FoodPanda again did the honors of bringing my grub for the day.
I’m surprised I haven’t landed on the radar of FoodPanda’s management as yet even though I’ve been ordering through twice a day every day for the last two weeks. It seems they don’t do much with all the ‘Big Data’ they’re accumulating.
Lunch – Nutrinizer
I tried yet another experiment at lunch today which wasn’t exactly a roaring success. I ordered the Seasonal Fruit Salad for Rs.350 with a calorie count of 250.
Forget the calories, there was something about the salad that didn’t augur for my stomach. Not that it got it upset or anything. It was good. The portion size was generous. It’s just that having chickpeas and plant leaves in a fruit salad is not the best combination out there, and although this supposedly healthy concoction should have helped me feel great for the remaining day, it bogged me down.
There could be a lot of other reasons as well – lack of sleep, stress at work, but I don’t think even if I had it while I was in the flow, I don’t think it would have done anything to further fuel that flow.
I just think Nutrinizer needs to do something about the combination of fruits and plants and peas.
Dinner – Nutrinizer
Dinner was the leftovers of Nutrinizer’s Arabic selection from the previous night: Hummus, Baba Ganoush and Mutabbal.
I did however get some khubz from Mota’s to have it with these dishes.
Bumzee’s is the latest fast food joint in Gulshan-e-Iqbal on the Disco Bakery food street, one of the increasingly happening food streets of Karachi.
As opposed to most of the food joints on that strip – roll walas and bar bq – Bumzees stands out with its persona of an upscale fast food outlet just like playing bingo. Even the prices are a testament to that fact.
The only thing lagging at Bumzee’s is the service which we found a bit too slow in responding to requests.
We tried the crispy burger deal, chowmein and chicken garlic mayo roll. For drinks we tested the strawberry shake.
Bumzees is a new upscale fast food joint on the Disco Bakery Food Street in Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Karachi.
The chicken crispy burger deal (included fries and drink) at Rs.300 is exorbitantly priced, on the other hand it is the biggest zinger burger we’ve had other than the mighty zinger at KFC. The bun size as well as the crusty chicken inside is more than enough to satiate your appetite.
The burger without the fries and drink cost Rs.200.
If you’re feeling ravenous and have the hots for a huge chicken crusty burger, then head for Bumzees.
The taste of the burger is a different matter altogether. If you’re looking forward to a burger that tastes similar to KFC Zinger then you’ll be disappointed because it has a different taste altogether. Then it doesn’t have the coleslaw to go with it, which does not augur well for the brand as almost all local zinger clones provide this local delicacy.
The taste of their garlic mayo sauce is below par as the true essence of this sauce just doesn’t tantalize your taste buds. If they can just add more zing to their garlic sauce, it would boost the taste of any product they use it on manifold, including the crusty burger.
Chicken chowmein at Rs. 200 was delectable although the quantity could have been a whole lot better. What was good about it was that it was stir-fried and as such all the ingredients stood out with a distinct essence of their own especially the vegetables.
The chicken garlic mayo roll was the odd-man out and highlighted the fact that kabab rolls are not the specialty of Bumzees. It just didn’t have the spark you would expect from a good kabab roll wala. It’s definitely not in the same league as Hot n Spicy and Red Chilli. This is another area where Bumzees needs to improve upon.
The place also offers barbeque items which we didn’t test in this visit.
The strawberry shake at Rs.90 was your standard affair made with strawberry ice cream instead of real strawberries.
Bumzees ia a good place to have a decent meal in a pleasant ambience on the Disco Bakery Food Street.
Nando’s Peri Bites are fiery green chillies stuffed with tender strips of grilled chicken. Or so the official version says.
In reality they’re not fiery. They’ll tease your taste buds for sure, but that’s just about it. If you’re looking for setting your taste buds on fire, this isn’t the right dish.
Although the official version says ‘stuffed with tender strips of grilled chicken’, in reality this wasn’t the case. The strips were few and far in between. In fact in some of the chillies, they were as good as absent.
