Kababji Sheraton Offers the only Lebanese Iftar in Karachi

Kababji is Sheraton’s, in fact Karachi’s premiere Lebanese restaurant. Although there are others like Abaan and Damascus, none come close to Kababji in terms of offerings and ambience.

Kababji Lebanese Restaurant Sheraton Karachi
Kababji Lebanese Restaurant Sheraton Karachi
Kababji Lebanese Restaurant Sheraton Karachi
Kababji Lebanese Restaurant Sheraton Karachi
Kababji Lebanese Restaurant Sheraton Karachi
Kababji Lebanese Restaurant Sheraton Karachi
Kababji Lebanese Restaurant Sheraton Karachi
Kababji Lebanese Restaurant Sheraton Karachi
Kababji Lebanese Restaurant Sheraton Karachi
Kababji Lebanese Restaurant Sheraton Karachi

Kababji sheraton has been revamped since we last visited it. Although the décor is still very traditional, the lighting has been intensified a tad too much.

Iftar Dinner Buffet at Kababji Sheraton

Kababji’s Ramadan iftar dinner buffet is not as lavish as some of the other buffets in town, having about 25 odd items compared to 50+ offered by other restaurants, but it’s based on just one cuisine not offered by any other that is Lebanese whereas the others are a cornucopia of cuisines.

It costs Rs.1800 (Rs.1500 + GST + soft drink+ tip) making it one of the most expensive, if not the most, iftar buffets in Karachi. The fact that Kababji is housed within Sheraton hotel has got a lot to do with that exorbitant price tag.

The shawarma was the real deal unlike the ones that have sprung up all over the city. Most of them don’t know jack about creating a shawarma. The thing is, one of the basic ingredients of the real shawarma is the ‘charbi’ (fat) which is skewered on top of the slab of meat. When heat is applied to this arrangement via the burner, the charbi melts and permeates into the meat giving the trademark taste to the shawarma, something which is amiss in almost all the shawarmas available in Karachi. Kababji’s shawarma had this unique taste. So full marks to the Kababji sheraton team for maintaining the authenticity of the Arabic shawarma.

Ouzi or Baked lamb and spiced rice was the grandeur item personifying the Lebanese experience to the hilt. True to the Lebanese tradition, it was cooked in a gargantuan cooking utensil with an entire lamb, or in this case, a small goat. This colossal arrangement was placed at one end of the buffet table.

 

Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Shawarma at Kababji lebanese restaurant
Shawarma at Kababji lebanese restaurant
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton

Lebanese cuisine is rich with an assortment of kababs and we looked forward to dishes like the Orfali kabab or the Laham Mishwe Kabab or even Dajaj Kabab, unfortunately the only one available was Kafta kabab.

The kafta felt like too much had been done with them. Remember the adage too many cooks spoil the broth? That’s what probably became the fate of this distant cousin of seekh kababs. They were definitely made from lamb meat, judging from the overpowering taste of the meat, but in order to diminish this smell and taste, the cook had over-compensated by putting one spice too many. The result was a mishmash that tasted very artificial. Then one of the foremost requirements of a kabab is that it should be juicy and succulent and should literally melt into your mouth. These did none of those things. On the other hand, they were barren and when you chewed on them, they had a rough texture as if the concoction had been prepared ages ago.

Humour fish was good but we missed the Samak Harra which epitomizes Lebanese cuisine. Ironically it would have suited the Pakistani palate more because it provokes your taste buds something which the chef had tried to do with the other items. Humour which tasted baked was devoid of any spices or remarkable taste.

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The chicken wings surprisingly were the best dish on display surpassing even the Ouzi.

Shish Taouk was succulent and tender, the chicken cubes easily melting into your mouth, but even here you felt the recipe had been tampered with to gel in with the Pakistani palate.

The beef boti was alright, although there was nothing Lebanese about it.

