Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Farzified and Proud!

It’s been a while since I was adventurous – excluding a marriage that lasted like a 30 second roller coaster. Oh, well, the best part about a crazy ride is that you get to stroll away as soon as it ends (…besides dealing with the vertigo that follows!)

Anyhow, I decided to hit the ‘Pearl of the Persian Gulf’ aka Dubai again to revitalise and jumpstart my game – probably the only good decision I made this entire year. FYI, I’m totally Team #2016Sucks.

This multicultural city never seizes to impress you with the way it’s developing so beautifully. From Food Truck Fests to Theme Parks, the breathtaking Dubai Canal – it’s just so fascinating.
One such addition, which had me in awe with its layout and ambience was City Walk. This district offers a diverse variety of upscale restaurants from the east and the west.

Normally, Indian cuisine is never my first preference but suggestions from friends and the raving reviews on Zomato encouraged me to score a reservation at the much talked about Farzi Café.

Originating from India, Farzi opened its doors to the Middle East early last year, offering a modernised way of staging eastern food. Belonging from a family of chefs and foodies, my squad and I were really looking forward to trying out this declared “gastronomic illusion” of simple Indian cuisine.

Disclaimer: It's about to get filmi!

A very courteous staff member had us seated inside where the décor is super interesting; the mural art and quirky quotes really build up the excitement and mood.

As we read through a vast and entertaining menu, a complimentary palette cleanser releasing liquid nitrogen was brought to our table. Not sure what the name of this dish was but what felt like Tapioca balls, burst into my mouth, oozing a perfectly flavored Mango Yogurt. As I mentioned in my Instagram post, a basic mango flavored yogurt had no idea it could look this classy and taste so fine! Really made us look forward to the rest of our experience.
Side Note: Big heart to my dad asking "yeh hai kya?!" (what is this?!)

                                                              Click to play video!
Mango Yogurt Shots!
Going along with the tapas culture, we ordered all their top recommendations – went a bit psychotic for three people:

-       Raj Kachori
-       Dynamite Prawns
-       Galouti Sliders
-       Daal Chawal Arancini
-       Deconstructed Shepherds’ Pie
-       Cayenne Spiked Prawns with Lemon Fried Rice.

Before going into details, I have to point out that Farzi made me realize that there is an Haute Couture of food and this is it!

Initially I wasn’t too keen on the Dynamite Prawns because I thought I had that sorted with P.F.Changs (I like being clichéd sometimes) – however, God bless the server who insisted we try it because these had an oomph that made me go from “oh em gee! Can’t stop craving for Chang’s dynamite!” to “If you come to think of it, they are so overrated – I’m not even a fan!”

Dynamite Prawns

Farzi has such lovely serving platters and they’re totally winning the Art Of Plating game! My lack of culinary education had me freaking out at the foam that came with the food but the mild chili kick to it was so unique! My brother will definitely love this place!

I fell in love with the Raj Kachori – the way it looked to the way it tasted! The kachori exploded with a tangy yogurt mix and the best part is that you can collect the Sev on your spoon from the side and none of it gets soggy or messy. Crunchy and fresh!
Basically ‘chaat’ on the streets just got promoted to like a Director position.

Raj Kachori
The Deconstructed Shepherds’ Pie came on what look like a deconstructed platter and ranked as my least favorite, but probably because of my own preference. Having said that, I downed all of the potatoes present on the plate. #TeamDeconstruction.

Deconstructed Shepherds' Pie

My paternal family is from Delhi and we always make sure to flaunt our “dilli-walay” nature so kebab and parathas are always our thang!
I went crazy over Galawati Kebabs during my trip to Delhi 4 years ago – they live up to their name and totally melt in your mouth!
So imagine Galawatis served as a slider – I can't even!!! This is next level street food – so simple, yet so fascinating. It looked exquisite in the mini bus ride it came on; it tasted delicious, and made me want to cry out of happiness (didn't even miss cheese!)

Galaouti Slider

 Alas, my favorite. The one that touched the insides of my heart  - the Daal Chawal Arancini. As I mentioned before, I don’t die for desi food too much unless it’s simple to eat and easy on the palette, which is hardly ever the case.
But, by now, we’ve stopped doubting Farzi.
These ‘daal chawal’ balls, not only tasted like authentic home-cooked Daal Chawal, but also were nicely sandwiched between delectable assortments of chutneys to give it that smack of home.
The highlight? They didn’t forget the “papad”/ “papar” either! So beautifully twisted and placed over Daal Chawal’s ABCD cousin!