One of the drawbacks of the peri bites was that they were not hot enough, hot as in heated enough. It seemed they had been prepared beforehand and just microwaved before serving.
Of course with the level of traffic Nando’s generating, they would have to be prepared well in advance. But at least they ought to be heated properly before serving.
Nando's Peri Bites are fiery green chillies stuffed with tender strips of grilled chicken.
The biggest shortcoming of the peri bites was, however, the lack of any dip sauce to go with it. This is criminal by any standard, especially when all the other foreign franchises are offering some sort of dip to go along with their starters.
What was even more criminal was that the waiter asked if we needed any dip sauce to go with the peri bites, we said of course we do. But then without informing us whether the sauce was on the house or to be charged, he went ahead and brought a sort of mayonnaise which we later on the bill to be their Perinaise sauce which costs a whopping Rs.100 for a mere scoop of the stuff. It’s not the price that is the issue. We’ve had far more expensive appetizers before.
It’s the whole way of presenting and dealing with it. The peri bites cost Rs.210 for a mere six pieces. Add to that the Perinaise and the GST on them and the cost comes out to be Rs.360.
If we were Nando’s, we would fix the Peri Bites price at Rs.360, and then include the Perinaise sauce in it by default. And oh yes, the number of pieces would be eight not six, making sure that they’re really stuffed with chicken strips as claimed in the menu.
And they would be served piping hot. So with just a few minor adjustments, Nando’s can make the Peri Bites from just good enough to super duper remarkable. That’s what great branding is all about.
The end result was a big splash opening whose consequences are still being felt till the writing of this review with unending queues managed by private security guards backed up by police lurking in the shadows to handle any untoward incident.
Whether Hardee’s received the same maddening response when it opened first in Lahore is hard to say, but Karachi seems to be infatuated with Hardee’s big time.
The opening day, Hardee’s was closed to the public at large, launched by none other than Boom Boom Afridi and open to only celebrities.
From the second day, pretty much the entire Karachi descended upon Hardee’s located in North Nazimabad and you had to wait anywhere between 1-2 hours just to get in.
How long the euphoria will take to die down is hard to say, but for now it still rages on. Even now, five days after the opening, expect to spend some time in the queue if you arrive at an odd hour and a full hour at the peak timing.
However, once you get in, the going gets easier as the staff is ultra-efficient at getting your order through in spite of all the mayhem.
So, is it worth all the commotion? Ten years ago, Hardee’s would have conquered Karachi’s ‘Burgerville’, having just McDonald’s to contend with. However, now with myriad premium and gourmet burger joints springing up all over the city, each one claiming to offer the ultimate hamburger, the competition has really toughened up with razor-thin margins of error.
If you don’t give me the immaculate hamburger, I won’t return. Ever. That’s what all these choices have empowered the consumer to think.
Unlike KFC and McDonald which have forayed into quite a few delicacies that have nothing to do with their brand essence, Hardee’s is sticking to its brand essence- charbroiled burger.
Although Hardee’s is offering quite a few chicken burger options, the main emphasis is on the beef burger with most of the varieties revolving around this basic premise. For instance you could take one of the beef burger, let’s say jalapeno burger, and have as many as three varieties of it: single patty, double patty or a single fat patty they refer to as the thickburger.
Then they offer the option of making your own burger by mixing together any of the burgers from the main menu. However, this option wasn’t available when we visited. Another thing missing was the onion rings.
The biggest competitive advantage Hardee’s has, that will definitely create a yawning gap between Hardee’s and KFC / McDonald, is the offer of free soft drink refills. Pakistanis love to have their soft drinks unlimited and Hardee’s has got its consumer insight spot on.
Think about it. How much drink can you expect an average consumer to drink?
500ml, more or less. And yet the goodwill this simple yet shrewd tactic generates would be enormous. And since the refill option is left to the customer himself via the mountain fresh, there’s very little possibility of it going to waste. Simply brilliant.
