Sublime Sandwich of the Chess #9

It was just the 3 of  us again and Aaliya suggested Roadside Cafe. We were a little apprehensive since it doesnt really have dinner  only snacks, but the atmosphere is nice and we havn’t gone very often.

We couldn’t sit at our first choice because people were smoking. It made Aaliya nostalgic as she had recently quit (kinda, sorta).

Unlike our previous experiences, we are not the first customers here

On the menu-

   For some reason Shehryar thought bun kababs were  just kababs

Frozen mojito (obviously non-alcoholic)

Seems like a silly thing to say, especially the obviously part. If its so obvious, why do you have to write it. Are they making fun of their customers?

Aaliya ordered doodh pati because of free refills. Free refills are the best.

After we ordered, Shehryar and Aaliya played chess. Hala doesn’t know how to play so she watched them, and took lots of pictures.

Aaliya likes the knight, Shehryar prefers the bishop.

Shehryar- garlic mushroom chicken sandwich, shikanjabeen

                       Aaliya- potato bun kabab

                      Hala- club sandwich

                  Fries for starter

There was a rat

And then another one

Dark inside with furniture randomly arranged, it could’ve been a furniture store or maybe it still is, Aaliya dying to go inside. One couple went into the shady area, came back after half an hour

For dessert,

Aaliya and hala intrigued and instantly began craving french toast when the saw it on the menu

Turned out to be “double roti fried in ghee” it wasn’t bad but not what we expected or wanted

What we were expecting

or this

or this

 

What we got

Shehryar liked it. Kulfa was probably bought from somewhere, it was pink, Shehryar loooooved

“It’s fun sharing food with hala you get most of it” Aaliya

After dessert more chess

Thinking

 

Praying

 

Praying Harder

satisfied

 

Aaliya's Turn

 

A tough one

 
 
 

He can do it

 

"this is how i'll beat you"

 

counter

 

he has a plan

 

Yay!!!!!!!!!!!

Sajjad by the Sea

The plan was to go to Hot Bites, which everyone had heard of and most enjoyed.

Went to Sajjad instead of Hot Bites which was next to it, because it looked more like a proper restaurant and Shehryar hates plastic chairs. So in accomodating Shehryars need for comfy chairs, Sara’s prerequisite of a clean bathroom and Hala’s compulsion for fancy food (at least comparitively), it was poor Aaliya who suffered.

For a restaurant whose tagline “The ultimate experience in taste” you would expect it to cater to all tastes. However they did not have a single vegetarian dish not even as starters. Every place has french fries!! Due to the lack of options Aaliya decided to have vegetable fried rice. Just to be safe, she asked the waiter if it had chicken in it. He said yes. Why they don’t call it “chicken fried rice” in that case will just have to remain one of those unanswerable questions. She ended up ordering a parhatha and tea.

The view at Sajjad is beautiful. The lights make a lovely pattern on the sea,(later there was a duck) but it is a little chilly this being January. Would be the perfect place to come on summer evenings. We all loved the décor. Chairs, tables, dividers were all wooden and very homey. Stained glass lamps were really pretty.

Service, on the other hand left much to be desired. We had to wait a really long time for the food. The people sitting behind us came in later but got their food first. They didn’t give us a comment card. We had a few suggestions. Maybe they will read this blog.

Everything was cold- tea, bread. They even brought us the wrong kind of bread. Got the coffee order wrong too.

Hala and Shehryar ordered the lemon chicken to share. It was surprisingly good and there was plenty to go around.

When we asked for the bill our own waiter nodded but the one clearing the table behind us loudly said he would.

Aaliya’s dissappointment about having cold parhatha and tea for dinner can be summed up in her parting statement about the restaurant “Sajjad should stay in the sea”

Adequately Humdrum

Continued from French Delight Broken

But our story can’t end just yet. We still haven’t eaten!

Aaliya, possibly trying to redeem herself from the “French” fiasco, was the first with a suggestion, and said we could pop over to The Village, which was right nearby, for a bite. The only problem was, to do justice to their never-ending buffet (and the accompanying bill), that “bite” needs to be pretty hearty. While Shehryar and Aaliya would be up for the challenge posed by any buffet, the other half of the night’s troupe, Hala and Sara, have the sort of appetites that would make sparrows seem like gluttonous pigs (Hala because she genuinely doesn’t eat much and Sara because her perennial diet won’t let her) and hence they weren’t the ideal Village candidates. However, in order to avoid another lengthy debate about an alternative, these two went along with Aaliya’s idea.

