Category Archives: Rs.400-600

Can ‘Noonsey Nihari’ become the Queen of Niharis?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pure Health Cafe Iftar Deal

Pure Health Cafe Iftar Deal looks to be something a bit out of the ordinary from the usual suspects. Although Pure Health Cafe is offering a drink, platter and dessert for Rs.500 plus tax, it hasn’t given the details of either the platter or the dessert which makes it difficult to choose this from the plethora of Ramadan deals on offer in the market, or to even gauge whether this iftar deal is worth Rs.600 odd.

Pure Health Cafe  is the newest kid on the block and this is their first ever Ramadan. It remains to be seen whether Pure Health Cafe  is able to compete with the industry giants.

 Pure Health Cafe Karachi
Clifton Block 9
Karachi , Pakistan  

Phone: 021-35306817

Pure Health Cafe Iftar Deal
Pure Health Cafe Iftar Deal

Dunkin Donuts Iftar Deal

Dunkin Donuts is offering Fast & Feast Deal in Rs. 450/= all over Pakistan. It’s not the best deal on the market and Dunkin Donuts would do well to come up with a number of different Ramadan deals to entice a larger segment of the target market.

What’s Dunkin Donuts is Offering in Iftar Deal

What’s more Dunkin Donuts hasn’t specified the items in its Ramadan deal. Judging from the items shown in the visual, it looks like there is a chicken croissant, pizza, donut and a drink that looks like ice tea.

All in all it appears a very lurkwarm approach by Dunkin Donuts in the face of fierce competition this Ramadan.

 

Dunkin Donuts Iftar Deal
Dunkin Donuts Iftar Deal

KFC Panini Rocks Karachi

KFC just like Pizza Hut and Mcdonald’s has the habit of running one promo deal after other  anytime of the year. Most of KFC deals are mere repackaging or bundling of their existing products akin to Pizza Hut and McDonald’s.

However, once in a while KFC launches something new in the same vein as Pizza Hut and Mcdonald’s.

KFC Panini is one of KFC's latest creations in the Pakistani market.

Dikirim oleh Restaurants Uncut pada 30 Desember 2011

KFC Panini is one such product. However, the Panini is not a radical departure from KFC’s core offerings and is line with KFC’s brand essence. As such it’s not an authentic Panini but an extended version of it.

Panini are basically small bread rolls filled with any number of things from ham to salami, to mince meat, anything goes. It is usually served warm after having been pressed by a warming grill

The actual word is ‘Panino’, the singular form and Panini is its plural.

It’s actually an Italian dish which became popular all over the world once it was widely accepted in the great US of A. Now any sandwich which is toasted or grilled is labeled as Panini.

The main distinction of the original dish was the type of bread used, either Ciabatta  or Rosetta.

The one used in KFC Panini is a variation of the Ciabatta. seems like neither of these. The main difference is the upper crust which is there on these two but was conspicuous by its absence in the KFC version.

The KFC Panini comprises of the standard Zinger fillet topped with pickled cucumber and a spread of garlic mayo coupled with mozzarella cheese in a European toasted and grilled bread which appeared to be some variation of the Italian Ciabiatta.

KFC Panini
KFC Panini

All in all, the bread and the mayo were the only two differentiating factors from the rest of the KFC offerings.

The only shortcoming that we faced was the paucity of chicken chunks. Of course KFC could argue that because of the length of the Panini, the chicken cannot be equally distributed and that in some areas, the concentration is higher whereas others are barren.

However, that argument does not hold good when you take into account the KFC Filler. The KFC Filler is much larger than KFC Panini and yet the entire sub was loaded with zinger chunks. If KFC had emulated that design, Panini would be that much better.

All in all, KFC Panini is a good deal to try especially if you yearn for garlic mayo and want to delve into a new type of bread. However at Rs.330 (Rs.440 for combo meal), the KFC Filler is better value for money.

Pizza Point Takes on Pizza Hut

Pizza Point is yet another clone of Pizza Hut that has been on Karachi’s foodscape for over a year now but only recently got in the limelight with it’s special deals which it is promoting through scrolls as part of cable TV advertising.

It seems Pizza Point is confident of making it big in the cutthroat food service industry of Karachi, as is evident from the fact that it has already churned out three outlets at strategic locations: Gulshane Iqbal, North Nazimabad and DHA.

The location of the North Nazimabad outlet is by far the best, situated on the Donisl and Cool 90s food street in Block H. The Gulshan joint is the most subdued, an open-air cafesque joint on the road leading to Gulshan chowrangi coming from Mukka chowk –Aisha Manzil.

We visited the North Nazimabad outlet sometime back before they hit the cable TV circuit and we were most impressed by it. Not only is the outlet enormous in size, with two floors and a private dining room unheard of in this part of town, the attention to detail is exquisite. While the interior is not exactly baroque, having the usual pizza parlor arrangement, they’ve made an effort to project an aura of an upscale pizza joint with its elaborate designs.

At the time we visited, Pizza Point was offering the ‘Buy one Large pizza and get a regular for Rs.99’ only through coupons printed in the Homexpress magazine. Either the penetration of Homexpress isn’t much or people have stopped reading it altogether because there weren’t many customers when we visited it.

Pizza Point is yet another clone of Pizza Hut that has been on Karachi’s foodscape for over a year now but only recently got in the limelight with it’s special deals

Dikirim oleh Restaurants Uncut pada 22 Januari 2012

Now they’ve made that deal open to all devoid of any coupon requirements and promoting it through cable TV scroll along with its Triple Damaka offer as part of its Anniversary celebrations.

Now two deals at the same time is not the most effective option. For one, it gives the impression that the brand is desperate to lure customers in and is coming up with all sort of deals because the product itself is maybe not good enough. Secondly, you cannot measure the impact of the individual deals, which one was effective and which one wasn’t.

We opted for their buy one get one for Rs.99 deal and chose their Super Max and Arabic Green Pizza.