The combo meals that Hardee’s is offering all comprise of unlimited refrills along with fries at a mere additional cost of just Rs.100.
The biggest shortcoming has to be the ketchup. Unlike KFC and McDonald’s where you can have all the ketchup in the world on your own, Hardee’s just had a guy appear at the outset of your meal who offered a few satchets of Knorr ketchup and chili sauce which were duly consumed in no time but the guy was nowhere to be found when you needed him again.
Along with drinks, ketchup is another thing that Karachiites relish to consume by the truckload and by taking away this freedom which almost all the other fast food franchises offer, Hardee’s is just making it difficult to endear itself to the food junkies of Karachi.
Coming to Hardee’s forte, we tried four of their offerings:
The Jalapeno Thickburger, the Swiss Mushroom Burger (Single), Swiss Mushroom ThickBurger, and the Buffalo Chicken Burger. Each burger has its own unique taste. Of course the two Swiss ones have the same taste, it’s just the difference of patty thickness. If you’re feeling ravenous, avoid the single Swish Mushroom Burger as it’s just not fulfilling.
If you’ve had Hardee’s before, you know what it is. If you haven’t, don’t expect a gourmet burger a la Gun Smoke or GBC or even Roasters.
Hardee’s is just that – a fast food. As such the patties are your usual frozen ones – some say they’ve been imported from Dubai – which get charbroiled duly in a matter of seconds and voila! You’ve your burger. It’s a no-frills operation akin to a car assembly line where all the parts get assembled in the most efficient manner and the least possible time.
Both the Jalapeno and Swiss Mushroom Burger were good, as good as you can get from a mass-produced burger. Nothing wrong with the combination, you’ve got all the elements that go into making a hamburger, only that a freshly prepared patty (relatively speaking) has all the condiments working together to tantalize your taste buds. This enhanced flavor can never be replicated in a fast food chain product – no matter how great that brand is.
Same fact holds true here as well. However, if you can just forget the gourmet burgers around town, Hardee’s would definitely appeal to your olfactory buds.
The problem is, charbroiled means to broil over charcoal, but there’s not an iota of charcoal essence felt in the taste. It tastes like your standard machine-grilled burger.
One thing Hardee’s can definitely do is try to come up with an arrangement where the patty is seared. This is one of the most effective techniques that the local burger joints use to ooze out that extra bit of flavor. And if they can ensure a piping hot burger unlike the other branded burgers, all the more good.
Hardee’s is still in its infancy stage to accurately predict how much of the market share its going to grab from the KFC, McDonald and the numerous local gourmet burger joints.
Only when the dust settles down from the current mayhem will a clear picture of the competition emerge.
KFC has been at the forefront of introducing not just new deals by bunching together the same old stuff in different packaging, but also unique variations of its existing products.
Some of them completely miss the mark while some just make it barely. Once in a while KFC comes up with something that is truly remarkable. The KFC big Filler is one such creation.
Although on the face of it it’s nothing unique, just a sandwich a la Subway, it’s the value for money that makes it truly worthwhile. And no it’s not cheap by any stretch of the imagination at Rs.325 (the combo costing a whopping Rs.440). But it’s reasonable considering that you’re having a branded meal. The Zinger although quite cheaper than this at Rs.225 is not very fulfilling. You don’t feel like having something else on top of it but at the same time you feel something amiss.
This is where the Filler works like a charm. It’s the perfect answer to all those grievances we all have had about broken promises from foreign franchises.
For one, it’s enormous – guaranteed to fill you up to the brim. Secondly, it’s actually tasty, which is more than what can be said for many of their new offerings. In fact Zinger deals lately had been tasting a lot less Zinger and more like their clones. People had even complained of the size getting shrunk as well.
In these trying times for KFC, the Filler is the perfect antidote for brand image enhancement. It’s even better than the mighty Zinger which costs Rs.335.
So what it’s all about?
It’s basically a sandwich roll filled with zinger chunks. You have choice of two varieties – classic and jalapeno. The Jalapeno is the better version, with sumptuous fillings of jalapeno interspersed in between.
