Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Experience Feng Shui at Gon Pacci

Prawn Salsa

Gon Pacci lives up to its name by providing a flavourful dining experience in  an environment that calms and is peaceful to senses. 

Braised Lamb Shank
Feng Shui is an ancient Chinese lifestyle referring to a peaceful, serene and calm environment and space. This is exactly what felt  as I entered Gon Pacci, the new eatery at Shahbaz Commercial DHA, Karachi which is designed on Feng Shui.

Gon Pacci  just opened last week only, and the staff is already busy.  With a 100 people seating capacity spread over two complete floors, and an exciting menu; no wonder they are already booked for parties and events beside busy lunch and dinner hours.
I was totally intrigued  by its interiors and the finger foods served at its launch party. Could not resist going back for a detailed lunch and tête-à-tête with the owners and chef the following Sunday. The menu presents a great selection of meat, seafood, poultry, pasta and vegetable dishes all cooked using low salt and minimum spices- indeed reflect Feng Shui. Talking to the owners and chef, they explained the cuisine at Gon Pacci a fusion of several cooking traditions that includes French, Italian, Japanese, Thai and more. So we analysed this very creative menu that contained enough to choose from appetizers, main course, drinks and deserts.  

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Tamarind Cooler Sprinkled with Roasted Cumin
Beef Roulette
My lunch kicked off with a very refreshing and spicy Tamarind Cooler. I had this before at other restaurants but this one stands out because it is thicker, just the right level of tanginess and sprinkled with roasted cumin (zeera) that gave it an awesome crunch and toasty lavour. For appetizers, I dared to try their Sushi Salad, let me confess I am not a Sushi lover at all. However, the smoky flavour of red snapper with sticky rice mingled with wasabi sauce and the crunchy rocket and iceberg salads won me over.

Sushi Twist Salad
Beef Roulette
We waited our main course eagerly to arrive, and to surprise us we were served this rare to find braised lamb shank. This mouth watering piece of meat is cooked in its own juices that not only sealed the flavours but like perfect braised meat was fork tender and had a unique taste, very satisfying with the mashed potatoes. 

The next hit with us was the chicken legs seasoned with herbs perfectly slow cooked and submerged in its own fat creating a palatable confit jus, served with vegetables. Unlike the signature salty taste of confit, this has just about the right level of salt and mingled with veggies created a delightful dish. I have completely wiped off this plate. The seafood entre that we ordered was an interesting and very beautifully plated fillet of red snapper all wrapped in potato slices and then pan seared topped with leek fondue sauce. The subtly sweet and delicate taste of leeks, pleased the tastebuds very well with red snapper. This is a great side dish and a good choice for people looking for small meals.
Chicken Confit
Potato Wrapped Red Snapper


Chicken and Tofu Burger
I can be labeled as a burger addict, to satisfy my global hunt for that perfect burger, I ordered one at Gon Pacci as well. The chicken and tofu patty totally confused me. For a quarter pounder of 100% meat addict, this is not the fix I would want. Why mix the two for the sake of creativity, when the result does not create anything significant tasting!! I suggested the Executive Chef to try out only with Tofu to please vegans. He was one pleasant person to listen to suggestions and customer satisfaction is what is top priority for the team.

Crab Lollipop

Chocolate Cake


Shahnawaz and Taimur the two very young owners with their love of food, and the growing culinary market in Karachi ventured into opening this place. Without much background of restaurant industry, this can be a big risk. Nevertheless, they did a fabulous job of hiring a great kitchen crew with an equally competent and experienced captain the Executive Chef who has experience of working in some top restaurants of the area. Since I stayed past the lunchtime and was fortunate to get hold of Jalal the very friendly Executive Chef as he entered balancing bags of grocery for an evening party. He proudly mentioned he is very particular about picking the ingredients himself including produce from the market ensuring they are fresh and of prime quality. With this great team at work, the restaurant is bound to make its mark on  customers and have a long way to go.

Gon Pacci is open from 12:00am-12:pm for lunch and dinners and in a few weeks time they will be launching breakfast opening from 8:00am. The prices are reasonable keeping in mind the prime quality of dishes served here, for a 3-course meal the cost per person would be approximately 1200 and around 1600 for five-course meal.