If only Shehryar, oblivious to all in the front seat, relishing every spoonful of

mesmerizing ice cream

his La’vie ice cream, had heard their exclamations, we would have been sitting at another dining table within minutes. Unfortunately, the dessert proved to be too big a distraction, and it drowned out the cries from the backseat, leading Aaliya to grumble, “This man is too engrossed in his ice cream and doesn’t give a flying !$%# about my feelings!”

But the ice cream couldn’t last forever, and once it finished, Shehryar’s attention reverted back to the gang, and he finally directed the driver to take them to the night’s final destination, The Diner.

The Diner is a decent eatery in every sense of the term: its food, ambience, and service all make for a satisfying dining-out experience. At the same time, there’s nothing about it that particularly jumps out at you for his distinctiveness – except perhaps for the dim lights (which don’t exactly jump so much as they put to sleep!). It’s almost as if it’s styling itself in the wholesome-but-blah image of Copper Kettle and Arizona Grill. But we needed to eat, and so we settled in for another adequately humdrum experience.

The waiter livened things up by sparking off a little argument among our group when he asked if we wanted the starter before the meal or with it. One side thought it was a valid query, since some finicky eaters had starters as their main course. Others thought it was just plain stupid.

The meal itself gave rise to another difference of opinion: Hala ordered the thin-crust pizza and thought it was delicious. Shehryar took a bite and dubbed it “chapatti with ketchup.”

Shehryar's idea of the perfect pizza

Hala's idea of the perfect pizza

 

Then, just like that, the dinner came to a grinding halt: news broke of a bomb blast in the city, and for a second time that night, panic made us want to run for the exit. Except this time, we all wanted to go home. That objective might have been reached a little quicker if Hala hadn’t insisted on doing the math for the bill division in her head. Yes, as we’ve already established, she’s weird like that.

Luckily, no one overpaid – except for some who thought the tip was a little overly generous. But then, after all the drama of the night, there was no harm in letting at least someone go home happy.

French Delight Broken

 Sometimes it’s easiest to  choose when there are no options. Having tried(and tired of) all the known eateries within our budget, we jumped at Aaliya’s recollection of having seen a new place while she was driving by near Sea View a few days earlier. It didn’t matter that she remembered it in some shadowy back alley in an area where we could easily get held up by thugs; it didn’t matter that she wasn’t able to catch the name, so we couldn’t even leave a clue with our loved ones in case the imagined holdup turned ugly. What mattered was that we were fired by the spirit of adventure (and needed fodder for our new blog venture) – and so off we went.

Even though Aaliya didn’t remember the exact location, the kitschy jumble of fairy lights was hard to miss. The impression did not improve as we neared and noticed the rustic glass façade reminiscent of a juice ka dhaaba on Boat Basin – minus the Boat Basin hustle and bustle. There wasn’t a single car out front: it seemed like Café La’vie (French for ‘The Life’) was devoid of all signs of life.

We debated turning back, but that would’ve called into question our newly-minted (and self-certified) credentials as professional restaurant reviewers. And we couldn’t very well back out of our maiden assignment! So onwards we marched.

Our entrance was flanked by a pair of bulls head-butting each other.

‘Perhaps it’s better on the inside,’ we reassured ourselves; all the while shooting dirty looks in Aaliya’s direction.

The interior was better alright: better at scaring the life out of us! The utterly deserted space carried all the charm of a cafeteria in a government office, with the added perks of an ice cream display and a sheesha menu, but without a single entrée to be had. Unless you counted the waffles.

Oh, and yes, there was also an aquarium – because fish are the perfect accompaniment to hookah and waffles.

The waiting staff  looked at us like we were the saviours of humanity in a post-apocalyptic world. We can only ascribe to mind-numbing shock our waiter’s choice of table for us – right beside an open-mouthed trash bin. We were about to protest when we noticed the comments card lying on our table, emblazoned with a sweet “We thanks you.”

This time, Hala didn’t pull out her correction pencil. After all, you can’t expect perfect English in a place that’s so proudly “French.”

Unfortunately, by then, the Francophile in us had died, and we all decided to make a hasty retreat. Shehryar, unable to watch the expectant twinkle in the waiters’ eyes fading into barren despair once more, felt compelled to reward them with the sale of at least an ice cream. So on his way out, he bought two scoops.

Our professional verdict: the ice cream was good.

But not worth Rs.109.

Alas, c’est La’vie!

On a side note, apparently the opening of Cafe La’vie, back in August,  featured a fasion show.

Teusday of the Typos

Tuesday of the Typos

When it comes to eating out, why wait for the weekend? The middle of the week is as good a time as any to give our taste buds something new to ooh and aah over.

Our previous Italian experiment (courtesy Café Lorenzo) had left our palate dancing with joy. So with our hearts bursting with amore for more Italian, we unanimously decided to head out to the second Snob pick, Café Peperone.

