Weekly Photo Challenge: Earth

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Earth

I’ve Miles To Go Before I Sleep

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Ginsoy’s Extreme Make-over

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For far too long have a few ‘Pioneer’ Chinese restaurants monopolized the Karachi oriental scene. Don’t get me wrong; I have always admired them for their trend-setting ways, their innovative, albeit overpriced, menus and their personalized spin on Pak-Chinese cuisine. There have, however, been a few entrants in recent years that have given these pros a run for their money, and then some. Hello, Ginsoy!

Ginsoy has been serving mouthwatering Chinistani (it was either this or Pakinese) since January 2012 and has developed a cult following, myself included; this is not only for the exciting tastes this restaurant has to offer, but also for the value-for-money you get there. Ask any of Ginsoy’s regular customers what they feel about the restaurant, and the three words that you are most likely to hear are, “Reserve In Advance!” Such is the popularity of this joint and having been denied the chance to sample their cuisine on more than one occasion myself is pure torture. Luckily, for all Ginsoy-a-holics, the restaurant’s going through an Extreme Makeover. Err, well, this is not a makeover per se, rather a nice addition to the already overcrowded packed-to-the-rafters dining area, and rightly so. Enter Ginsoy Extension!

Located a few doors down the original Ginsoy location, this extension is a rather intelligent move on the restaurateurs’ part. Generally, a restaurant this size requires months, if not years, of planning, but shockingly, this restaurant was created in a little over 20 days, which is virtually unheard of in the restaurant world. With quite a few celebrities from the cooking world sitting around me, I felt honored to be part of their inauguration a few days back and had a jolly good time with my friends at Food Connection Pakistan.

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The Reception/Ambience (8 out of 10)

Whenever you visit a restaurant that is an extension (or a branch) of the original, you are bound to compare them with each other, and I’m no exception. Personally, I rather prefer the light refreshing feel of the extension over the dark subtle feel of the original place. The immaculate tables are set extremely close to each other; you cannot help but overhear every word of the conversation taking place on the table next to/behind you. I do, however, applaud the effort to optimally utilize the limited space that the restaurant offers. I could probably live without the music playing in the foreground (I mean, background) as the restaurant tends to get quite rowdy (in a good way) when packed. Overall, I rather enjoyed the upbeat vibe the place exudes, ergo an 8 out of 10.

Inaugurations can be larger-than-life affairs and the extension’s was no exception. I did get to meet one of the owners, Hassan Baweja and it was a delight seeing someone as young and exuberant as him running the show (rather efficiently). As usual, I would have loved to do a one-on-one interview with him, but the overcrowded place prevented me from doing so. He did, however, give a mini-speech of sorts so I’ll try as best as I can to put his words into this post.

“We cannot thank our customers enough for the overwhelming response we’ve gotten from them since we opened about a year back. Our main focus has always been on providing quality food at a good price. Unfortunately, we were unable to cater to a lot of our customers because of the space restriction at Ginsoy. My uncle, who’s also my business partner, and I had been trying to work out this space constraint until we finally came up with the idea of Ginsoy Extension.

Why ‘Extension’? Well, we could have called this restaurant Ginsoy 2 but that sounded a bit cliché. Since this was an expansion of the original restaurant, the ‘Extension’ suffix suited perfectly. Why so close to the original restaurant? We wanted to keep a strong hold on our quality and taste, and management-wise, it seemed like a wise decision. What’s more is that our loyal clients won’t mind walking a few steps to the Extension if they don’t find a place at the original Ginsoy. People have grown to like and appreciate the ‘desi’ taste that we have to offer and we would hopefully be able to cater to most of our customers.

What you see here today is the result of our tireless efforts we’ve put into this place for the last 20 days. Yes, you heard it right. We got this place up and running in approximately 20 days. This place was occupied by a restaurant before we took over, so the space was already there but we still needed to create our own vibe. Alhamdolillah, we were successful in finishing this project and we look forward to serving great cuisine to many more of our customers simultaneously.”

The Food (9 out of 10)

Having tried quite a few of Ginsoy’s dishes on my previous culinary escapades, I tried ordering food I had not tasted thus far. While we were waiting for our order, a waiter came out with a platter full of assorted appetizers, featuring Fried Chicken Wontons, Butterfly Prawns and what looked like Spring Rolls (I really couldn’t tell). Since the platter was all out of rolls before I could get one, I’ll stick my comments to just the other two starters.