Daal Chawal Arancini <3 <3 <3
Cayenne Spiked Prawns with Lemon Fried Rice reminded me of a ‘Mahi Pulao’ (Fish Pulao) that my mom makes. This was Prawn Biryani done simple and done right. Even though I had become Homer Simpson after all that devouring – I didn’t deprive myself with one less bite!
Chef Avaneesh (if I’ve spelt it right) also came around to introduce himself while I had shrimps and rice falling out of my mouth. Needless to say, he didn’t require an answer with our mouths full!

Cayenne Spiked Prawns with Lemon Fried Rice

The most refreshing sparkling berry drink!
We decided not to order a dessert, but we are also very easily convinced when it comes to telling our brains to shut up! The manager advised us to go for the Firni Oxide.

Boy, was that a show and a half! The Firni genius came outside and remixed the life out of a Firni with ice creams and what not – I behaved like a millennial and made sure my snapchat recorded all of it.
The guest appearances made by saffron, condensed milk, and nuts really upped your average Firni game.


Click to see the video and the magic!

Firni Oxide!
Going to Farzi was definitely an extraordinary visit. It’s like all your favorite food was sent abroad for higher education and came back with honors!
I can only imagine the science involved and making every item look like a piece of art - the idea, the construction (ironically to deconstruct), and the creation must have taken a lot of creativity from culinary masterminds!
Shout out to the Chicken Tikka Masala that was served in phone booths to represent Britain’s National Dish!

I am soooooo #Farzified.
Oh, Farzi! You made me fall in love with desi again – I’d get married to a kachori if I could thanks to you. Till then, you'll see me come back to you over and over again!

Farzi Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Merci, Côte Rôtie!

I’ve woken up many days with the wishful thinking that I can pack my bags and take a spontaneous flight to Paris - I get such feelings from time to time as I’ve mentioned before in one of my blogs: Je t’aime, mon Cafe Rolle.
(somebody take me there already, jeez!)
It’s only a matter of seconds before I peak outside my bedroom door and find my mother not exactly pardoning her french at somebody on the phone. So much for dreaming about Champs-Élysées on a beautiful Sunday morning, really. 

Even though spring has been uber kind to us this year by sticking around since December (winter whah, winter who?), we like to celebrate it in March - just ‘coz. 
My only fix to this specific day was to try out the new french cafe in town: Côte Rôtie. I had a super tough time trying to pronounce that name so I googled it and the first search that showed was How To Pronounce French Wine # Côte Rôtie.
I ended up spraying it, not saying it so I might stick to calling it “that new restaurant in Alliance Francaise”.

Anyhow, so a bunch of us walked in to a pleasant looking bistro, located exactly where the old Cafe Flo used to be. The weather was quite nice and well, the inside was completely packed, so we sat outside and a very welcoming server was immediately available to assist us. We received our brunch menu along with the regular one and within five mins, the server convinced us to order their Grilled Kale & Beetroot Salad.

I’m getting married in a few months and the first thing I order at any restaurant nowadays is a salad, just so I can feel all “healthy” and “fit”. Forget what follows, please. 
To accompany this nourishing starter, we also asked for Truffled Eggs & Gruyere (tee-he-he).

These two arrived on the table pretty soon and after many years, I understood the “art of plating”. Every time my chef brother visits us from Houston, he’s always complaining about the lack of culinary training most of the restauranteurs in this city have. However, as soon as our appetizers arrived, I knew this place was led by a chef and not just a ‘good cook’ or a businessman.
Kale & Beetroot Salad
As beautiful as it looked, the salad was absolutely delectable! There was some char-grilled sort of taste in those Kale leaves which blended in perfectly with the Beetroot, bits of Ricotta cheese and fresh figs. I could do this for a healthy meal, err day!
Don’t even get me started on the Truffled Eggs because i don’t have words to describe my happiness about having this meal in Karachi let alone trying to explain how I felt eating this wonderful variation of eggs. OMG, it was SO DAMN GOOD! Starting from breaking into it with my fork, the perfectly runny yolks that made their way through every layer of fine Gruyere cheese and rye toast, to the truffle sauce that topped this chunk of heaven was definitely love at first bite.
Truffled Eggs & Gruyere
Next up was their super fresh bread basket that totally ended my no-carb game because it was so fresh and so soft!! Nevertheless, I was consistent with my health regime and sipped on the very refreshing ABC juice (Apple Beetroot Carrot - if ya already didn’t know). Loved how well balanced the natural flavors were.

The french music that was playing in the background added to the already soothing ambience, reminded me of a french song I loved while I was in college - Les Champs-Elysées by Joe Dassin. Such a jazzy feel.
The mains arrived and again, the food was an absolute pleasure to look at. It was the kind of presentation that made you want to imagine every flavor you are about to experience.