This time, there were no dark and sinister-looking nooks to worry about as our venue lay smack-dab in the middle of a bustling Zamzama lane.

The attractively-lit entrance looked promising, until we got inside and took in the yellow and green walls. Had we stumbled into an Italian juice bar? That visual onslaught was soon forgotten once we saw what was actually hanging on citrus-y walls: pictures of the Kalash Valley and Baluchistan.

incongruity

 

Now we’ve all heard stories about certain fair members among our countrymen being mistaken for “Italians” when they’re abroad, but did the Peperone-walas really think they could pass these instantly-recognizable ethnic images off as ‘scenes-from-Italy’ to the locals themselves? Seemed like they were one ‘P’ short of a pepperoni.

Speaking of which…

“Shouldn’t ‘Peperone’ be spelt with two ‘Ps’?” Shehryar wondered aloud. (Which is especially weird considering their website spells it Pepperone)

If their name was a stab at creativity, then the menu was a veritable art gallery of ‘original’ spellings.

“Backed” potato, anyone?

And that was just for starters.

We forgot all about our order and launched a scavenger hunt for typos, each new discovery sending us into fits of giggles. Sara dubbed it “Café Spellcheck”. Hala went a step further and started penciling in the corrections. Yes, she’s weird like that.

 

We’d barely dried our tears of laughter when the place started reverberating with the shrill wailing of an unhappy baby. He was in the downstairs seating area, but oh what a fantastic din he created! We all silently gave thanks for being single and childless (for some, just the latter) and thought the unending cries would form the soundtrack for the rest of the evening when Aaliya suddenly threw out an idea that captivated us, blocked out all cranky babies from our ears, and set our minds racing.

“Let’s start a food blog about our restaurant experiences,” she suggested.

And that  is where you come in. (Well, you actually came in after a lot of blood (Aaliya’s constant encouragement and idea-generation), sweat (Hala’s persistence and presentation), and tears (Shehryar’s endless hacking away at his laptop, squeezing out every last drop of his superior writing skills [please!] – but you get the picture).

Now whether it was a sensory spillover of the excitement we felt at undertaking a new project, or whether the neglect of the spelling translated into extra attention paid to the actual food preparation, our meal turned out to be quite good. Very good, in fact.

So what if they didn’t have a delicious-sounding dessert clearly mentioned in their menu, or an appropriate number of ‘Ps’ in their name, Café Peperone had inspired us!

 

“Inny Minny Miney Mo” Totally Works

Karachi Snob  is to diners what the UN is to warring nations: seemingly a solution-providing godsend but which, in the absence of an enforcing authority, does little more than provide a list of pretty little alternatives.

Ordinarily quite futile, they came in handy one evening when a small group of the least finicky of us (Aaliya, Hala, and Shehryar) decided to lay our differences aside and scan Snob with one common objective: find someplace new to eat.*

(*Despite our individual eccentricities, we’re all foodies at heart and have managed to rack up some impressive mileage on the restaurant racetrack.)

Snob offered two choices, both sounding distinctly Italian and vaguely sleazy: Café Lorenzo and Café Peperone.

The deciding factor?

Shehryar had been entranced by the billboard announcing its arrival in Karachi (not so much because he’s a slave to foreign brands as he is to any brand whose pants can transform him from looking like a lost triplet of the Tweedles to a more law-abiding relation of Kingpin’s).

Café Lorenzo’s proximity to the potential saviour of Shehryar’s wardrobe edged it past the competition.

So off we went, fancying ourselves valiant explorers about to unearth an undiscovered gastronomical treasure (and trying not to dwell on the uneasy question of why no one in this ‘eating-out-equals-entertainment’-minded city had yet heard of this new Italian restaurant).

Our first glimpse gave us a clue to its utter anonymity: the place was embedded deep in a dark and deserted corner, looking every bit as shady as its name had initially implied. Shehryar, his ego still smarting from the Marks & Spencer price tags that were a slap in the face of frugality, was hesitant about going in. But Aaliya and Hala, were raring to go, and enthusiastically marched up the ominous-looking steps to the café on the mezzanine floor.

It seemed like we were the first customers.

Ever.

It was dark and deserted. We assumed they’d turn on some lights once the customers arrived. But no, that was part of the ambience. Shehryar was mentally composing the perfect I-told-you-we-should-have-turned-back quip when we spotted another sign of life: a gentleman at a corner table. His presence offered some reassurance, until we noticed the air of authority he projected (and seemed to exert on the waiters buzzing around him like he was a royal gone incognito). It was obvious the guy owned the place, meaning that we were, in fact, the only ones there to eat.