The Butterfly Prawn was one of the best I have ever had. Flattened, crumb-coated and deep fried to a golden crisp, these crunchy delicacies packed a powerful punch with just the right amount of spices. I could have gladly eaten all of them had I not been in the company of friends; moments like these make morals and etiquette seem so overrated. I gave Ginsoy a 10 on 10 for this brilliant dish!

The tortellini-shaped Fried Chicken Wontons were a major disappointment. With a chickpea-sized chicken filling, the flavor of the phyllo pastry overshadowed the taste of the chicken and rendered the whole thing bland, the only saving grace being the sweet tomato-chili sauce served on the side; a disappointing 4 out of 10.

I was so busy feasting myself on the prawns that I forgot to take the photograph of the platter; the rest of the meal, however, has been documented in detail for your drooling pleasure.

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Golden Deep Fried Finger Fish

Our order was delivered after a customary 25-minute wait, and the first starter that was placed in front of us was the Golden Deep Fried Finger Fish. These crispy fingers of perfectly cooked fish, served with a sweet tomato-chili sauce were extremely delicious, despite having very subtle flavors. What made the fish more interesting was the coarse coating on top, owing to the use of fresh bread crumbs. This gave the dish a very rustic/homey feel as compared to the pretentiously perfect fingers served at other restaurants; a solid 9 out of 10 for me. I could have probably done away with the sauce as the fish tasted pretty amazing on its own.

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Thai Beef Satay with Peanut Sauce

The Thai Beef Satay with Peanut Sauce could have been a better dish, had it been a little less oily. Also, the flavors were really one-note and the meat wasn’t as tender as I would have liked. The peanut sauce looked extremely unappetizing as it showcased a thick layer of oil on top. I have started appreciating food with sweeter profiles and I really wanted to love the satay too; unfortunately, I could only come up with a 6 out of 10 on my satisfaction meter.

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Original Orange Chicken

The Original Orange Chicken is a Ginsoy specialty and came with a glowing recommendation from one of my friends. The presentation was sloppy at best and it was extremely difficult to get into the orange-cups with the serving spoon accompanying the dish. In all fairness, I decided to look past the presentation and boy was I rewarded. This right here is Ginsoy at its best; the tender pieces of chicken lathered in an exquisite orange-based (or should I say kinoow-based) gravy, sweet yet tangy, blew my mind away. I couldn’t help but give this dish a solid 10, solely on the taste; otherwise, it would have been a very reluctant 8.

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Tamarind Fish with Chili Sauce

I was a little skeptical about digging into the Tamarind Fish with Chili Sauce because I didn’t really want to eat what could supposedly be a sour tangy mess. Leave it to Ginsoy to metamorphose unconventional ingredients into a delightful dish, and this was no exception. Amazingly, the crispy deep fried fish hadn’t lost its crunch even after sitting in the tamarind sauce for almost 10 minutes. The slight tang of the tamarind fused with the underlying sweet taste (could have been honey or brown sugar) went well with the generous garnish of green chilies. What I liked most though was the fact that this dish was served with a side of rice, unlike all other gravies. It deserved nothing less than a 10 and was, hands down, THE best dish I had tasted all night.

Beef Chowmein

Beef Chow Mein

I was hoping to end the meal on a high note as I plated the last dish of the evening, i.e. Beef Chow Mein, but that wasn’t the case. Even though the noodles were good, they weren’t the best I had had. The dish predominantly tasted of soy sauce, could have used more seasoning, and garnered a mere 6.5 out of 10 from me.

The Pricing (9 out of 10)

When you first glance at their menu, Ginsoy’s prices might seem a bit steep, but the portion sizes fairly compensate for them. An average meal costs around PKR 700 to 800 plus tax per person, and from personal experience, you even get to bring home a few leftovers.

The Verdict

In all fairness, I based my review on my overall perception of Ginsoy rather than focusing on the meal I had had at the inauguration. There are a few other dishes that I’d highly recommend; Cherry Chili Chicken, Crispy Fish in Sticky Red Sauce, Stuffed Chilies and Prawn Balls.