Croque Madam
Croque Madam - definitely topping my list. I’m so glad that Côte Rôtie actually went out of the box to bring something unique to the table. Typically served with ham, this variation of Croque Monsieur was substituted with turkey and surprises you with a mustard-meets-wasabi kind of flavor in every bite. Loved the melted, quality shredded cheese over the fresh butter bread. Since I’m more into savory than sweet, the cherry in “with a cherry on top” has always been an egg for me, so this was a winner for sure! The flavors that burst through every layer was nothing less than a treat!

French Omlette with Gruyere Cheese
I bit into the French Omelette with Gruyere Cheese and wondered why and how everybody else in the city promotes their eggs when they taste nothing like this one! It was so simple, and you could tell that the chef focused on nothing but the essence of every flavor that made up the dish. A treat for the eyes and tastebuds - a rare encounter nowadays.
Scrambled Eggs with Salmon
Another item on the table was the Scrambled eggs with Salmon & Cream Cheese on toast and was definitely as good as it looked! I haven’t yet acquired the taste for salmon so I only took a bite of those rich, fluffy eggs and since scrambled eggs are my weakness, that was a party in my mouth!

Even though all of us had slipped into major food coma, after that eggs-tremely heavy meal we couldn’t have gone without a healthy dessert. You see how I always sandwich my diet in the middle somewhere?
Nora’s Got Sweet Tooth granola with homemade strawberry jam & vanilla yogurt was such a nice blend of sweet flavors. You can easily tell the top quality of all the ingredients used and it also gave me the energy I needed to get up to go home! This Nora lady has really good granola, by the way!
Nora's Got Sweet Tooth granola with vanilla yogurt and homemade jam
I wish I could say that this was the end so I could conclude this in another over dramatic paragraph, BUT, it was just so good that I had to go back next Sunday! 
Since my father has an extremely fine taste palette and knows his food as much he knows his kids, I really wanted to take him there. 
We sat inside this time and the ambience inside was even more beautiful than the last. The community table is a concept very new to Karachi so it was great to see it enter the scene. I knew there was a trained chef behind the scenes, and you could see the owner completely involved in the kitchen and also peaking out the little window to see his customers from time to time! Very cute!

Besides reordering some of the stuff from my last visit, we gave the Bresaola - Mozzarella - Pickled Chili sandwich a shot and boy oh boy, I couldn’t believe (again) that I was sitting within the boundaries of a bistro in Karachi having such good quality air dried meat. The discussion on the table for the longest time was if this meat could even be from here - it was delicious.
Bresaola - Mozzarella - Pickled Chili Sandwich

Like always, my dad always asks the management to suggest their best pick and his recommendation was the French Burger. Pretty risky to suggest a burger to us because we are always on a mission, any where around the world, to find the best burger in every city. This was some fine quality meat, marinated in a splendid manner, cooked to Medium perfection and served between a high-quality bun. The next time I crave a burger in this city, I’m heading straight to Côte Rôtie to satisfy my burger brain! Melt-in-the-mouth would be an understatement… to say the least.

French Burger
We ended with their Chocolate Tart and for the first time in months, I couldn’t care less about the calories I was about to consume because that pure block of chocolate with an oreo crust only promised real cocoa flavors. I gobbled down the strawberry it came with, because it’s fruit - you know… healthy and all!
Chocolate Tart
As you can tell, I had a pret-tay awesome experience at Côte Rôtie. You can feel the appreciation and passion for food in the air of that little place and I would go out of my way to acknowledge the rare places that offer top quality cuisine. 

Merci, Côte Rôtie. You made my day(s)!

Friday, 13 November 2015

Chop Chop Wok : Treats in a bowl!

It’s been quite long and as I’ve mentioned before, my life is extremely dramatic, thus while I decided to take a six month long “detoxing-from-the-world” sort of break… actually let’s skip the tale… I ended up getting engaged – to the best person ever (…who might get palpitations at the lack of focus on health and nutrition in this blog).

Anyhow, after my summer trip to the US, nothing in Karachi really motivated me to continue with the blogging and the food scene was failing to offer anything exotic or unique to my spoilt palate.

However, Ramadan/Ramzan (whichever one helps you sleep at night) kicked off with social media being flooded with attractive yellow and black promotional posts of a new restaurant making way that introduced itself as Chop Chop Wok.

Early Promotions. Courtesy: Chop Chop Wok
Courtesy: Chop Chop Wok
I thought the name was great, especially if they were planning to offer Oriental/ Asian cuisine. Thank God, by the way! Even though I’m all about them burgers, this city went a bit manic with burger joints. Besides that, we were in dire need of a different eatery that fell between the commercial million desi Chinese places and Noodle House!