So what’s so special about it, after all it’s just a rearrangement of ingredients? The thing is, in this case everything clicks- the perfect combination of chicken chunks, mayonnaise and salad. The chicken chunks are in fact the zinger patty itself broken down but when chewed in this context, it’s an entirely different experience. And it all boils down to the Jalapeno which adds another dimension to the gastronomical experience.
The trend these days is to come up with bigger and fatter crispy patties and the KFC clones are excelling at this more so than KFC itself. But bigger doesn’t necessarily translate into better and having to chew on a humungous entity that doesn’t fit the size of your mouth is not the most pleasant of experiences.
Under such circumstances KFC has done well to break away from the norm and offer something different where you can actually taste the bun and other ingredients instead of just the chicken. If all you want to do is devour the crispy chicken, then you might as well have the broast.
The only downside was the role used which was not fresh. But that is something for which the particular KFC franchise where we dined is to blame instead of the deal itself.
KFC now has the ideal opportunity to leverage the Filler sandwich. Offer more variations of it – a fish chunk version, a hot chunk version etc. KFC clones will emulate that as well but KFC should be flattered and in fact encourage this competition to ensure this product spawns into an entire category.
It’s high time that Cupola, the company that manages KFC in Pakistan, actually starts taking steps to make KFC synonymous with fried chicken in this part of the world. And Cupola’s CEO Rafiq Rangoonwala who has been in the food service industry for the last three decades has all the skills in his repertoire to make it happen if he wills it.
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.
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 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.
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.
Snack Attack is yet another mid-range fast food joint in the city. It’s biggest drawback is its location. Although located on Khalid Bin Waleed Road (parallel to Tariq Road) which sees a lot of traffic, it does not have any food joints located nearby. This simple fact has been a source of downfall for many restaurants before.
On the up side, Snack Attack has broken away from the trend of offering a plethora of meal deals with a kabab roll thrown in for good measure in every deal. In fact it doesn’t offer kabab roll or barbeque for that matter at all. It has done well to differentiate itself by offering stuff that has a taste apart from the rest of the bunch. In addition it is offering products which most don’t bother such as fish zinger. In fact it is shrewdly emulating Nandos by offering their core brands – Peri Peri Chicken and Espetada. While the Espetada at Nandos cost a whopping Rs.500+, Snack Attack has cleverly priced at just Rs.265.
Although Snack Attack is charging a premium pricing compared to its counterparts in the mid-tier category, it hasn’t come up with an ambiance to justify the premium. The joint is almost completely open a la Khan Snacks and therefore without air-conditioning. In fact the kitchen is open as well and although you get to see how the food is being prepared, the downside is that whenever they prepare something sizzling or spicy being prepared, the aroma stings your throat all the way in the dining hall as it did in our case. That was really annoying.
They’ve got a solitary plasma screen on one of the walls showing the cricket matches which is not enough. A couple more will do.
We tried the mushroom Swiss chicken burger with cheese priced Rs.165 (add Rs.20 for cheese) and bbq club sandwich priced Rs.175. Instead of the usual fries and coleslaw, they provide garlic sauce and fries along with the snacks.
The mushroom Swiss chicken burger was supremely divine. Yes, the mushroom quantity was less than desirable, yes, the burger size wasn’t upto the mark and yes, the bun wasn’t the freshest we’ve ever tasted. In spite of these minor shortcomings, the chicken mushroom burger is worth devouring.
The bbq club sandwich could be placed at the other end of the spectrum. Its size was almost humongous, enough to satiate your appetite. The taste was pretty palatable. The filling wasn’t all that great. In line with the ordinary fast food joints, they had conveniently left the edges empty.
One good thing about them is that they give a huge quantity of fries. And the garlic sauce they serve with the meal is scrumptious.
The service is one of their weak points. When we visited in the evening, the place was almost deserted with almost 20 waiters swarming around, and yet the order was served late. If they had employed as many cooks as they have waiters, they could certainly speed up the process. But late isn’t a glitch if the end result is fresh and piping hot. While the chicken mushroom burger was just that, the club sandwich was cold.