And that’s precisely the problem with Kababji’s iftar buffet. Apart from the few standard items like Hummus, Tabouleh and Shish Taouk, most of the items were reminiscent of the Pakistani cuisine. Fancy names were given to the items which were derivatives of some Lebanese dish but had been adapted to suit the Pakistani palate. And if you check those fancy names, you wouldn’t find many of those dishes in Lebanese cuisine.

What was the reason for such a strange strategy is not known, but we could speculate that the management faced failure last year when it launched the Iftar buffet dinner with the authentic Lebanese cuisine and people didn’t respond to it well. So they resorted to these tactics.

Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton

But most of all what we missed the most and were expecting Kababji to offer in its Iftar dinner considering the exorbitant price was the Rubian Mekly – Breaded jumbo prawns fried, served with Lebanese tartar sauce and French fries. That would have made our day, justified the price every cent and evoked a WOW response from all the customers. It would have dwarfed all the shortcomings, and even turned this critical review into a flowery one overflowing with praises.

Although a lot of regular items from its ala carte menu were missing including Shish Kabab, lamb shawarma, muhalabiyyah and Konafa Bil Ashta, it wouldn’t have mattered one bit had Rubian Mekly made the Iftar buffet. And so it usually happens, restaurants get everything right, but the omission of one single critical factor spoils the whole effort.

Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton
Iftar buffet at kababji sheraton

What we particularly liked about Kababji’s offering was that although soft drinks weren’t included in the iftar dinner buffet, a plethora of juices and other drinks were on offer that were really refreshing. Ok maybe the orange juice wasn’t refreshing or even good, tasting like some medicine, the others including apple, lemon mint and grapes were up to the mark. Then there was the sweet and salty lassi. And of course the mineral water was included in the package.

The dessert section had more to show the Lebanese culture than the savory one, although here as well you could find the standard dessert dishes like the caramel custard, chocolate cake and chocolate pastries. But apart from that, you had the Baklava which is the darling of Lebanese sweets.

 

Overall it was a good experience at Kababji Sheraton but our last experience at their A la carte dinner was much better. Kababji should do away with trying to match the Lebanese cuisine with the Pakistani palate and instead focus on maintaining the authenticity of the Lebanese cuisine. You’re able to elicit a WOW response from your customers when you stop trying to be all things to all people and just focus on your forte.

 

Okay experience. Apart from a few standard Lebanese dishes, you couldn’t discern whether you were having Pakistani or Lebanese cuisine.

Too much effort made to make the cusine acceptable to the Pakistani palate instead of preserving and showcasing the authentic Lebanese delicacies.

At Rs.1800 (Rs.1500 + GST + soft drink+ tip) it’s a bit on the high side considering you can have pretty much the same stuff at a standard Pakistani buffet deal for much less. The WOW factor just wasn’t there at Kababji Sheraton.

Will Latte Lounge become the next Copper Kettle?

Latte Lounge Rustic Café and Bakeshop is a  ‘CK-esque’ type café that serves you an amalgam of sheesha, burgers, pastas and steak while doubling as a bakery as well.

The fact that it has remained below the radar for so long and yet continues to exist says something about its resilience. Located at the obscure Nishat Commercial Area with not an eatery in sight, Latte Lounge couldn’t have chosen a worse place to open shop. At night, the whole street gives the aura of a ghost town. Grillers in the Mist is the only other restaurant nearby and even that has opened up only recently, while Latte Lounge has been around for about five years.

We visited the place in the evening on the 2nd day of Eid and the place was doing brisk business at that time. The three-in-one strategy (Sheesha/bakery/diner) is working great for the place.

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Although from a branding point of view, this is a bad ploy – offering everything under the sun – given the location of Latte Lounge, it’s actually working to its advantage.

Latte Lounge is a strange little place. There’s no proper layout to the place. You’ve got the sofas, chairs-tables and the couches, not to mention a ‘takht’ as well, all arranged haphazardly around the joint. There’s nothing baroque about the décor. What Latte Lounge has tried to do is emulate the typical American home – the use of bricks, predominance of wood especially the floor panels – all this and more reek of the American Dream.