I also have a few suggestions that the management can follow:

  • Managing two kitchens can be a daunting task, especially when people expect to get the same flavors at two different places. Ensure that you serve the same great food consistently and you will have much longer queues at your front desk than you already have.
  • Keep getting feedback from your customers and incorporate that in your decision-making. That will help you go a long way.
  • The restaurants are crammed to maximum capacity. Reevaluate the seating and try finding a way to improve it optimally.
  • Where most restaurants go wrong is with the pricing of their food; they fail to balance what they serve with what they charge. When revising your prices, keep in mind how it would impact your loyal customer-base; a slight error can result in a major loss of goodwill.
  • The wooden fixture that has been placed at the top of the staircase causes a lot of problems, especially when several people are navigating the narrow space simultaneously. You really don’t need that.

The world’s a changin’ and so is our palate. We now favor more authentic flavors and are capable of appreciating rare (even outlandish) ingredients. Seeing Ginsoy’s popularity and the fact that the restaurant prides itself on serving desi Chinese confirms this hypothesis. From fried calamari to Cantonese lobster, classic crab to Mopu tofu, Ginsoy has something for everyone (in case you were STILL wondering, they serve chicken and beef too). Needless to say, it hits it out of the park with everything from the tempting flavors to the affordable pricing. With the space issue seemingly resolved (for now) too, we Ginsoy-a-holics can finally say what we have always wanted to say (in three words); “I’m lovin’ it” (no offense, Mr. Ronald).

The Lantern: Lighting Up Karachi, Orientally

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The power of oriental cuisine is undeniable; we just can’t seem to get enough of it. When out with your wife, ask her what she’d like to eat and 5 out of 10 times, she’d suggest Chinese. Those garlicky flavors infused with chilies and other local spices cater to our more ‘refined’ Pakistani palates (open for interpretation), and are all the rage these days. I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with giving a cuisine a ‘desi’ spin, as long as it is in good taste and doesn’t spiral out of control (if you catch my drift). Luckily for those of us who have grown to love this style of cooking, there have been some interesting entrants in Karachi’s ever-burgeoning restaurant scene over the past couple of years.

The Lantern, located near Do Talwar, Clifton, has been open for public for about four weeks now, and the team at Food Connection Pakistan graciously invited me for a bloggers’ meet-up a few days back. This Chinese eatery is a perfect venue for a memorable lunch with friends or a romantic dinner with the wife. It’s interesting that the restaurant has indoor as well as outdoor seating available, catering to the conditioned air lovers as well as customers who enjoy basking in the trademark Karachi breezes.

The Ambiance (9 out of 10)

As soon as you walk onto the driveway that leads up to the restaurant, you are welcomed by a rustic sitting area adorned by wooden chairs and tables. A collection of plants placed at intervals as well as along walls render the space homey and unpretentious, yet tasteful. Besides letting in plenty of natural light, a big glass window lets people on the outside a view of what’s going on inside.

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A step indoors and you instantly get where the inspiration for the restaurant’s name comes from. Your eye is immediately drawn to the paper lanterns covering the entire length of the ceiling and not one of them is red. In stark contrast to traditional Chinese restaurants, the room feels open, light and airy, with everything decorated in greens and subdued pastels. More often than not, I prefer well-lit spaces where I can clearly see what I’m putting into my mouth, and The Lantern sure fits the bill. The next thing you end up checking out is the wall at the back, showcasing a vertical bamboo garden of sorts, bringing in a little bit of the warmth and freshness that the outside exudes. The wooden tables are laden with immaculate cutlery, chopsticks (for the more adventurous souls), and actual cloth napkins instead of the paper cop-outs; a quality restaurant should be able to manage their laundry.

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The Reception

It was interesting to meet the visionaries behind the restaurant; Gulraiz, Saud, Uzair and Ahsan (collectively known as the A-Team). These four individuals went their separate ways after completing their A-levels and converged several years later to solemnize their bond of friendship through the inception of The Lantern. The A-Team started off with an idea of opening up a tea-house/cafe, something on the lines of Samovar Tea House at Port Grand (owned by Gulraiz and his Austrian friend Matthias Gattermeier), but looking at the recent trends, Uzair thought a Chinese restaurant would be a better idea. Since Uzair has a family background in event management and catering, they decided to take up his suggestion.

Yousuf: What was the inspiration behind the name?