Traditionally, club sandwiches are served in that fashion, but if you’re looking to differentiate, you might as well differentiate by serving the sandwiches hot. One big advantage of this is that the taste of any dish whether it’s great or mediocre is enhanced simply by virtue of being hot.
Another blemish in the service was serving half the dishes before and the rest after 10 minutes. It’s an unspoken rule of thumb in the food service industry to serve everyone at the same time instead of making a few people from the group having to wait while the rest consumer their meal.
Overall, Snack Attack is worth giving a shot with their uniquely prepared items. They could definitely do with a few meal deals. Right now they’re just offering two meal deals which are for the whole family and not for a single person.
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 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.
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.
The genuine hamburger. How many restaurants and cafes and fast food joints and what not have you visited that offer you this modern delicacy? Not many, I bet. Take out the foreign franchises and the number goes down even further.
There’s Gun Smoke, there’s Indulge, there’s Mr. Burger, there’s Texas Burger but then that’s just about it. There are, however, a number of restaurants like CK, Arizona Grill and Roasters which offer burger as a mandatory side item on their menu and are not particularly specialist in this category.
Most of the burger walas especially the desi fast food joints like Kaybees, Tooso’s, Kundan, Pioneer, Khan’s and Red/Green Apple offer the hamburger more in the vein of a shami kabab burger. Their main focus is on the Zinger and for good reasons because the ‘pirated’ zinger or crispy burger has become one of the hottest selling items on the local fast food scene.
Coming back to the hamburger, you would be hard pressed to find the genuine version any place other than an upscale fast food joint and that also on the other side of Kala Pull.
Enter Chili Wili, a small café in the not-so-upscale area of Dhoraji, on the road leading from Agha Khan Hospital to Muhammad Ali Society’s food street. Although it is on the main road, it’s not very prominent, and the owners haven’t carried out any launch party to announce the arrival either. And that may just be its downfall. Because that is the only thing that is going to bring its downfall. That and maybe the premium pricing as well.
At Rs.180, the hamburger with cheese, fries, coleslaw and a soft drink is a bit too much considering the area in which it is located. The thing going in its favor is that there’s no worthwhile competition in that entire strip, just a small restaurant at the end of the strip called Spicy and even that is struggling big time.
However, when we met the owner, he was very upbeat about the future of his café which he based solely on his offering. According to him, he’s offering a Rs.400 burger at a mere Rs.180. That was before the meal. After having just a couple of bites, we had to admit he was right. We tried the chicken wrapper and the hamburger, and I don’t know if they look sumptuous in the snapshots or not, but they were totally scrumptious and more.
The hamburger had one big beef patty unlike any you would experience in this side of town. It had that ‘hieng’ that you associate with anything beef and which the local fast food walas try to tone down with all the desi masalas. Chili Wili didn’t. And that brought out the genuine taste, accentuated by the addition of pickle and the mandatory salad. As far as the size is concerned, it wasn’t gigantic like Gun Smoke or Roasters but still big enough to stuff you completely. The Fries were good as well. The Coleslaw wasn’t the usual desi one submerged in rich cream which the Pakistanis love but the variant that Gun Smoke has come up with.
The chicken wrapper was better than KFC both in size and taste. It costs Rs.105 outside of the combo.
The rest of the menu seems to be just as scrumptious, and definitely warrants one other visit.
Unfortunately for Chili Wili, the fact that we approve of their product offering doesn’t mean that it’s going to go on to make it big. The history of restaurants in Karachi has the rise and fall of some terrific restaurants which had fantastic taste and yet didn’t make it.
Its biggest problem is that of the location. Locals of that area are not going to be visiting much owing to the high price. And if they are not going to come, the place would need people from other areas to throng the place. And for that to happen, it needs positive word-of-mouth, and fast. Once they come and check out the place, then it’s going to be alright because apart from the quality food, it has managed to create a nice ambience in line with upscale cafes. But the place is tiny, the main dining area at the top seems to be created for elves.