The Arabic Green, although not Arabic by any stretch of the imagination but rather more Mexican, was a combination of supposedly Arabic chicken, onions, green peppers, mushrooms, jalapenos and of course mozzarella cheese. What’s more, it was a delight in every way. Not only was the crust oozing with loads of topping, the taste as well was out of this world. Was the extra rich flavor a result of the garlic mayo sauce on top or a combination of the ingredients, we’re not sure, but the outcome was smashing.

Pizza Point Karachi Pakistan
Pizza Point Karachi Pakistan

One thing though, it was spicy as hell. Although there were jalapenos there, but we feel this was a result of local spices added for good measure. So if you’re looking for a unique ‘unpizza’, you can’t have it better than Arabic Green at Pizza Point.

Pizza Point Karachi Pakistan
Pizza Point Karachi Pakistan

In contrast, Pizza Point’s Super Max equivalent to Pizza Hut’s Super Supreme was a disappointment. It wouldn’t have been had they named it something else or branded a pizza Super Max which was worthy of this name, things wouldn’t be so bad. That’s because a Super Max or a Super Supreme is supposed to be an embodiment of a perfect pizza which has all the ingredients.

Pizza Point Karachi Pakistan
Pizza Point Karachi Pakistan

This wasn’t it. Pizza Point’s Super Max was supposed to comprise of smoked chicken, chicken sausages, pepperoni, beef, smoked veal, mushrooms, green peppers, olives and mozzarella cheese. Just look at the images. Although you’ll see the rudimentary ingredients, not all were there. Even if you ignore their absence, the sparse topping as is evident from the pics is inexcusable.

One of the problems Pizza Hut has been having lately is the lack of covering near the corners. Pizza Point has an excellent opportunity to cover those ends as well with the topping and then promote this as a USP over Pizza Hut.

Taste-wise, Pizza Point is quite similar to Pizza Hut, but not as much as Penny Pizza. We feel the confidence Pizza Point is projecting with its huge set-up and  investment is probably because it has Pizza Hut ex-staff on its team who knows how Pizza Hut make its version, plus it is also banking on the fact that the Pakistani consumer is still enamored by the Pizza Hut’s version of pizza.

Price-wise Pizza Point is quite expensive, almost at par with Pizza Hut. A regular pizza for Rs.620 is not cheap by any stretch of the imagination. At this price, why would you go to Pizza Point when you can have the same thing at Pizza Hut?

Maybe this was the reason Pizza Point hasn’t really gone through the roof as yet in spite of good pizzas and maybe this is the reason they’ve introduced these cost-effective deals which have been going on for quite sometime. The question is, will the customer continue to return in the absence of deals and at the actual price?

Pizza Point would also do well to introduce some deals to promote their other products like lasagna, pasta and the sandwiches.

All in all Pizza Point is a good place to devour a Pizza Hut like pizza in an upscale ambience.

Papa John’s Pizza Resurrected

Papa John’s has come up with a new outlet on Rashid Minhas Road and some new deals akin to Pizza Hut to revive its fluctuating fortunes.

Papa John’s opened up with much fanfare 8 years ago at the Do Talwar intersection Clifton. Unfortunately for them, Pizza Hut had already seeped into the psyche of the Pakistani consumer so much so that Papa John’s brand of pizza was rejected largely by the populace.

Unable to afford the exorbitant cost of real estate at Do Talwar, Papa John’s moved into an obscure location on Khayabane Rahat where it gradually carved out a niche for itself.

Recently Papa John’s has shifted gears, opening up a new outlet on the happening Rashid Minhas Road almost adjacent to Pizza Hut, in addition to coming up with a slurry of promotional deals to match Pizza Hut, not to mention a buy one get one free coupons in the Homexpress magazine.

Papa John’s has come up with a new outlet on Rashid Minhas Road and some new deals akin to Pizza Hut to revive its fluctuating fortunes.

Dikirim oleh Restaurants Uncut pada 19 Januari 2012

Although the location is good, the exact position is not the greatest, in fact quite amusing. Papa John’s is housed on the 1st floor of a building, and ironically sandwiched between two ominous organizations: Agha Khan Laboratory and Metlife Insurance.

We tested the facility on a Saturday night, a time which is a rough barometer of the success of a food joint.

The place, although not completely deserted, wasn’t bustling with activity either. This could mean one of three things:

1. the target market is not yet aware of its deals,

2. the deal itself is not that lucrative, or

3. consumers still don’t like Papa John’s version.

The last point is gradually losing steam. There are four types of pizzas en vogue in Karachi: the bakery type, the Pizza Hut, Papa John’s and Domino’s. All the rest are clones of these types, with Pizza Hut being cloned the most, and is thus losing its allure.

People want something different, and Papa John’s and Domino’s are the shining knights in armour offering that change. And to ensure that, both Papa John’s and Domino’s are furiously emulating Pizza Hut’s strategy of deals and stuff to capture a substantial chunk of the consumer’s heart.

Major differentiating factor between Papa John’s and Pizza Hut is the dough. While Pizza Hut’s crust is all fluffed up courtesy generous use of baking soda, Papa John’s seems to be completely devoid. It is more like the desi roti which comprises of two layers. The topping is more or less similar to Pizza Hut’s.

The promotional deal Papa John’s is offering right now has a couple of shortcomings, the biggest being you cannot choose of their star pizzas like Super Papa, All Meat and Little Italy with that deal. It’s a bad strategy because if you’re not going to allow your potential customers a trial of your best offerings (which is the real purpose of any deal), how are you going to make them fall in love with your brand for life?

Secondly, the scheme has been going on for too long now. The longer it lasts, the more people will come to take it for granted and refrain from trying out the real menu at the actual prices.

Coming back to our epicurean expedition, we opted for their special deal ‘Papa Choice 2’ which comprises of two regular pizzas (9”), two garlic sauce cups, a pitcher of soft drink, and four peperrocini peppers at a price of Rs.892 inclusive of tax.

For the two regular pizzas, due to deal restrictions we chose Pepperoni Pizzaz which is supposed to be loaded with pepperoni and extra mozzarella cheese, and New Orleans Jazz which comprises of fajita chicken, green peppers, onions, garlic sauce and red pepper sprinkled on top.