A-Team: Well, we just tried out a few names including the Wok-Inn, Red Door and Paper Lantern. Since we wanted the place to feel as un-Chinese as possible, we ended up with ‘The Lantern’. We carried the same un-Chinese theme into our decor as well, the only inspirations being bamboo shoots and paper lanterns. If you look closely, you’ll see that the lanterns used in the restaurant are plain paper lanterns and not the bright-red Chinese lanterns with tassels underneath. Also, the table settings are very rustic and lack the oriental touch.

Yousuf: Don’t you think there are enough Chinese restaurants already?

A-Team: In our experience, Karachiites love Chinese food as much as they love BBQ, if not more. Plus, there are very few Chinese restaurants in the Clifton/Defense area so opening one here seemed like a wise decision.

Our service is another area where we can distinguish ourselves from our competition. Unlike other restaurants, we take customized orders and have no qualms preparing anything that can be made within the confines of our kitchen. If we have the ingredients, we’ll make it for you; if a specific dish is served with Beef but you prefer Chicken, we’ll do it for you. A couple of days back, a customer requested some vegetables with oyester sauce and we served it to him; he really appreciated this gesture and we won over a loyal customer. We are not reinventing the wheel here, just trying to elevate conventional chinese cuisine to a whole new level.

Yousuf: What are the team dynamics here? How do you get along with your staff?

A-Team: The average age of our staff is about 23 years, so we have a very young team, open to improvement and evolution. We come here to work and have fun. We are not rigid, rather ready to adopt new ideas with time, learning, trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Our team has provided a lot of feedback and ideas into what you are seeing around you at the moment.

Yousuf: So what are your plans for the future?

A-Team: Well, there are a few things that we’d love to take care of down the line. First and foremost, we’d love to add a few exotic items to our menu, including Duck. Next, we plan to open a second kitchen that will cater to home delivery orders only; the existing one is running on full capacity for dine-in orders.

Food (7.5 out of 10)

The Lantern’s menu is deceptively simple and elegant, yet it manages to cater to vegetarians as well as non-vegetarians (seafood, chicken or beef aficionados). Believe me; I have seen Chinese restaurant menus that are the size of a full-length novella, some even daring to span over 8 pages. In my experience, the larger the menu, the harder it is to decide what to order. For the restaurant owners, a complex menu may make it difficult for them to maintain consistency in what their kitchen is producing.

The menu features several dishes with a ‘gravy optional’ choice; personally, dry items are more appealing to me as that way, you cannot camouflage the taste of the dish behind a veil of sauces. This is a daring move on the chef’s part as he needs to have a lot of confidence in his cooking, and his ability to create food that is appealing to his customers.

After careful evaluation of the menu, I decided to skip the cliché soup and go straight for the appetizers; talk about challenging the norms of our society. On Gulraiz’s suggestion, I ordered some Deep Fried Chili Prawns, served with sautéed Thai chilies and spring onions, a garnish of julienne vegetables and some oriental sauce on the side. This was perhaps the most Pakistanized of all the dishes I tried that night, and I totally mean that in a good way. The prawns, infused with chili, were crisp and spicy, OK on their own but a revelation with that exquisite honey-based oriental sauce. The balance of sweet and spicy, and the aroma that emanated from the platter was extremely appealing to me; I’d go to the Lantern any given day just for that dish. The extra chilies added for presentation were overkill but otherwise, I rate the dish a solid 9 (out of 10).

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Deep Fried Chili Prawns

Sesame Prawns on Toast, another appetizer that came highly recommended by the A-Team, was by far my least favorite dish of the evening. It’s a chunky prawn paste buttered onto a piece of toast, topped with a generous sprinkle of sesame seeds and deep fried to a crisp. The texture of the toast was extremely interesting; what really put me off was the oil-soaked bread and the overpowering sesame flavor, the prawns feeling like an afterthought instead of being the highlight of the dish. I suggest you make sure the bread is nice and oil-free, cut down on the sesame seeds and let the taste of the prawn shine. I’d give this a slightly disappointing 6.

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Sesame Prawns on Toast

Then came the entrees and I started off with Beef with Black Bean sauce. This is one of those dishes that grow on you; the first few bites were really OK, but the more I ate it, the more I liked it, so much so that I gave it a solid 8 on 10. The taste of the black beans really shines through and even though the dish is a little on the sweet side, it certainly is one that you’d probably order next time you visit The Lantern.