Gon Pacci lives up to its name by providing a flavourful dining experience in  an environment that calms and is peaceful to senses.

Review: Farah Kamal
Photography: Farah Kamal and Shahrukh Mughal

GON PACCI 10/C,Khayaban-e-Shahbaz Phase 6, D.H.A  
Find Gon Pacci on facebook

Thursday, 24 May 2012

What is grilling new at Grilled Chilliz

 Grilled Chilliz launching some new dishes in the menu

Grilled Chilliz a pretty known name as one of the very affordable eateries of DHA, often time thronged by students, lunchtime office goers and families. I have already blogged  Grilled Chilliz  
in detail earlier this year.

This weekend they are launching a few new dishes in their menu and a range of exciting cooling mock tales presenting to patrons. I was invited to shoot some of these dishes and taste them. As I  arrived at a no rush time of the restaurant, noticed that the restaurant is going through maintenance work and some remodeling, hope it improves the ambiance.
Long Strawberry

Tahir Waheed the restaurant owner, a food lover and cook himself was talking passionately about every food and drink that appeared.  There was the new starter and a couple of chicken, fish and meat entrée that the team has created. Tahir said that his team have been working on several dishes and presenting as chef’s special for the past six weeks, some of them got special attention and appreciation of customers which will be now be added as regular in their new menu.

Italian Chicken
Blue Lagoon
Buffalo Bites
We bit on the  ‘Buffalo Bites’ which were balls of herbed chicken bits fried in a batter, was crispy, loved that texture and freshness.  But there is a very strong tangy taste of hot sauce, to me it appeared more like harsh vinegar. This flavor needs to change definitely!!
Black pepper Fish

  In the main courses, the Black Pepper Fish was the winner with me right away. This is a generous portion of panguses fillet that is pan seared, topped with a white creamy sauce that has coarsely chopped pepper and a few other herbs that gave it an overall subtle palatable flavor. This was served with a side of herbed rice and sautéed fresh vegetable, made it a complete meal that is flavorful and satisfying, I would sure go back for this one again.

Hawaiian Steaks
The next appeared Hawaiian Pineapple Steak, it is a big chunk of  sirloin steak, basted well since the flavor came pretty well, char grilled very skillfully to medium rare just the way I like. However, the meat was pounded for tenderization which is not what good steaks should go through, generally a marbled cut sirloin steak does not need pounding or tenderization. Overall, this steak grilled with the big slice of pineapple and the sauce made of melted cheddar cheese and sautéed mushroom did create a great tasting dish as these flavors blended pretty well. This steak can be ordered in beef and chicken both. I polished off my plate for sure!!!

Dare Devil

Grilled Chilliz is great for everyday dining and not expensive at all, the quality and quantity is good as well.

Beef Burger

Blog write up by: Farah Kamal
Photography: Farah Kamal and Shahrukh Mughal
 Grilled Chilliz

Friday, 18 May 2012

A Treat from the Renaissence ; Bella Vita

 Life  can be certainly beautiful with 
Bella Vita
Deserts do make life good and sweet, and that is exactly was my feeling as soon as I entered the Bella Vita. Totally thrilled to see all that is offered at this classical, cool and trendy Italian style gelataria and dessert bar. Its formal launch is suppose to be on 19th May, but well it became a talk of the town much before that and people are sharing their experiences and images of their orders with complete delight. 
Serving a variety of gelatos, shakes, sorbets, coffee  and a range of unique Italian deserts makes this place strictly for the ones with a sweet tooth. Offering Wi-Fi and providing a relaxed atmosphere in a highly elegant lounge-like setting. The comfortable, high backed, cushioned chairs embossed with Bella Vita logo, wooden finished table, wood panelling on walls with country music at the background makes it an ideal spot for unwinding while enjoying a sweet life. Great choice for  after parties, or when we just want to try out a very delicately prepared and presented satisfying dessert.  