“At least we should get prompt service now,” reasoned Aaliya.

And ‘prompt’ it turned out to be, as, upon asking for butter to accompany our complimentary bread, we were promptly informed that they didn’t have any.

“A restaurant without butter?” gasped Hala, “That’s like a stiletto without a heel!”

Butter makes it Better

Or a vegetarian pasta with chicken – which is what landed in front of the meat-averse Aaliya; and which the waiter then apologetically took back to amend.

By this point, we were totally unprepared for what happened next: the food turned out to be delicious! It was quiet a revelation, and we dug in with relish.

And that is when we started to appreciate Lorenzo for more than its amusingly-shaped salt and pepper shakers.

we could play with these for hours

We had to hand it to them: they had made a bold play for authenticity. Looking like an Italian mafia crime den wasn’t its only nod to its adopted heritage. The menu boasted bona fide names in the native language and even the background music seemed specially selected for its Italian-ness. It was a genuinely commendable effort.

Thus, our tummies gloriously satisfied, we readily pointed out their accidental omission (in the bill) of the starters we’d ordered. Aaliya felt we deserved a reward for our honesty, but then we decided that perhaps the good food was reward enough.

Café Lorenzo has since been renamed Ginoginelles Dine-In – a decidedly less lothario-like name!

Everyone’s a (food) Critic

 

Our friendships have stood the test of time, distance, tears, thefts, secrets, hookups, breakups, cheating, screaming, scheming, and relentless back-bitching. The one hurdle that almost gets the better of them? The question of where to eat out.

Picky Eaters

It’s next to impossible for everyone to agree on one eatery – even out of the 2½ options the city offers (heaven forbid the delicate darlings among us should step out of the familiarity of the Defence/Clifton cocoon!).

Ours is a group of temperamental artists who would gladly starve for their art but would never back down from a clash of appetites.

And oh what a rollicking hodgepodge of appetites we have to cater to!

There is Hala, the adventurous eater who tries to convince the others that escargot and calamari will not slither off their plate and kill them (not at the restaraunt anyway).

There’s Aaliya, the vegetarian who is sick of explaining to wide-eyed waiters that “no meat” means no beef, no chicken, AND no fish.

NO, NO, NO, BINGO!

There’s Talha, the serial contrarian who vetoes everyone else’s suggestions but never has any of his own to present in their place.

There’s Shehryar, the conservative eater who won’t step foot inside a restaurant that doesn’t carry a recognizable variation of Chicken Terragon or Black Pepper Chicken.

There’s Sara, the perpetual-dieter who enviously eyes the creamy pastas but grudgingly settles for the salad instead.

sometimes she'll just have diet coke

 

Our quest for the perfect palate quencher began at Time Out, the dependable ol’ food court in the nearby mall that offered a little something for every whim – with the added bonus of being within reach of our threadbare, college-going budget. While the rest have since moved on (and wouldn’t even look back at gunpoint), Shehryar’s taste buds remain forever-enchanted by Time Out’s abysmally desi-fied Chinese menu. It’s a wonder they haven’t given him a frequent foodie card yet.

The gastronomes of the group, Hala and Aaliya, are big fans of the Patio, whose quaint, informal, roadside-café air (without an actual road, of course) is beautifully enhanced by the charm of its owner, who turns it into a fine dining experience like it’s shown in the movies. She engages you in such witty conversation, explaining the entrees and tailoring them to your distinct likings, that it makes your actual dinner companions seem dull by comparison. The food, unfortunately (as far as the rest of the group is concerned), isn’t as vibrant as the proprietor.

A near-universal favourite is Koel – although whether it’s because of the food or its picture-perfect dining-in-a-fantasy-forest ambience, it’s hard to tell. You see, taking pictures is a top priority for our group. The tacit understanding is: If you don’t have photos of it on Facebook, it didn’t happen. Koel, however, has happened so often for us that we’ve unanimously agreed to let a bit of absence creep in to make our hearts grow fonder again.

Koel

Sometimes, however, it’s nice to just kick back in the comfort of one’s home (actually, Aaliya’s home – she’s the most centrally located, and the most hospitable) and order in. That’s when comfort is kicked out the window and the issue of where to order in from rears its pesky head. Choices are slashed to the barest mutations of the burger-and-pizza theme. Invariably we end up with ye olde faithful, Gino’s (whose pizza’s cheesiness could give Pizza Hut a run for its stiff-crusted money). But yet again, our taste buds are feeling the tang of monotony. This is where the Simple Dimple Khao Suey Palace comes in.

So that’s our food past. The food future consists of us going to new eateries and reviewing them with each of our individual takes. Should be interesting.