Papa John Karachi
Papa John Karachi

The garlic sauce wasn’t really a garlic sauce. It was melted butter with garlic essence. Although it wasn’t bad, it was extremely rich as you would expect butter to be and not for the faint of heart. Sauce would have been a far better option. Peppers were good.

We also tasted their salad bar not part of this deal at Rs.173. It was the usual, the same type you are used to at pizza hut or any other pizza parlour, right down to the sauces, but taste-wise Papa John fared better than pizza hut.

Finally the pizzas. If you look at the complete picture of the pizzas, it will appear that the topping is scarce. Now look at the images of the individual slices and you’ll see the topping is sufficient. Yes, the ends of the crust could have been covered easily with topping. At least then Papa John could have claimed to be one league above Pizza Hut in the toppings department.

Now the taste. The Pepperoni was a bit of a disappointment. One reason was that the pepperoni was razor-thin unlike any we’ve seen or tasted so far, and it didn’t taste fresh enough. Papa John would do well to slice fatter pieces. Secondly the description claimed that the mozzarella was extra but we didn’t detect any generous topping of it compared to our other pizza.

The Jazz fared better than the Pepperoni, although we didn’t detect the garlic sauce essence claimed in the description.

Papa John has a distinct taste which should appeal to the palette of our ‘ever searching for the new culinary experience’ public. Although it has finally realized the potential of marketing its brand, it would do well to market its distinctiveness more aggressively if it is to compete with the likes of Pizza hut and Domino’s.

Domino’s Quesadilla and Double Melt Cheese Pizza

Domino’s has been around in this part of the world for quite some time now. It started off true to its brand essence of being a delivery and take-away joint located in the obscure location behind Nando’s next to Damascus in Clifton. While Pizza Hut was going great guns at that time penetrating like hell, Domino’s was content with just one outlet delivering to only Clifton and Defence areas.

Then all of a sudden it woke up from its deep slumber and within no time had opened quite a few dine-in outlets, the most prominent being the National Stadium one adjacent to Copper Kettle.

But it found out the hard way how late it was in getting in on the action as Pizza Hut had deeply entrenched itself in the mind of the consumer so much so that the target market now considered Pizza Hut’s taste as the benchmark. Any deviation from this was rejected outright. Conversely, many pizza hut clones did roaring as a result of this.

This single consumer preference cost many Pizza outlets dearly who didn’t aspire to Pizza Hut’s way of baking pizzas. Domino’s was one of them.  It had to close down its biggest joint on Stadium Road due to lack of business.

It has come a long way since then, emulating Pizza Hut’s promotional tactics of coming up with something new and unique every now and then. To its credit, it hasn’t tried to copy Pizza Hut’s recipe, sticking to its own brand essence while trying out new things.

We paid a visit to its recently opened Bahadurabad outlet next to HavMor ice cream on the main Bahadurabad chowrangi, and tried their latest offerings.

One was the double melt cheese, and the other Quesadilla.

Domino's Quesadilla and Double Melt Cheese Pizza are just two of the shrewd promotional tactics Domino's using to wrest market share from the grasp of pizza hut.

Dikirim oleh Restaurants Uncut pada 27 Desember 2011

Both are unique creations, although Quesadilla is being made by other pizza joints by the name of La pizza pie. Double melt cheese is pretty self-explanatory – there are two layers of cheese.

Quesadilla suffers from a pretty dab appearance. It’s only when you have taken a couple of bites of the thing that the real taste sinks in. We ordered the chicken version, and this is one major shortcoming of Domino’s Quesadilla that you can only pick one of four offerings – chicken, beef, pure cheese and vegetable. You can’t opt for any variation or combination.

Apart from that, it proved to be a hidden gem, or at least the chicken version did. The thing that stole the show was the tikka taste dominant in the chicken pieces used. Although many clones of Pizza Hut claim to offer the tikka flavor, almost all of them fail at it, offering plain marinated chicken instead of the real coal grilled taste, probably thinking they’ve fooled the customer.

Domino's Pizza Karachi Pakistan
Domino's Pizza Karachi Pakistan

They need to wake up to the fact that the consumer is a lot more discerning than they credit him for and can destroy your business by opting to never come back.

In this context, Domino’s gets full marks because it never promised to offer tikka flavor and yet went ahead and did just that. This is a perfect example of ‘Under promise – over deliver’, an adage all brands should adhere to religiously.

It doesn’t matter if the chicken used in the Quesadilla was actual tikka or just plain chicken which was subjected to a few minutes of coal vapor. What matters is that the consumer was given a pleasant surprise when he wasn’t expecting one.

Now if only they could spruce the appearance of the Quesadilla, because at the moment it looks like a glorified version of a Nan. A fancy Nan by a pathan ka dhaba that is filled with all sorts of Pathani delicacies.

The double melt cheese pizza did well both on the presentation and the taste front. By the looks of it, we weren’t expecting it to be so fulfilling, and yet it was that rich- the two cheese used combined to create a perfect concoction for satiating your appetite.

Also all the flavors that are available for the simple version are valid for the double cheese version as well.

The good thing is that Domino’s hasn’t changed its brand essence to conform to Pizza Hut’s benchmark. It is still making its trademark thin crust.

What Domino can improve upon is the frequency and variety in its deals and promoting them through the digital media which majority of the target market is using.

Nando’s Gourmet Burger

Nandos has tried to cash in on the Gourmet Burger mania sweeping Pakistan especially Karachi with the arrival of Hardees by coming up with its own version of a Gourmet Burger.

Traditionally, Nandos has a very conservative approach to launching schemes compared to KFC and Pizza Hut who launch schemes at the drop of a hat. Only once in a blue moon does Nando’s come up with a new product or scheme.

Their last big product was the Espetada Rustica and that was almost two years ago. And now Nandos has come up with the Gourmet Burger.

We went in to review the new burger. Although Nando’s has been offering a couple of burgers ever since it launched in Pakistan, the new offering is obviously to jump on the gourmet burger bandwagon initiated by local restaurateurs who brought home the concept of this premium burger from abroad.