Bella Vita can also be a great socializing place when you don’t want to eat a lot or just hang out with friends and engage in a cool conversation over a cup of latte or 

Omer and Hassan, two young business graduates after the success of Del Frio, came up with this new venture which is beyond any normal, bare-bones ice creamery.
Originated in 16th Century in Sicily, gelato meaning ‘frozen’ in Italian language, is the Italian answer to icecream. They are churned slower then icecreams giving it a denser texture and intense flavour as less air gets  whipped into it. Gelato freezes less solidly than ice cream and are served about 10 to 15 degrees warmer than ice cream so it melts in your mouth faster. Bella Vita brought Italian chefs and got four of their local chefs trained so they are all experts in churning some prime quality gelato and creating Italian deserts. 

The gelatos contain 4-8% butter fat and does not use cream base, making it comparatively leaner. They have imported and installed all modern high end machinery, claimed the owners.  Bella Vita's core ingredients, milk and sugar are however, Pakistani. The rest are  imported which include the flavors, toppings and even the fruits. The strawberry and other berries that were used in different desserts we ate were very big and sweet. Nevertheless, Pakistan is blessed with a lot of other very good quality fruits, the chefs must try to use some of these seasonal fruits like peaches, mangoes, bananas and oranges. 
  As I tasted different flavors of the gelato from the ones on display, the Pistachio, Strawberry, Chocolate won me right away. These flavors had that intense typical gelato flavor but others like Cappuccino and Biscottino tasted like regular ice creams. Besides these they offer Vanilla,Tiramisu, Straciatella, Lemon Sorbet, Orange Chocolate, Ferraro Rocher, Wild Berry Yogurt, After Eight, Hazelnut, Caramel, Cappucinno, Chocolate, and Strawberry Cheesecake. 

Gelato in general has more sugar content but the good news is that Bella Vita offers two sugar free flavours Vanilla and Chocolate. Authentic gelato are prepared in the premises and due to less fat percentage can only be stored for few days. Not sure how much is the sale of Bela Vita, hope we get fresh supply everytime we order.
 The menu contains an extensive treat of desserts created using a combination of some of these gelati, topped with fresh creams, sauces, fresh fruits, nuts, cookies or freshly baked wafers. I tried their Coppa Solo, a celestial experience in that cup, containing one scoop of pistachio gelato which was the highlight of the evening and a must try for anyone going there, this was topped with pistachio nuts, butterscotch sauce, served with cigar biscuits and whipped cream. The Strawberry Tart, Chocolate Lava and Bread Pudding were all  baked fresh, plated extraordinary beautifully and tasted divine.

Keeping in mind the high end ambience, service and the size of their desert, the prices are very affordable. Most of gelato single servings are from Rs.140-180/=

The Bella Vita Gelati specials are huge cups or big glasses of multiple scoops of gelatos and toppings , from Rs.220/=-375/=

Overall a very fine addition in eating out, and worth giving a try one of the evenings real soon. 
Life definitely can be beautiful with Bella Vita.

Blog write up: Farah S. Kamal
Photography: Farah Kamal and Shahrukh Mughal
Bella Vita: 9th Zamzama Lane- Phase,6. DHA

The blog at Express Tribune

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

No Blues with Cafe Blue Ginger

         An eating experience at Café Blue Ginger can turn the dreariest of days into something special and worth remembering.
 For my passion of good food, writing about them and shooting them with my camera of course, I end up visiting many eateries mostly in Karachi where I live. However there are only few where I go frequently, and with confidence that I will come out all satisfied and happy. One of the major reason people go out to restaurants is to experience some great food, enjoy with friends without any hassle in a relaxing environment.

Panna- Raw Mango Sherbet
Café Blue Ginger is among the few eateries where I go with a confidence that nothing will wrong. Since it is opened, early 2011, I landed here for a lunch completely unplanned, one of those time when you are too busy and need a bite. But this restaurant pleasantly surprised me, and was like hitting a jackpot. I remember asking the waiters, ‘who are you guys”? ‘Who started this place?”. Since then I have eaten, entertained friends and family, organized parties innumerable times here and every single experience is excellent and worth remembering. Fortunately I never had that ‘bad day’ which often times is the pet excuse of restaurants for negligence and spoiling your meal.
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A small place though, but done in a classy, vintage décor displaying a range of family owned artifacts, and 18th Century documents on the walls. This restaurant is owned by famous TV Chef Hussain Tariq, who has obviously inherited his love of cooking and the knack for creating great dishes from his ever popular mother Zubaida Tariq, a well known cook book writer, TV Chef, and a fabulous home maker.

