Tag Archives: shish taouk

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.

Olivetto’s Iftar Deal

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

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

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

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

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

[slickr-flickr tag=”olivetto”]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mediterranean platter comprises of the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The House Platter comprised of :

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

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

The Penne Arrabiata however was mediocre.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.