Dikirim oleh Restaurants Uncut pada 5 Desember 2011

The burger costs Rs.475, with taxes it comes out to be Rs.551. We took one of their designer drinks as well called Citra which cost Rs.140 as opposed to the normal soft drink. All in all, the bill per person came out to be Rs.713.

Compare this with any of the other gourmet burgers available in town and this will come out to be one of the most if not the most expensive gourmet burger in both foreign and local brands. Only Gun Smoke fares worse than this on the price. At Hardee’s you can have an appetite busting meal at that amount. At GBC which is the latest local gourmet burger option in town, the total burger meal costs about Rs.550 on an average.

On its own, the burger is delectable. It comprises of a grilled chicken breast loaded with onions and smeared with sweet aubergines and hummus. The size of the burger is the first thing that catches you off-guard. It’s way too small for a gourmet burger especially at this price. Although Nando’s has done well to throw in two sidelines for good measure, fries and coleslaw, those two are pretty much the category standard at least in the local gourmet burger segment. Although these two sidelines are fixed, the staff is flexible enough to change it to any sideline on the menu. We chose the spicy wedges and the coleslaw.

The coleslaw was sumptuous. Although it didn’t conform to the industry standard of being sweet, being on the savory side, it was really something.

The designer drink Citra was a concoction of sprite, citrus and what not. Not bad really, but at Rs.140 plus tax is asking too much for a drink with no real fruit or any expensive ingredient in it.

Verdict: It’s a good enough burger and combined with the sidelines it will satiate the appetite of the average person. However at the end of the day it’s a simple burger and as such categorizing it under the gourmet segment is doing injustice to it.

Hardees Karachi Pakistan

Hardees Karachi Pakistan is still flying high third week into its foray of Karachi’s cutthroat fast food scene.

We tested Hardees for the third time in as many weeks, this time testing their mettle of managing take-away orders.

Our order took roughly 22 minutes, which on its own is not bad, but considering the fact that the dine-in orders take no more than 5 minutes to arrive, this wasn’t their best performance.

Dikirim oleh Restaurants Uncut pada 8 Oktober 2011

In fact, it seemed hardees was having a bad hair day because although this day had the least foot traffic of our three visits, things were not going smoothly. This we witnessed from our vantage point near the counter as we waited for the order.

The modus operandi they’ve employed for take-away is that the smaller order gets precedence even if its 10 orders down the line. That way, No.25 would be served before No.15 if the size of the order was less.

Now although this maybe an efficient system of dispersing orders quickly to them, but from a customer’s point of view, it’s not very flattering when the person who came later than you gets served before. And this strategy has the potential of pissing off a hot-headed customer.

And it managed to do just that right in front of our eyes. An uncle who it seemed had ordered for their entire neighborhood got pushed down the queue as per Hardee’s strategy. After waiting patiently for sometime, they stomped to the counter fuming, letting the staff have it.

Then the items within each specific order were getting mixed up. In fact in our own case, we had order grilled chicken burger and got original thickburger in its place. Not a bad deal though, considering that the grilled chicken is Rs.100 cheaper than the thickburger.

But just imagine how the person who got the raw end of the deal, a grilled chicken instead of the original thickburger would be feeling. Probably foaming at the mouth.

On top of everything, they lost our receipt as well. It was, without doubt, complete chaos at the counter.

Hardee’s has one of the best dine-in services we’ve seen in both the local and foreign brands, but their refusal to segregate the dine-in and take-away orders is unnecessarily creating chaos both in the queues and at the counters. They would do well to separate the two at the earliest and make allowances for separate system at the very outset of their yet-to-be-launched DHA outlet.

Here’s what we test-drove on the third attempt:

Qty Type Patty Price
1 Original Thickburger Thick 360
1 Swiss Mushroom Double 360
1 Famous Star Single 270
1 Super Star Double 370
1 Chicken Fillet Single 270
1 Chicken Grilled Single 270
1 Large Fries 130
3 Large Crispy Curls 480
Total 2510

Chicken grilled of course we couldn’t get our hands on due to the mix-up.

One thing we have realized after testing pretty much all the burgers is that the Hardees staff at the counter is itself not sure which of the burgers are charbroiled and which are not. About the chicken burgers, they are confident, but when confusion reigns supreme when it comes to the beef burgers.

We ourselves have arrived at the conclusion that the thickburgers are not charbroiled, while the single and double patty burgers are. However, the people at Hardee’s counter are not sure about this. Some are saying all the burgers are charbroiled while others are not sure. No one’s confident.

All in all, the charbroiled burgers taste much better than the thickburgers, because although all the patties are frozen and not fresh, the charcoal effect enhances the taste, differentiating it not only from Hardee’s other burgers but from the rest of the competition as well.

The chicken fillet is just what you would call a filler material amongst a star-studded menu, analogous to songs that are put in an album just to add to numbers. Last time we checked the Santa Fe Chicken burger and there’s not much to choose between the two.

Dikirim oleh Restaurants Uncut pada 8 Oktober 2011

The Swiss Mushroom with double patty fares much better than the thickburger, probably owing to the charbroiled effect. Quantity of mushrooms could be improved as the burger doesn’t have any salad in it, more mushrooms would enhance the fulfilling effect.

If you’re feeling ravenous, the Super Star is the burger to devour – an artery chocking concoction of two charbroiled beef patties oozing with mayo, double slices of cheese, jalapenos, tomatoes, onions, lettuce- the complete works.

Famous Star is a scaled-down version of Super Star with a single charbroiled patty while the rest of the condiments are the same.

The Original Thickburger is supposed to be their 2nd big star after Super Star. Although the beef patty is single, it is of the thick type covered with double slices of cheddar cheese and brimming with onions, lettuce and mayo.

The crispy curls are as always delectable while the fries didn’t do bad either. However, the real magic of these can only be felt then and there at the joint as by the time you get home, the crispy curls and the fries become soggy due to their own heat trapped within the packaging.

After three exhaustive tests, our verdict remains the same. Hardees has one of the best beef burgers in Karachi but they fall short of the gourmet category. However, if you’re looking to devour just a no-frills good old-fashioned beef burger without the bells and whistles of a gourmet burger, one that is big enough to satiate your appetite at good value for money, Hardees ought to be your first choice.