What we particularly liked about the place was the dim lighting. Most of the cafes have the tendency to literally flood their joint with lights. Not Latte Lounge. And no it’s not pitch dark either a la Purple Haze.

We tested three of their offerings: Smothered Steak Burger Rs.395, Chicken bbq panini Rs. 460, Jalapeno cheese burger Rs.385.

Jalapeno cheese burger was scrumptious. However, the patty didn’t taste all that fresh. Tasted like it had been frozen for a couple of days before seeing the fire of the grill. It goes to their advantage that they still managed to pull it off loaded with jalapenos, cheese and a fat juicy patty.

Chicken bbq panini was good but a disappointment compared to the other two. For one, it was too small compared to the other two and almost a hundred rupees costlier. On top of that there was no coleslaw. And if that wasn’t enough, fries were replaced by onion rings.

It would have been better if they had used onion rings with the burgers, if they had to be used at all. The advantage with fries is that they have a universal appeal as well as the ability to satiate your appetite at no great cost.

At the very least, the option of fries ought to be offered with the panini.

We considered testing one of their desserts as well but when we found out that the ice creams used in the dessert was Igloo instead of one of their homemade ones, we decided against it.

No use spending a couple of hundred bucks on a branded ice cream you can have for less than Rs.50 in the market.

They really need to come up with their own versions of ice creams if they want their dessert section to have the ability to lure the crowd. Copper Kettle’s success had a lot to do with the enigmatic Caked Alaska with its sumptuous ice cream than any other single factor.

One good thing worth mentioning about Latte Lounge is that the GST is included in the menu prices, what this means is that the value for money is far better than any place on Zamzama or even the emerging food street of Shahbaz.

Another tempting feature is the offer of free ice cream with any of the main entrées, although a scoop of Igloo doesn’t sound very tempting.

In fact that’s not the only special deal on offer. You buy two appetizers and get the third one free. Brilliant marketing tactic.

Latte Lounge is always in the thick of things – offering something or the other- ensuring that the brand is in a constant state of motion. When it rained, they turned even that disastrous event into an opportunity, offering a deal tailor-made for the rainy season.

And all these deals are intimated through their Facebook page, which is yet another success story. Having an astounding 28,000+ fans, Latte Lounge is fully capitalizing on the power of social media.

Its Facebook page is created with pagemodo and has all the bells and whistles, making use of such varied apps as goso and autobudder to create birthday packages, loyalty cards, graffiti option for the fans, and a whole host of other options to engage and involve the target audience.

The page is always abuzz with some news, mostly announcements of viewing of English Premier League matches. The page also carries numerous superb pictures of customized cakes and cupcakes that Latte Lounge offers.

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In short, Latte Lounge has left no stone unturned in keeping its customers engrossed, whether through screening of sports events, special deals or customized desserts.

One thing that becomes clear from all the people active on the facebook page as well as those frequenting the joint is that Latte Lounge is geared towards the youth.

As such it wouldn’t be a great idea to land at the place with your family. Just go there when you want to have a good time with your friends.

In spite of its shortcomings, we did like Latte Lounge and are definitely going to test its main entrées the next time around.

As to the million-dollar question about Latte Lounge filling the void left behind Copper Kettle, there are too many nostalgic moments associated with CK especially for the generation that grew up in the 90s to be able to do that.  Then there are too many cafés vying for a share of the market for any single one to be able to hold his own. Copper Kettle had the competitive advantage of being the first and the only one for a long time that it was able to firmly etch itself in the prospect’s mind.

However, Latte Lounge is fast endearing itself to a niche community of youngsters and if it continues to follow this strategy to the hilt, very soon it would have cultivated a crop of brand evangelists that could take it to the brand pinnacle.

Location
Hours
Mon – Thu: 11:00 am 12:00 pm
Fri – Sun: 11:00 am 1:00 am
Email
[email protected]
Phone
021-35350877,021-35348631, 0321- 2434406
Website

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.

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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.

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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.

Hardee charbroils Karachi!