I am a big fan of fresh food that is cooked with a delicate flavor, and very few restaurants serve such delectable cuisine consistently. Café Blue Ginger has always surprised me with their standards of food and service maintained continually. Hussain Tariq and his two Executive Chefs create and prepare great tasting Italian, Mediterranean and Sub Continent cuisine. Their most experienced and trained staff that is knowledgeable of the menu and ready to make recommendations and ensure nothing goes wrong serves 

There are new dishes added to the menu regularly, so all the more reason to go back. Over the years I have tried out many dishes from their menu, but some for which I keep going includes the elegant Seafood Bisque which is a die for super rich full of seafood such as shrimps, and calamari. The other favorite from soup menu is the hearty, fresh and creamy Potato Leek soup. The Antipasti Platter is a classic selection of exotic and delicately prepared appetizers. This beautiful spread contains delectable bite sized grilled vegetables, Creamy Mushrooms, Crispy Fried Calamari, Tomatoes Brochette, and Artichoke and Spinach Brochette. This platter is so huge and generous and 4-5 people can share it.
Mediterranean Salad

Seafood Rissoto
My whole family is a big fan of Risotto, and we try it wherever in the world we go. The Café Blue Ginger Seafood Risotto is among one of best and a true comfort food when you are down. A very well prepared and perfected dish that had everything that a good risotto should have. Rich texture with just-right doneness, rice not too mushy or hard, nicely blessed with a palatable tasty seafood broth. Plenty of seafood to go along too!!!  

Calamari stuffed with Ricota Cheese and Rice

The chilli oil served on request and adds a dalicious falvour
 Spicy Grilled Calamari in Marinara Sauce is my another recent favorite. Calamari is the Italian word for squid, it is commonly served fried in most restaurants as appetizers, however Café Blue Ginger have created some great tasting entree  out of this low protein mild tasting seafood. It is a sheer pleasure devouring this delicious preparations made from giant squid cut into large pieces, oval, about 5 or 6 inches in diameter. Basted lightly and grilled just until the slightly translucent white turned opaque. It is served topped with deliciously prepared marinara sauce and a side of fresh straw cut veggies dressed with lemon pepper vinaigrette.
The other one is an exciting great flavorful dish Grilled Calamari stuffed with Rice and Ricotta Cheese tasted simply unique dressed with wasabi sauce.

Chicken Khowsuey

Fettucini with Grilled Prawns and Marinara Sauce
Pasta dishes are generally easy to prepare however, not everyone can create a taste and texture that are palatable. Café Blue Ginger prepares and have available some of the great tasting pasta dishes. Fettuccine Alfredo with Roasted Garlic Cream Sauce, Penne Arabiata or Khowsuey all done very well, tasty sauces, . I got totally hooked to their new Fettucini Grilled Prawns with Marinara Sauce. A wonderful dish with medium sized prawns grilled to perfection, the marinara sauce was simply sumptuous cooked with tomato and vegetable base and tasting of herbs poured over pasta that is just ‘al dante’.
Spinach and cheese stuffed Mushrooms

The complimentary freshly baked bread with herbed butter and spreads
A trend among most upscale restaurants around is to offer meal deals often times for lunches or on special occasion and celebrations. Of course a generous gesture on the part of restaurants. I found the Café Blue Ginger deals great value for money, because they offer some of the their prime dishes part of these deals thus making if affordable and reachable for most.

Café Blue Ginger is open right from 8:00am until midnight offering breakfast, lunches and dinners. Average per person 3-4 course meals would cost Rs.900-1100/=

An eating experience at Café Blue Ginger can turn the dreariest of days into something special and worth remembering. 

 Write up and photographs by Farah Kamal
Blog published in the The News