Hardees continues to mesmerize Karachi

Hardee’s love affair with Karachi is still in its honeymoon period as Karachiites continue to flock to the joint in droves, willing to spend an hour or more of their life in queues just to get their hands on something that’s mere fast food.

That’s the power of Hardee’s brand. Our second visit was at 20:00 hours on a Monday night and we had to wait almost half an hour to get in. By the time we got out an hour and a half later, the queue had ballooned to alarming proportions so much so that the police force was working in tandem with the private security guards to keep the crowd at bay.

And this is happening 10 days after Hardee’s opened up. Of course the mayhem would subside with time as well as with the launch of Hardee’s defence outlet slated to open sometime later.

This time around we tested another two of Hardee’s burgers. The Super Star Burger Rs.480 and the Santa Fe Chicken Rs.380.

Dikirim oleh Restaurants Uncut pada 4 Oktober 2011

Hardee’s Super Star Burger is just that- a real super star. This burger beats all the other Hardee’s offerings hands down. It’s that good. It’s big, it’s sumptuous, and for the first time we felt the charcoal taste in the beef patty which was missing in our previous excursion when we tried their jalapeño and Swiss mushroom burgers.

The double decker has all the elements that make up a genuine hamburger – double patty with double cheese, onions, jalapenos, the complete works, and will put any gourmet burger to shame. It’s that good. And the thing that makes it stand out is the charcoal essence that tantalizes your taste buds in a way no other local gourmet burger has been able to emulate in this part of the world.

The only fault we could find with it is how to eat it! The bun just disintegrated after a couple of bites and then it was an uphill battle trying to keep it together while maintaining your own composure.

In contrast, the Santa Fe Chicken burger that we tested isn’t anything to write home about. It comprised of a standard chicken fillet which couldn’t even fill the complete size of the bun, mayo, a solitary and an oversize lettuce leaf that was almost twice the size of the burger and irritating to handle.

Strangely, there was neither cheese nor onion in the burger! This is all the more perplexing when you take into account the fact that Santa Fe is the premium chicken burger of Hardee’s, the most expensive of it all. And yet it didn’t have even these necessities of a burger.

This is something that Hardee’s will have to really look into, if they want to continue to make chicken burgers, although they really don’t need to, with their beef burgers having attained stardom status the world over.

But if they do intend to continue, they really need to introduce some sort of differentiation into it.

Why not a charbroiled chicken burger? At least that way they would be able to offer something uniquely apart from its chicken contender KFC and to an extent McDonald’s. Otherwise, with their current crop of chicken offerings, they’re not going to challenge even the local gourmet burgers, let alone the big Whigs.

This time around we had better luck with the ketchup as we get hold of the ketchup guy before he could slip away as he did in our previous outing. But by and large ketchup continues to be a problem. It’s true that ketchup is not for free in foreign franchises in the First World, but then, we’re not living in that world, are we? And if KFC and McDonald can adapt to the ground realities of the Third World, so can Hardees.

Now, coming to their management efficiency, one shrewd tactic they’ve employed to reduce the decision-making time at the counter is to give the security personnel the menu to hand out to the customers waiting in the queues so that they can decide what they want to eat beforehand and not waste time at the counter.

One major problem Hardee’s going to face later when the euphoria dies down is the clarity of their pricing or rather lack of it.

The glitch in the afore-mentioned tactic is that the prices are not mentioned on this menu. Or on any menu for that matter. In fact the only time you’ll see the prices are on top of the counter.  And then on your bill.

And the bill is itself is one complex jumble of figures.  Instead of quoting the same combo meal price as written on the counter, Hardees has broken down the combo meal price with beverages mentioned separately with separate price.

What this strange costing does is give the impression that Hardees is cheating by charging the beverage twice, first by including it in the combo meal where it is mentioned as well, then putting it again at the bottom of the bill.

Although in reality they’ve broken down the combo meal pricing into two parts and not charging double, most of the customers will be suspicious of this bizarre billing, more so because they’ve included yet another header at the bottom –GST.

It would be far better if they just incorporate the GST and all the intricate pricing components into one big whole to avoid any consumer backlash.  At the moment, a consumer backlash has a very bleak possibility but as the infatuation with the brand wears down, a more transparent and clear pricing would be needed to convert that initial crush into mature love.

The price itself is, of course, not the problem. People here spend like crazy on eating out; they just don’t want to be taken for a ride.

Dikirim oleh Restaurants Uncut pada 4 Oktober 2011

There was a problem with Fanta. It tasted, well, something straight out of a hospital. When we complained to the manager, he told us the proportion of syrup in the Fanta mixture had gone wrong and told us to avoid it. It would have been better if they had put a notice near the fountain soda warning people about this problem. Nothing grandeur, just a small note.

Coming back to the menu, you would be amazed to find not a single avenue online that is showcasing Hardee’s offerings in Pakistan. Although the brand has been around for quite sometime, they’ve yet to come up with a website that does just this. Although the domain name has been booked www.hardeespakistan.com,  no work has been done it.

Yes, there are separate facebook pages for Hardees Pakistan, Hardees Lahore and even Hardees Karachi, but there’s no menu on any of them.  In fact if you search for Hardees menu online within Pakistan, you’re most likely to land on Restaurants Uncut itself. Although you’ll find a tossdown link to Hardees menu, it doesn’t go anywhere useful.

Although Hardees claims to offer Wi-Fi as mentioned on the bill, there was no Wi-Fi available.

Hardee’s continues to mesmerize Karachiites with an array of burgers that will give the existing foreign brands and the local gourmet burger brands a run for their money. How long will this passionate love affair last is anybody’s guess, but as long as Hardee’s continues to churn out new scintillating burgers instead of relying smugly on past brand laurels, it stands a real chance of converting the affair into a successful marriage that lasts.

Check out Hardee’s menu for Karachi.

Gourmet Burger Company Forays into Karachi Dine-in Scene

Gourmet Burger Company now lovingly christened GBC is the new kid on the burger block in Karachi’s foodscape.