Of course there were a few minor shortcomings as well. For instance, the drink was offered in a disposable bottle but there was neither straw nor glass available to consume it. The guys would have no trouble drinking it like that, but for the girls, they wouldn’t have any of it. In any way, an upscale fast food joint shouldn’t have such minor shortcomings.
Then there was the ketchup issue. The ketchups were offered in satchets and yet there was no place to pour it. In the end we had to pour it on the paper wrapper. Not very elegant. When you are charging premium prices, the least you could do is offer unlimited ketchup in a bottle to be poured in a small bowl.
So how can they induce word-of-mouth? One opportunity they missed was at the launch when they could have really driven traffic their way by offering discounted meals. What’s done is done.
They could easily offer the discounted deals they ought to have offered at the launch now. It’s never too late. Make a facebook page. Get on twitter. Get people talking about the brand. Opening a café maybe hard, but sustaining it profitably over a period of time is infinitely harder. They just need to have a marketing budget. Then whether they spend it on discount offers, advertising, or a combination of both depends entirely upon on them. There’s no right or wrong answer.
In fact, it’s so easy and cheap to come up with a TVC these days that they could opt for that option as well. Agencies like Time & Space Media specialize in making TVCs at reasonable rates ranging from Rs.1-3 lac. That’s dirt cheap when you consider a standard TVC by a big media agency gets made for anywhere from Rs.20 lac to as high as Rs.2 crore. Mostly it’s the telecom and bank TVCs that have exorbitant budgets for TVCs.
The second expense is the placement on channels. Again here as well, if you can steer clear of prime time and upscale channels like Geo and Dawn News, you ought to be ok.
Of course the money you spend on this could well be spent on giving extra discounts and stuff to the customer. Membership cards, repeat visit free meals, the sky is the limit on how you can exceed customer expectation.
In short, Chili Wili has the basic ingredients of being a top notch fast food joint.
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.
Creating a pizza that’s going to be loved by the consumer in this part of the world is no child’s play. Pakistanis are very definitive in their choices: they either love an eatery, or hate it with all their guts (no pun intended)- there’s no grey area in between. And this unspoken rule holds truer for pizza parlours than any other category. If you have a look at the number of pizza houses that have crashed and burned in this coastal city in just half a decade, you’ll realize what I mean.
The first one to come crashing down was King Burger in Bahadurabad. If you don’t know about this place, you must have been living under a rock. King Burger was to pizza in Karachi what Mr. Burger was to the ‘burger’ burger- a pioneer. It opened way back in late 80s and introduced this Italian dish when no one had even heard of it in this part of the world –let alone be infatuated with Pizza Hut. The fact that it survived till the start of the millennium tells you something about the popularity of the place. Why it closed shop has more to do with the onslaught of foreign competitors than any major folly on its part.
The second major casualty was Pappasallis, one of the few local restaurant chains actually exported to Karachi from the rest of the country. Pappasallis was a happening Italian restaurant of Islamabad ( I believe it still is), and when I visited it back in 1998, it offered a diverse variety of scrumptious stuff, of which pizza was just one of the items.
Then it came to Karachi in 2001, and although it was still sumptuous and opened with much fanfare, it didn’t appeal to the olfactory sense of Karachiites, closing shop within a year. Or maybe the location was the problem. In Islamabad it was situated right in the heart of its major super market, in Karachi it opened in an obscure commercial district of one of the Khayabans in phase VI right next to the super market Rajani’s. Rajani’s didn’t last long either, so maybe that whole lane is jinxed.
But the biggest flop to date has got to be Papa John’s. I’ve heard that it has only moved and not wrapped up business altogether, but I can’t imagine why, considering it was located on a prime site, just beside the ‘Do Talwar’ roundabout. Again, there was nothing wrong with the taste. Maybe the problem is with the consumer taste preference.