Beef with Black Bean Sauce

Beef with Black Bean Sauce

When the server brought out what was supposed to be Chicken Chili Dry, I was a bit confused, as it was unlike any I had ever had; it turned out to be an interesting spin on a classic. The chicken chunks, deep fried with a batter coat, covered in a sticky sweet sauce and finished with some green chilies, were extremely crunchy. Even though I was expecting a bit more heat on the dish, the combination, overall, seemed pretty balanced. I’d rate it an 8 out of 10.

Chicken Chili Dry

Chicken Chili Dry

The best presented dish of the night, hands down, was Crispy Beef in Bird’s Nest. I gave it 8 out of 10 mainly because besides being attractive, it delivered on the taste. The deep-fried strips of beef lightly glazed with a sweet chili sauce were crunchy on the outside, tender on the inside, and just seemed to melt in my mouth; I couldn’t stop eating them. I did experience some problems tackling the noodle nest though, as it was really really tough to break into.

Crispy Beef in Bird's Nest

Crispy Beef in Bird’s Nest

After all the excellent food that I had devoured, I barely had any room left for dessert. The team insisted I try the Fried Fruits Candy and I’m glad I did. It featured chunks of banana, kiwi and apple, deep fried to a crisp and served with sugar syrup, some icing sugar, some sesame seeds and a pinch of cocoa powder. Even though the fruit was deep fried, the inside of the fruit had not lost its actual texture, and I salute the chef for this feat. I could have probably put the sugar syrup as a dipping sauce on the side rather than lathering the lovely fruits with it, but that’s just me. It was one of the closest things I had ever had to a Chinese dessert, so I gave it 8.5 out of 10.

Fried Fruits Candy

Fried Fruits Candy

The Pricing (8 out of 10)

A decent meal at The Lantern would cost you anywhere between PKR 1000 to 1500 per person (plus tax), which is very similar to what it would at any decent Chinese restaurant in Karachi. The portions sizes could have been slightly bigger as people invariably end up questioning the value for money.

The Verdict

Eating out is one of the few forms of enjoyment for us entertainment-starved Karachiites, and places like The Lantern make it even more enjoyable. What impresses me more is the young, energetic team putting it’s heart and soul into this restaurant, and is willing to learn and evolve from experience. I try viewing things from a common man’s perspective and here’s what I think The Lantern should do:

  • Traditional Chinese cuisine is all about exploring opposites; sweet with sour, hot with cold, salty with bland. It’s about exploiting the flavors in such a way that you get to experience several dishes in a mouthful. I felt that all the dishes I tried there played with just the ‘sweet and spicy’ profile, which rendered the food there predominantly one-note. The Lantern should probably try playing with other opposite combinations to see what works and what doesn’t.
  • Consistency is key to any successful restaurant; experiment all you want with a dish but be consistent when serving it. Consistent portion sizes, consistent flavor profiles and consistent presentation are key.
  • Revise your pricing and/or portion sizes; everyone demands value for money these days.
  • The menu seems to be missing some popular appetizers that you’d expect to find at Chinese restaurants; try identifying them and do not hesitate to take them on board.

It was a pleasure watching Gulraiz play the gracious host out front, while Uzair was busy expediting orders in the kitchen, making sure every plate that came out was according to his standards. I’m sure with such a dedicated team, the Lantern has the potential to be one of the most sought after Chinese restaurants in Karachi.

A word of advice: If you don’t want a new splatter paint job on your car, avoid parking it under that big ol’ tree on the right side of the entrance; your driver/cleaner is sure to curse you while he puts his blood and sweat into cleaning it the next day.

Burger Inc.: Redefining The All-American Classic

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Karachi (or shall I say, Pakistan?) witnessed what I call a food franchise frenzy (FFF) in the 90’s, when a bunch of international chains decided to grace us with their presence. Out of nowhere, trendy restaurants started popping up all over the place, overshadowing local food chains that just couldn’t compete. While the consumers were happy with a wider food selection, I saw several home-grown restaurants that I had grown up with, fade away into nothingness.

Luckily for us, there are still a few passionate people like Syed Mohammed Ali Raza, who are willing to tread the turbulent waters and make their name in the local fast food scene. Syed Mohammed Ali Raza is the owner of Burger, Inc., a restaurant serving all-American burgers and classic southern fried chicken. I had this opportunity to meet with Ali through my friends at Food Connection Pakistan. Seldom have I come across someone who is this honest, open and straight-forward.