Packed in a concise (read: tiny) area amidst the hustle bustle of Khadda Market, Chop Chop Wok sports a minimalistic layout with 5 tables and an open kitchen. I think the ‘Wokers’ were trying to work around a take-out concept but we eager beavers like to eat where the party’s at – and so, the waiting time is hardly ever less than 45 mins! (Imagine – aunties were actually hosting ‘kitty’ lunches in this limited space)

I managed to win a place after four months and five attempts!

We waited roughly twenty minutes before being seated and a super courteous server came to assist us three ladies! He skimmed through the menu with us and recommended their limited edition Wasabi Prawns with Salsa for starters, which we ordered along with their Spicy BBQ Wings.

 Chop Chop Wok has a stress-free menu with “make-your-own” options along with their specials. This is exactly how much a restaurant should offer, makes it super easy to decide what one wants. The place itself was so aromatic that I wanted to try everything on the menu and as I scanned the other tables, every dish looked alluring. Unfortunately, I can’t continue with my habitual over ordering anymore or I’m going to make a wok-looking bride myself.

 For mains, I asked our attendant to tap in the best of the best on his iPad which, according to him, was their Jasmine Rice blended with Pan Asian flavor combined with Chicken. My personal preference is always Beef, however, this guy told me to trust him and so I did! My only request was to top it with a fried egg because the table next to us had me drooling!

My mom chose Thai flavored Rice Noodles mixed with Fish, and my cousin went for Oriental style rice noodles with Chicken.

First up were the Wasabi Prawns. Deep fried to perfection and coated with a flavorful Wasabi sauce, these prawns that are sprinkled with tangy salsa are easily one of the best I’ve had in Karachi and I’m being honest – not dramatic!

Wasabi Prawns with Salsa
 The Spicy BBQ Wings were VERY spicy indeed, but for a person who can’t tolerate spices, I was licking the sauce off of my fingers that was very generous in quantity. Loved the wings. Plus, the extremely cool and refreshing Fresh Mint Lemonade helped me devour every bite.
Side Note: This city needs a place dedicated to wings!

Spicy BBQ Wings
Fresh Mint Lemonade
After these two beauties, I was really looking forward to the main course!
My Rice Bowl came looking as pretty as I had imagined it to be and the zestful aroma of flavors was just so appetizing, I couldn’t even wait for the other mains to arrive! I dunked my fork and the steam that waved up from between the rice kernels revealed how freshly the meal was prepared.

Jasmine Rice + Pan Asian Flavor + Chicken + Fried Egg
You know, I’m not exaggerating but I honestly don’t know how to describe the deliciousness of my fierce rice bowl. The spices made my nose run and the hot temperature kept burning my tongue but I couldn’t stop. It was so, so good.
THIS is comfort, oriental food. When you’re strolling down the mall or you just want to eat something “easy and light” but still out of this damn world – this is it.

The Rice Noodles with Thai sauce and Fish were tangy and again, very spicy! Every ingredient in this dish makes its way to your brain and down your spine – that intense but oh my God, that delightful to the taste buds. Even though the level of spice was way beyond my tolerance, I wanted to try it over and over again.

Rice Noodles + Thai Sauce + Fish

The Rice Noodles cooked in Oriental Sauce with Chicken were my favorite after my Rice Bowl. They’ve got that oriental taste spot-on, the kind that has a great after taste and makes you wonder why you don’t have such food every single day of your life.

Rice Noodles + Oriental Sauce + Chicken
It’s not just the kick of flavor that wins the game. In Pan Asian cuisine, every dish is a result of many different kinds of ingredients combined from meat to herbs to vegetables – blending them in complete sync and consistency with the right amount of sauces is what makes it “just right”.
Chop Chop Wok has it on point, for sure.

We ordered their only dessert - Fried Ice-cream, and I would have loved to break into that crispy looking shell if I wasn’t lactose intolerant. Boohoo!

Fried Ice-cream
But, the ladies with me couldn’t help but inhale the entire thing wondering what the shell was made out of – had to be PRETTY good if two women who had recently signed up to controlling their diets were at it!

Chop Chop Wok is a wonderful addition to the Karachi restaurant scene – it delivers more than it promises and excels in the cuisine they offer (I wish I tried their Chili Prawn with Calamari). I hope they grow into a bigger place, or just even maintain what they’ve started because they’ve got it right.
Thank you Chop Chop Wok – not only did you bring to us a different culinary delight but it’s because of you I’m writing again!

Favorite Moment: After I ate my bowl clean, the waiter smiles and inquires about his recommendation “Toh phir? Kaisa?” <3 <3