Pizza Hut has made such emphatic inroads into the Pakistani heart and mouth, that any pizza deviating from Pizza Hut’s taste is rejected by the masses, as if that’s the Holy Grail of Pizzadom. And Papa John was definitely a unique taste altogether different from the Pizza Hut.
Dominos seems to be heading towards the same fate although it continues to hang on. Again no problem with the taste, just different and a bit on the expensive side. Dominos continued to operate solely as a Takeaway and delivery brand, from Clifton adjacent to the famous Damascus, faithful to its brand essence. Then it decided to spread its wings and opened its’ first diner shop at a prime location on National Stadium Road adjacent to Copper Kettle. And it was a huge double story parlour, but it remained deserted like a ghost town. Ultimately it moved from there to University Road near one of the Pizza Hut outlets. Whether it will pick up business there remains to be seen.
Another lesser known casualty was La Pizzo Pie, which was located opposite BBQ Tonight adjacent to the Mars Ice Cream Parlour. Location-wise, it wasn’t the ideal spot because it wasn’t located on the main street opposite the BBQ tonight like the Mars parlour but on the other side leading towards the sea-side just before the Clifton Grill, but unlike CG it was quite far from the main road so much so that it wasn’t easily visible.
It was a small cozy diner, immaculately designed in line with the pizza essence. But their greatest tactic was the use of a membership card, an idea which pizza hut used to great effect and which was instrumental in making Pizza Hut a household name even in areas like Gulshan and Nazimabad. LPP’s membership was even more generous than the PH one, offering 50% discounts a lot more than PH. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out and the place closed down.
Pizza Express is hanging on barely by changing names one after the other, from Express to Experts and now to ‘Kiing’.
Almost all the pizza parlors thriving today are those which ape the Pizza Hut recipe. Pizza Next, Pizza One and Penny Pizza are three such hits. Pizza 2000 is the rare exception which doesn’t imitate the Pizza Hut taste and yet continues to hold steady.
And now we have the Pizza Factory. It’s not an upscale restaurant, nor is it located in an upscale area – the main boulevard leading from Jauhar Mor to Jauhar Chowrangi. What’s different about it is that it does not imitate Pizza Hut, secondly, it is striving to project an aura of an upscale food joint courtesy some shrewd interior designing. What’s more, it got off to a flyer, offering a buy 1 get 1 free deal right at the launch, which was splashed on a billboard on the main boulevard. That really create a buzz about the place, something you desperately need right at the outset to be able to survive the first two scary years. They say if you survive the first two hellish years both in marriage and restaurateurship, chances are you’ll make it.
So we landed at the place one day to test drive their offering. Yes, they have done a pretty good job with the interior and all, and the place is good enough even for families, which is not something you can say for the rest of the lot on that particular food street. The dim red light ambience was a bit unsettling though, reminding me of the helicopter interior with the red lights at the start of Predator- first part.
The ‘buy 1 get 1 free’ deal was gone, however there were some other deals that would have been great had this been a genuinely upscale joint. But brilliant effort on their part to try to pass off as a superior pizza parlour with the help of some cunning interior play and premium pricing.
And it would have succeeded tremendously even in that neighborhood if it had just focused a bit more on the actual product behind the brand. You see, branding efforts can take you only so far. The actual product has to be good as well, at least having the POP (Points of Parity).
Coming back to the test drive, we ordered their Deal One, which comprised of 2 large pizzas, 4 garlic breads and a 1.5 litre PET drink for Rs.889 inclusive of taxes. First the garlic breads. There was hardly any essence of garlic and were a bit too dry. They should have at least buttered it if they couldn’t afford the cheese.
Then came the pizzas. We ordered Chicken Smoke and Chicken BBQ. There was no Supreme which was disappointing. One thing confusing about the choice of chicken pizzas was that there was a chicken tikka as well as a chicken bbq pizza. When we asked what was the difference between the two, the waiter said there wasn’t any difference except that the bbq was the hotter version. We accepted this explanation.