Burger, Inc. is a grab-and-go burger joint located in the posh DHA area in Karachi and I had the pleasure of visiting it a few days back. As soon as I got in, I saw Ali walking towards me. What struck me was the lack of seating for the customers. What can I say? I just don’t like eating in a car. After a brief round of introductions, he led me up a narrow flight of spiral stairs to his office/bakery/prep-area on the first floor. Once we were seated and he had ordered tea for the both of us, I fired away with some burning questions.

Yousuf: Opening up a restaurant highlighting burgers is a bold move. Why introduce burgers in an already saturated market?

Ali: (laughs) Karachi is not a city; it’s a country in its own right. With a population of around 20 million, there definitely is a place for my restaurant too. When people ask me who my competition is, I laugh at them. Unlike others in the fast food industry, I don’t believe in camouflaging the quality of the burger behind a bunch of sauces & mayonnaise. My focus, on the other hand, is for the people to be able to taste the original flavor of the meat. Burger, Inc. isn’t a fast food restaurant as my burgers are more on a gourmet trajectory. I hand-pick prime cuts of beef to create a perfect patty that is moist, light, and packs the maximum taste.

Yousuf: Who/what inspired you to open this restaurant?

Ali: To be very honest, the restaurant business is perhaps one of the very few good/clean business models, if you know what I mean. This and the opportunity to grow in Pakistan by selling a quality product at a fair price is what inspired me most. I want to turn Burger, Inc. into a national brand.

Yousuf: What sets you apart from your competition?

Ali: The first thing you should notice is that I have nothing to hide. The kitchen is practically open to anyone who wishes to see what’s going on. If I see a customer complain about delays in his order, I open my doors, lead him into the kitchen and let him see how his meal is being cooked. Our burger patties are not half-cooked then frozen to save time when they are put back on the grill. We cook the patties to order and this significantly increases our serving times.

I don’t believe in sourcing my supplies and have kept it to a bare minimum. Even the buns that we use are baked in our own ovens; it’s a simple recipe, nothing fancy, with potatoes, flour, salt and yeast. I don’t use any preservatives in our buns and that is why, we prefer calling them Artisan rolls. A burger is as much about the bun as it is about the patty, if not more, and it’s the bun that you taste when you first sink your teeth into it.

At Burger, Inc., we understand that each part of the cow has a different flavor/texture. As I said earlier, we blend different parts of the cow to create the perfect burger. All the cuts we used are marbled meat and we do not add any additional fat to it. To ensure this, I oversee the procurement of the meat cuts myself.

I’m big on hearing what the customers have to say about out food, especially if they have a negative critique. Such evaluations help us improve the quality of our food and service. I personally make it a point to scour the internet and respond to any queries that the customers may have (on forums, facebook, etc.). That way, the staff respects me more as they know I’m getting direct feedback from our consumers.

Yousuf: Are there any ‘secret’ spices/techniques we should know about?

Ali: There is no secret – PERIOD. We don’t put any spices in the meat as I want people to taste it the way God meant it to be tasted. A little salt and pepper is added onto the patty at the time of grilling and that’s about it. Even our chicken is not marinated, just classically deep fried in the southern American style.

Yousuf: Besides burgers, what is your favorite food?

Ali: I absolutely am in love with Koobideh Kabab served with Bakla rice. It’s a Persian staple made with minced lamb.

Yousuf: What are your future plans?

Ali: I’m currently searching for an additional outlet in the Muhammad Ali Housing Society vicinity and I intend to open up a branch there as soon as I possibly can.

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The Food (9/10)

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With that last question, I diverted my attention towards the delicacies that were being laid out in front of me. As I took my first bite, I could instantly tell that the bun was freshly baked. I could taste a hint of something familiar (i.e. potatoes) as it melted into my mouth. Soft and aromatic, it would itself be an excellent accompaniment to a cup of tea.

The beef patty was thick, juicy, charred on the outside and most of all, pink on the inside, a sure-shot sign of it being made from good quality meat. As promised by Ali, I was welcomed by the refreshingly untainted flavor of meat in my mouth. Not too chewy, not too crumbly, it was a perfectly succulent beef patty. I wasn’t a huge fan of the accompanying home-made sauce as it had a slightly grainy quality to it.