 

Gourmet Burger Company started off as a delivery-only joint about a year ago and recently GBC opened its dine-in outlet in Khadda Market DHA phase 5.

Dikirim oleh Restaurants Uncut pada 2 Oktober 2011

Ever since Gun Smoke catalyzed the gourmet burger mania back in early 2000, there has been a rat race to jump onto this bandwagon. Every fine-dining restaurant is compelled to offer at least one type of burger as if its very survival depended on it. Okra and Olivetto are just two examples to boot.

 

Pre-Gun Smoke, the burgeoning café-sque restaurants, viz Copper Kettle and Arizona Grill did offer the proverbial hamburger, but there was no real focus on the category.

 

When Gun Smoke came all guns blazing (no pun intended), all of a sudden everyone wanted to cash in on the craze, so much so that even premium ice cream parlors like Hot Spot and Gelato Affair wanted to have a piece of the action. And in the wake of this competition, the pioneer of the category Mr. Burger, suffered big time, more so because of its own lethargy to step up to the competition.

So why is everyone rushing to come up with his own burger joint?

 

Because everyone thinks they’ve got the recipe for the ultimate gourmet burger, the likes of which have never been seen in Karachi and as such they can dominate the premium burger scene in spite of the cutthroat competition.

 

At least that’s what Gourmet Burger Company’s owner Mr. Zahid Usman believes. Having lived in the US for six years, he said he couldn’t find the genuine hamburger anywhere in Karachi and his yearning for the real thing led him to launch GBC.

 

Asked why start out with a delivery service instead of going the full monty, he replied that he had been burnt once with a restaurant on Khayaban-e-Sehar and he wanted to test the waters with a small set-up before expanding the operation.

 

We asked him why the delivery service was limited to just DHA, Clifton and the adjoining areas (as stated by the staff before he arrived), Zahid Usman negated the statement, saying that delivery was confined to those areas only initially and that now almost the entire Karachi is covered, provided that the order is minimum Rs.1000 and a delivery charge of Rs.50 will be added to the bill.

 

Delivery service aside, it’s a good thing GBC has opened a diner. Although it’s one of the tiniest diners you’ll ever find in Karachi, with a very Spartan décor, the main benefit is that location, smack in the middle of Khadda market just adjacent to the popular Red Chili with OPTP just around the corner. What this will do is propel the brand from being just a niche brand known and endeared to just a select group of people to diverse segments of the market.

 

GBC owes much of its fame to a Facebook Group called SWOT where GBC has been talked about and recommended as well quite a lot. However not all of its reviews on that forum are raving like the one below written by the group owner Nezihe Hussain:

“Well so we SWOTTED Gourmet Burger Company – new dine-in facility. Nice cozy diner atmosphere…the tables not made for us with legs…long one I mean and it needed a little more chilling (AR and NK gave suggestions to improve that so we move on) – the service first – since attended by Adeel (the owner) it was obviously top grade. The food – we ordered 1 Classic GBC burger, 1 Classic GBC burger with wasabi (special addition) and jalapenoes, 1 Chili Cheese Burger, 1 Chili Hot Dog, 1 masala fries, 1 starter of chicken strips (yes before someone says it – we manage to eat quite a bit) the verdict – ever thing was very nice fresh and tasted good. The problem is that its not Gourmet Burgers…they are better than fast food chains but wish they had not set the standard that high by calling it “Gourmet”.”

This is in fact one of the less critical reviews on that SWOT group. Initially when GBC came out with the dine-in option, social media was abuzz with either their appalling service or the quality of their buns.

We didn’t face any of these lapses – service was quick and prompt and the buns were alright, although nothing extraordinary about them. They could really tinker with their buns, differentiate them in some way to support their gourmet claim.

One thing we did feel or lack thereof, the ‘piping hot’ factor. Yes, burgers are not supposed to be served that way but when you’re griling a burger patty, shouldn’t the heat within last a little longer until the customer has had bitten into it? Of course, in the case of delivery that feeling cannot be replicated, but when you’re serving right then and there….

To cut a long story short, we felt our burgers were a little on the cold side and that the taste could have been enhanced if they hadn’t been that way.

GBC is very much conscious of its minimal dine-in option and to make it as accommodating as possible, they’ve put a hand sanitizer on the table along with the sauces and all. Now it may not be a big deal, but the concern GBC shows for the hygiene of its customers will only add to the brand goodwill especially since we haven’t come across a single restaurant or fast food joint that shows this much concern.

 

Another little differentiation is the use of imported Heinz ketchup. Again not a big deal, but with Knorr and other local brands being used by even the most popular fast food joints, this little consideration surely adds to the brand equity.

 

Although the brand essence of the place by virtue of its very name is that of a burger, surprisingly there are only six varieties of burgers on offer, out of which a mere two are beef.

 

Apart from them, they offer the usual items that are typical of a café – from pastas to quesadillas to fajitas to crepes to flavored fries and what not.

 

We strongly suggest cutting down on any item that does not add to the core competency and put its entire weight behind the brand’s forte – gourmet burger.

 

Extending the brand essence just dilutes the brand – no matter at what stage of its PLC the brand is. And GBC is still in its infancy stage – all the more reason for it to be hammering on its true essence.

 

Yes, in the short run it does help to offer everything under the sun, but brand-building is a long term endeavor and it pays rich dividends if you stick to the basics.

 

Although you do see mega brands extending their essence like hell, they attained this stature by sticking to what they did best, and now are being sucked dry by aspiring brand managers trying to make a name for themselves.

 

Okay maybe matching Gun Smoke’s plethora of burger varieties maybe taking things a bit too far, but something definitely needs to be done with the current burger varieties which are just too few.

 

We tried three of their offerings, both the beef burgers and a chicken burger.

 

 

The Italian Grilled Chicken Burger priced Rs.395 comprises of a flame grilled chicken breast marinated in Italian spices and topped with creamy Italian dressing, lettuce, tomato and onion.