Then the pizzas came. As you can see from the snaps, they definitely looked appetizing, barring the one flaw which almost every pizza parlour is guilty of deliberately putting it there- the lack of filling at the fag end of the slice.
However when we tasted it, we felt….. nothing. That’s it. There was no taste whatsoever- no salt, no chillies, no nothing. It was as if we were eating only the bread part. To be fair to them, they had put on substantial filling including the chicken and olives on the base, (except the ‘mandatory’ far end), and yet there was literally no taste on either of the pizzas. Remarkable feat I would say, considering there was enough pizza sauce on it. We tried our best to sex it up with the four different spices lying on the table (they probably know their pizzas taste all the same) plus the salt, but to no avail.
The only rational explanation we can come up with, is that they didn’t use quality cheese plus the chicken botis were probably just plain boiled- they weren’t marinated or even BBQed as the menu claimed.
To conclude, it’s a shame that the Pizza Factory people having done so much to promote their den are not putting the same effort into the making of their core product. With the nice ambience and the remarkably courteous waiters in this part of town, they have the perfect recipe for Pizza Glory if only they can bring some taste into it.
Pizza hut has finally decided to follow Subway’s brilliant strategy of offering discount deals during the day’s slowest business hours. While Subway started offering the deal between 2 and 4 on Sundays and then extending it to all days, Pizza Hut has timed it between 4 and 7pm.
When it comes to value for money, Subway is the winner by far. While Subway offered buy one get one free deal for 6 inch subs, pizza hut’s deal just offers free drinks with their regular pizzas- nothing else. But that did not deter people from having a go at the deals.
That’s the thing about deals. Consumers in this part of the world just love going after everything that has the deal tag attached to it.
This time around we checked the Nazimabad outlet adjacent to Dilpasand near A.O Clock Tower. It is by far one of the biggest pizza hut outlets in Karachi.
The drinks have always been a sore point for pizza hut and this time was no different. We chose ‘white’ and it tasted like the liquid version of lemon strepsils. It was neither 7up nor Sprite.
One thing worth appreciating about pizza hut is the flexibility they offer besides the menu. Or maybe it was this particular waiter who offered us this option. In any case, we chose the large pizza deal and were allowed the choice of having half of the pizza as chicken supreme and the other half beef supreme. The stated price of the deal is Rs.645 which includes a large pizza and a pitcher of soft drink, but with GST it comes out to be around Rs.750. The deal is good enough for two people only.
Remember the time when pizza hut used to leave the corners as barren land? Well, it seems with a large dose of consumer bashing that has changed at least at this outlet. Check out the pictures yourself to see the difference. The topping has dramatically improved.
There is however one problem that pizza hut will need to fix. The meat had a smell, both chicken and beef. Now this is the first time that we’ve experienced such a problem at pizza hut and the grapevine has it that this particular outlet is guilty of this offence on more than one occasion.
So what could be the reason for foul-smelling meat? It’s not that the meat was under-cooked. All the other ingredients were baked to perfection. So who is the culprit?
When it comes to chicken especially, there’s only one instance when it smells, and that is when it has been kept for quite some time. It does not matter if it has been frozen properly. Chicken will always smell if it has been stored for long, unless it is marinated excessively with strong condiments.
Beef on the other hand has a distinct smell and taste of its own which gets stronger with the passage of time. So pizza hut will have to be very careful as to when that quality gets too strong for the consumer’s taste. The lesson for pizza hut is to avoid keeping a large inventory of perishable items.
We also tried the potato wedges and potato skins which are not part of the deal. Subway beats Pizza Hut in the case of wedges as well. Even Roasters’ potato wedges offered with their breakfast deals are better than Pizza Hut’s.
The potato skins are an unique item and not something you would find anywhere else. They could have been great had the garlic sauce served with them prepared properly. Both the potato wedges and skins cost Rs.75, and the quantity you can judge for yourself from the snapshots.
Overall, pizza hut’s deal is alright. Just don’t expect any great value addition from their regular menu.