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Out came the chicken; golden, glistening and crisp.

“Looks can be deceiving”, I thought. “How can you not marinate a chicken and still manage to keep it juicy?”

As I took a bite, I couldn’t help but admire how tasty and moist it was despite the fact that it had not been marinated. The coating on the outside was fairly basic but had a nice crunch to it, the golden skin fried to perfection. The accompanying mayo-based sauce was a cherry on the top and would be an ideal dip for the french fries. I could eat a bucket-full any given day.

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With my hunger satiated, I went back down into the kitchen to see the patties being grilled in front of my eyes. The cook took out some almost-perfectly round hand-made frozen patties from the fridge, removed them from the plastic and put them on the grill. The all-too-familiar sizzling sound was music to my ears and I stood there mesmerized, watching the patties being grilled to perfection.

The Pricing (10/10)

Burger, Inc. is an ideal place for people who demand value for money. A per-person meal costs around PKR 450 on average and is worth every penny. This is another area where Burger, Inc. gives the other chains a run for their money. Let’s take a look at the menu below for reference (courtesy FC-Pakistan).

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The Verdict

All the reviews I had read online were understated. This burger was better than they claimed it to be, and then some. In this world full of processed meat and additives, it’s refreshing to try something that is lean and clean. If you want to satisfy your burger/chicken cravings without putting a significant dent in your pocket, head out to Burger, Inc. now and grab whatever gets your juices flowing.

There are, however, a few things I’d like to suggest that may help increase the Burger, Inc. clientele significantly:

  • Cater to children by adding in a kids menu; many parents like to buy small portions for the kids so that food isn’t wasted
  • Have some seating arrangement at all subsequent branches so that people can enjoy the burgers as soon as they come off the grill
  • I’m all about keeping a simple menu but you could really use some other items that compliment burgers, such as milk shakes, onion rings, etc. to give people a wider selection of sides
  • Get the sign on the front fixed; the first impression leaves a huge mark on the customers
  • Add a vegetarian option for people who can’t/don’t want to eat meat
  • Quality comes first; never compromise on it and the customers will keep on coming back for more

Thank you for having me over and I wish you all the best for your upcoming openings. I can’t wait to bring my family out there for a bite.

Something Fishy: Hook, Line and Sinker Opens in Karachi

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Hook, Line and Sinker (HLS) is a one-of-a-kind fine-dining seafood restaurant in Karachi, Pakistan. As soon as I got the invite to the inauguration from my friends at Food Connection Pakistan, I could smell something fishy (pun intended). Someone wise one asked:

When was the last time you did something for the first time?

So even though (most types of) seafood and I don’t get along very well, I decided to embark on this adventure. Turns out, it was a pretty neat place but since it was an inauguration, they were serving drinks and canapes only. If the appetizers were any indication of the food HLS would be serving, I’d recommend die-hard seafood fans to DEFINITELY check it out. Unfortunately though, I can’t really review a restaurant till I have eaten a proper meal there, or read their menu for that matter, but I did have loads of fun taking photographs of the restaurant itself. Plus, I got to meet the owner, a man who’s as passionate about food as I am, if not more; listening to him talk about his HLS journey so far was very very inspiring. I wish him and his team all the success as they open for public tonight.

My advise to the management:

  1. Keep your menu simple; fine dining is all about giving customers the best culinary experience money can buy, and that includes giving them EXACTLY what they want. If your menu is too elaborate, you may end up having consistency issues with your dishes.
  2. An essential element of fine dining is they way your food is presented. Know what works for your dish and learn to edit/restrain yourself when required.
  3. Hear the customers out; they are your best critics and can really give some valuable inputs.

So without further ado, here is a sneak-peak into HLS.

Hello, Winters!

https://i0.wp.com/weatheradvance.com/home/weather/weatheradvance.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/winter_landscape_1600.jpg

I can feel the winds changing
No need for fans anymore
Coats and blankets are all the rage
Winter’s right outside our door

Many of my readers won’t understand the significance winters have for me and my kinfolk, but for all of us living in hot humid areas, its the only two to three months we find solace from the sweaty, clammy summers.

Wishing you all a chilly winter; may your teeth chatter and may your bones rattle.

Cheers,
Yousuf