Hardee’s has finally made it to the shores of Karachi after much hype and hoopla. Whether it was intentionally building up the anticipation – a pure marketing ploy or unwarranted delays is not known.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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

Grillers in the Mist

Grillers in the Mist is yet another upscale restaurant of Karachi located in Nishat Commercial Area DHA phase 6.

Grillers in the Mist has been receiving some good reviews in the mainstream media as well as the social media. There was a review of Grillers in the Mist published in Dawn magazine. Then it has come up in the discussions on the facebook group SWOT as well.

[slickr-flickr tag=”grillers mist”]

Location is the biggest impediment for Grillers in the Mist as it is for any business, especially one in the food service industry. The only other restaurant in the area is Latte Lounge and even that is at the other end of Nishat.

At least Latte Lounge is on the main road of Nishat Commercial. Grillers in the Mist doesn’t have even that advantage. You are unlikely to find it unless you’re really looking for it. And this problem was evident from the fact that the place was deserted on a Saturday night.

This does not augur well for a restaurant. Not on any day. And on a weekend night it’s criminal. Although both Grillers in the Mist and Latte Lounge are similar with respect to their offerings, there’s actually a world of difference between their brand essence.

Although both have dual floors, Grillers in the Mist a basement, and Latte Lounge a first floor; Grillers in the Mist has contrasting ambience on its two floors. While the basement is geared towards a younger clientele with dingy dark interior and huge cushion sofas with a bar at one end serving Sheesha, the ground floor has a picture perfect ambience meant for fine-dining with your standard chair-table arrangement.

And with the place deserted most of the time, you’ve the entire place to yourself, an ideal place for you to take that special someone to have a quiet private dinner. They could definitely do with the dimming of the light on the fine-dining floor  a bit as it is a bit too bright, especially when compared to the dark interior down below.

 

One thing worth mentioning about the basement is that one of the walls is adorned with pictures of Pakistani film and TV stars of yesteryears. Whether these pictures are exclusive is not known, but the reason for this addition to the décor is the father of the restaurant’s owner who was a stalwart of the film industry. Latte Lounge on the other hand has a laid-back ambience through and through. Apart from a sheesha lounge it also doubles up as a bakery.

When it comes to menu, Grillers in the Mist has a far more extensive offering than Latte Lounge, offering numerous varieties of pastas, burgers, steaks other similar stuff. Yes, Latte Lounge does all of these things, but the varieties are less. We tried two of their offerings:

Fettucine Alfredo, one of the most popular pastas especially in this part of the world  Rs.495 was good but not great.

It’s biggest drawback was lack of adequate salt. Now salt may be the most underestimated ingredient if there ever is one. Overdo it, and you spoil the whole dish, underdo it, and the inherent taste of the entrée just doesn’t come forth. It doesn’t matter if you sprinkle salt on top. It just cannot compensate for the salt added whilst cooking. At Rs.495, it had sufficient value for money as far as the overall quantity and the quantity of star ingredients is concerned.

Chicken Stroganoff at Rs.500 was palatable with adequate quantity but again the flavor was not strong enough. It would be premature to pass judgment on Grillers in the Mist based just on these two dishes considering the fact that it scored pretty well on other fronts including the service. We felt we should have gone at least for one of the grilled items especially when the name of the restaurant carries the word grill.

The dawn review for instance lavished praise on the chicken with tarragon sauce and one of the beef steaks. Having said that, there’s no doubt that these two dishes are not the specialty of Grillers in the Mist as many of the other restaurants in this category make better versions of them.

What Grillers in the Mist ought to do now is how to overcome its shortcoming of an obscure location by offering unbeatable offers, the likes of which have never been seen in the fine-dining category of Karachi.

N’eco’s Natural Store & Café Iftar Deal

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

8-C- Lane 1, Bukhari Commercial Area

Phase 6, D.H.A.

Karachi, Pakistan.

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

N’eco’s Iftar Buffet Menu:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[slickr-flickr tag=”necos”]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We tried neither kheer nor custard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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