get stuck with a single entrée that he doesn’t enjoy, which is more likely to happen in the current deal.

Fuchsia’s forte at the moment is its ambiance which is smashing even by Zamzama standards. Head over to Karachi Snob where you can find snapshots of the place as well as the menu items in detail.

We recommend this place only for those who already have an affinity for Thai cuisine.