Italian grilled chicken burger
Italian grilled chicken burger

We’ve no idea what these Italian spices were, but the result was one hell of a scrumptious burger. We did feel that the chicken breast was from the starved plains of Africa – it was that thin – and we let Mr. Zahid know as much.

 

The Gourmet Chili Burger on the other hand had the fattiest patty of the three burgers. It also happened to be the most expensive item on the menu at Rs.400, more so than even the pastas.

Gourmet chili burger
Gourmet chili burger

It comprised of flame grilled prime ground beef coupled with chili con carne and loaded with the usual condiments – cheddar cheese, mustard, mayo and the salad.

 

Chili Con Carne is a one of those strange dishes whose origin is disputed. The dish derives its name from the Spanish chile con carne, “chili pepper with meat” and is basically a sort of spicy stew comprising of ground beef, tomato and beans.

 

The Gourmet Classic Burger priced Rs.350 is pretty much the same as the chili version, the only change is the type of patty used. It’s your standard hamburger.

Gourmet classic burger uncut
Gourmet classic burger uncut

Incredibly, none of the burgers have jalapenos or even the option of adding them.

 

What about the size and value for money?

 

The size of the two beef burgers were your standard size, not humungous but enough to satiate your appetite, although the size of gourmet chili’s patty made it more than fulfilling. If quantity is what you’re after, in this price range you can get a better deal at Latte Lounge which we recently tested which offers coleslaw.

 

Gourmet Burger Company has no sidelines in the offing other than a generous helping of fries. When we pointed out this fact to Mr. Usman Zahid suggesting the inclusion of either coleslaw or garlic sauce, he was adamant that the gourmet burger anywhere in the world apart from Pakistan is not served with any such sideline. And if someone is indeed interested in them, they can buy the sauce separately. However, we didn’t find either any sauce or coleslaw on the menu.

 

So where GBC’s burger stand in the comity of burgers? GBC’s burger stands apart from the lot and your appreciation of its offering would depend upon which of the two ‘burger’ schools of thought do you subscribe to. And here by burger we mean the hamburger.

 

The first school holds sacred the beef patty that is firm and succulent so that when you bite into it, the juice oozes out tantalizing your taste buds. And the firmness of the patty ensures that your jaws have to work at it.

 

The second school of thought preaches the virtues of a patty that is made from ground beef loosely held together so that when you bite into it, it literally melts in your mouth- more of a minced meat version.

 

GBC follows the second school of thought, and if this is what catches your fancy, then it’s gonna be “Love at First Bite”.

Gourmet Burger Company
Gourmet Burger Company

Gourmet Burger Company

Opp. Bombay Store

Khadda Market DHA 5

3524-8666

3524-8665

0332-3268440

www.gbco.pk

BBQ tonight needs to fine tune its menu

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

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

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

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

[slickr-flickr tag=”bbq tonight”]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kahva Cafe and Grill

Kahva café and grill located just on the outskirts of the Sindhi Muslim Food Street has been around for the last several years. How it has managed to survive all these years is amazing considering the fact that you would hardly find it buzzing with people. Not that it wears a deserted look every time, but it just doesn’t have the appeal to make crowds throng to it just like Roasters or even Nandos a few 100 metres away from Kahva do.

Kahva has all the ingredients of an upscale café, the ambience, the upholstery, even the prices. The dining hall has the perfect blend of lighting something which so many upscale cafes and restaurants fail at.

And yet it is not pulling the sort of traffic that its brethren Roasters is. To be fair, Roasters had the brand essence already established via its Zamzama outlet, so the consumers thronging the place already what they were getting into. Roasters also had the competitive advantage of being owned by Nadeem Raja, the owner of already famous Arizona Grill who knew how to make a restaurant successful.

[slickr-flickr tag=”kahva”]

Kahva on the other hand had to start from scratch. On top of that, the name doesn’t exactly exude the image of a sophisticated suave café. The most you would associate with the name Kahva is a swanky Shisha bar. And Kahva doesn’t even offer Sheesha. It does, however, offer numerous coffee options, from Mocha to Latte, the complete works.

Just like Roasters and in fact most of the eating houses on that strip, it is located on two floors. Both floors are styled on the pattern of a lounge with sofas and all. There is of course the conventional dining table arrangement also incorporated into the scheme. The aesthetics of it all is right up there with the very best.

What Kahva is lacking behind in is the core product- the food. Not all, but one of the items that we tried- something which is common and sure to be tried by most of the people coming to the place – was totally horrendous. Called the Biccacio sandwich, it was supposed to be made of chicken cubes marinated in herbs and spices and served in freshly baked oregano bread along with fries and coleslaw. Priced at a whopping Rs.345, the sandwich was, to start with, just below the average size. In fact if you compare it to what you can get for pretty much the same price at Roasters, it can aptly be called tiny. And remember that GST is charged in addition to the price. So the actual price of the sandwich is a mind-numbing Rs.407.

The size, sadly, wasn’t the only thing wrong with the sandwich. The description belied the ground reality. Instead of being marinated with herbs and spices, the chicken cubes seemed to be inundated with tomato sauce. Again nothing wrong with that if the sauce itself was palatable which it wasn’t. The coleslaw that accompanied it wasn’t upto the mark either. The only saving grace was the fries, both in taste and quantity.

Two of the other items that we tried were, thankfully, the complete opposite of this torrid experience. The Alfredo Fettuccini, a special pasta made with mushrooms, chicken and a garlic cream sauce was simply divine. Priced at Rs.390, the quantity was also just about right. Yes, the chicken pieces could have been a few more but it doesn’t matter that much. The garlic essence in the sauce was not overdone which some restaurants are prone to do.

The jumbo prawns in peppercorn sauce served with garlic rice were sumptuous. Priced Rs.545 they were at par with the Roasters and Arizona Grill’s offering. The only glitch was that the shell wasn’t removed and that spoilt the mood a bit working on that.

One mind-boggling we found at Kahva was that the soft drink was priced at Rs.75. Add GST to that and it comes out to be a staggering Rs.88.5. If you were lounging at a five star hotel and paying this much premium on an ordinary drink, it would make sense. Here it is nothing short of mind-boggling. The only rationale we can come up with is because the place is a wi-fi hotspot and has plasma screens installed, people come to enjoy the ambience and order a soft drink for that privilege. So Kahva is charging the premium for sitting around in the soft drinks.

But they need to at least reduce the rates for those who’re already having a meal there, or better still include the drinks free of cost in the meal. It’s not a big deal but it would help to boost the brand loyalty.

Kahva maybe a good place to dine out, but being good alone is not enough to prosper as many restaurants and cafes have found out the hard way. Kahva will need to ensure a decent turn-over to be able to succeed in the long run, considering the cut-throat competition it faces in the neighborhood.

One thing it needs to immediately implement is offer lucrative meal deals especially on its snack category, because the few people who came in while we were there went for that option. The most popular deal on that food strip is buy one, get 50% off the second one. It could go for that option, or any other option, as long as it is attractive enough to lure the consumers in and then works its magic on them to keep them for life.

Tung Nan- The Chinese Restaurant

Tung Nan is one of the ancient Chinese restaurants of Karachi from the time when Chinese cuisine was all the rage in this coastal city. Back then eating out meant going for barbeque or Chinese. Simple times.

Times have changed dramatically since then. Now you’ve the choice of a plethora of cuisines and restaurants to choose from – Italian, Thai, Mediterranean, Mexican, Japanese, you name it.

[slickr-flickr tag=”tungnan”]

Chinese cuisine may have lost favor with the rich and elite,  but it still resonates strongly with the classes just below it. The result – most of the Chinese restaurants based in the vicinity of Tariq Road for more than decades are alive and well, some in fact doing roaring business.

Tung Nan is located in a side lane of Tariq Road in between English Boot House and Zahid Nihari. Just across it is another old-timer Hong Kong.

We tried both Hong Kong and Tung Nan after more than a decade. Hong Kong was a disappointment with all the Chinese dishes reeking strongly of Pakistani touch.

Tung Nan on the other hand was a pleasant surprise. Smaller in size compared to Hong Kong which is quite big for a Chinese restaurant, it has a soothing ambiance very much what you would expect from a restaurant of this category- dark interior and all.

We ordered the usual dishes that we test at every Chinese joint- Hot n Sour soup as appetizer, followed by chicken fried rice, chicken chowmein, beef chilli, spring roll, fried prawn and sweet n sour prawn.

The hot n sour soup wasn’t the best that we’ve had at a Chinese joint, but it wasn’t bad either. To be fair, it was sufficiently loaded with all the goodies including prawns.

The rest of the stuff was some of the best you’ll ever have at a Chinese joint. Although none of us know what authentic Chinese cuisine does taste like, Tung Nan’s offerings were at par with the taste created by the giants of this category back in the 80s, if you consider that taste to be the barometer for judging authentic Chinese cuisine.

People who prefer less salt and spices are specially going to be thrilled by Tung Nan’s recipes. In this respect at least, Tung Nan is staying true to the Chinese roots. This is a healthy breakaway from the existing trend where most Chinese restaurants load their offerings with salt and spices.

Quantity-wise Tung Nan is just above average. In some dishes, it offers generous helpings like the fried rice but in others like sweet and sour prawns, quantity could definitely be improved upon.

All in all Tung Nan is a good place to have a quaint Chinese meal with your family at a price that is competitive with the other Chinese joints. A meal for five would cost around Rs.2,000 with everyone getting sufficiently stuffed.

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Roasters Burgers UNcut

Roasters’ Burgers are the biggest you’ll ever see in this part of the world. You’ll notice these humungous objects from far off as the waiter approaches with them. It doesn’t get bigger than this. And if you can’t satiate your appetite with one of these, then you need to get your stomach examined.

We tested two of their fast food offerings- Caesar Chicken Sandwich and Chicken Bacon Royal. Funny thing is, even if you order a sandwich, it invariably comes out to be a burger as in the case of Caesar chicken sandwich.

The chicken Caesar sandwich, well, if you’re into mild stuff, you’re gonna love this. It’s devoid of any strong essence. Just your crunchy romaine lettuce entwined with a healthy slab of very mildly grilled chicken with a price tag of Rs.395. We would have recommended this meal as a diet had it not been oozing with mayonnaise. Overall a very subdued offering, but enough to satiate your appetite.

The Chicken Bacon Royal Burger’s description promises to give you a heart attack, what with golden crisp chicken on top of which sit bacon strips and mushrooms and even garlic mayo. We went for that option but were disappointed not to get a heart attack. Reason being, there’s still ample room for improvement (read filling). The chicken patty was a bit too thin, and the bacon strips could have been more generously stuffed, especially at a hefty price of Rs. 395. Nevertheless it’s good stuff to sink your teeth into.

Chicken Bacon Royal
Chicken Bacon Royal

The fries content was more than sufficient in all meals.

However, it’s the lack of coleslaw or some other worthy sideline like garlic sauce that is the main drawback of

Roasters’ burger offerings. On the face of it, it may not appear to be that big a deal, but when you consider that all the competitors are offering  generous helpings of either coleslaw or garlic sauce with their burgers, you need to wake up to that reality.

But it’s not the real reason that Roasters should start offering these sidelines. The thing is, the Pakistani consumer got spoilt by the earlier snack-walas who started offering these delicacies along with the main entrée, and the trend was continued by their successors.

The result: whenever a Karachiite orders a burger no matter where, he always expects something extra other than the main attraction. And if he doesn’t get that extra stuff, no matter how delicious the burger, he always feels disappointed that something is amiss.

One other major reason especially for

Roasters is that since their buns are gigantic, the patty inside sometimes is unable to compete with it for size, which essentially means that some portion of the bun is invariably going to be empty.

Now, if you’re not offering any pasty sideline, what is the customer going to dip his empty bun into?

Pizza Hut came with the novel solution of filling the crust ends with either cheese or sometimes even seekh kabab, and that strategy proved to be quite successful. While

Roasters can’t offer that option, it can certainly make do with the earlier solution of coleslaw.

And that is the only real shortcoming of

Roasters’ burgers. Otherwise they are the very best you’ll find in town at a price that is pretty competitive.