Friday, November 30, 2012

S Abdul Khaliq's Mithai and Bake Shop, Clifton

S. Abdul Khaliq Sweets is a famous, household name in Pakistan that is now synonymous with "sweetmeat", or mithai.

One of its branches is located in Clifton behind the prominent Jan's Broast that is clearly visible on the main road as you go towards Boat Basin.

The spacious outlet is brightly lit and houses wide counters tantalizingly displaying their large variety of sweet products. No surprise that it does thriving business. 

On one side, lining the walls, are the different eye-catching and decorative packages that you can gift your purchased sweets to others in.
Think engagement, wedding and baby birth announcements that are customarily announced with a box of mithai in our culture!

There is a small bakery too, within the shop premises.
It offers everything a traditional Pakistani bakery would, from cookies and cakes, to packets of nimco.


As you can see, some of the cakes are pretty avant garde
You can view more of the cake variety offered at S. Abdul Khaliq by visiting their Facebook page.

Pateesa (the white, flaky rounds packed in plastic, visible in the top left corner of the above photo) is a vintage specialty at S. Abdul Khaliq.
Interestingly, they offer several flavors of pateesa and barfi, for example orange, rose and coconut (check out the trays at the bottom in the picture above).

Luddoo's, quintessentially sunflower-yellow coconut barfi, and other goodies. 

More decorative, aesthetically appealing boxes to gift sweets in.
Incidentally, we used the pink ones to announce the recent birth of our second daughter. :)
Its obvious the blue ones are for baby boys.

Round, syrup-drenched dollops of decadent dessert-delights: Gulab Jamuns, and Chum Chum
Drooling yet? :)

More variety of Pateesa.

Sohan and Habshi Halwa are another specialty of S. Abdul Khaliq, which keep their customers repeatedly coming back for more. These can also be bought in tins.

They also offer Ras Malai.
I was offered to taste this as part of my feature review of S. Abdul Khaliq for You can read it here.
The Ras Malai was very light and sweet in flavor and the cottage cheese balls in it did not break apart, yet were perfectly soft.
It is true that as far as signature Pakistani desserts go, S. Abdul Khaliq really takes the cake (pun intended)!

I was also asked to try their different kinds of pateesa and barfi
They keep experimenting with their products to come up with new innovations by combining different types of mithai e.g. new flavors are added to barfi and pateesa, then both are layered together by sandwiching them with a rich filling of nuts.
In the picture above, you can also spot the tasty Sohan Halwa on top.

Verdict: The pictures above are worth a thousand words, aren't they? In my opinion, the mithai  at S. Abdul Khaliq is one of the best in the city. In particular, just by tasting their products, you can see that the ghee (clarified butter) that they use to make mithai is of high quality.

Their hasbhi halwa (which I couldn't photograph) is also one of the best available in K-town.

They now offer free delivery as well. Check out their website for more details.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Breakfast at Charming Snacks, Clifton

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ

I have already blogged about how we enjoy dining at Charming Snacks at night; an eatery located on the main road outside the side lane leading into Delhi Colony, with the home store Habitt nearby.

Well, there is a small kiosk just behind Charming Snacks that serves lachchay-dar paratha's with omelets on weekend mornings (Saturdays and Sundays), which are very much like those available at the famous Quetta Alamgir Hotel on main Alamgir Road.

Since breakfast eating out is the rage of the day nowadays in Karachi, with many eateries now offering an early-bird menu for the hungry early risers, and also since the short winter daylight hours facilitate going out in the mornings on weekends, we decided to try out the anda paratha breakfast here.

2-egg omelet - Rs 40 (Rs 20 per egg)

This omelet was full of chopped onions and green chillies, just the way I like it. However, the generous topping of black pepper powder was something I could have easily done without.
Nevertheless, it was a good anda!

Lachcha (لچھےدار to be exact!) Paratha - Rs 15

Dotted with black kalonji (black cumin seeds), and slightly sweet, these paratha's are delivered to you so piping hot, that you need to really practice self-control otherwise your fingertips can get burned trying to break them apart before they have cooled down. Steam exudes as the crisp folds unleash their latent heat.

Crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, these paratha's are made with white flour and tava-fried, so it is best to have them only once in a while.

And like all unhealthy foods, they taste absolutely divine with those omelets! :)

Ever since my other half has had a taste of these paratha's, he is the one who usually suggests we go to Alamgir Road or Charming Snacks for breakfasts on Sundays.

Called "pizza", this local dhaba "invention" comprises of the base of a lachcha paratha topped with an omelet - Rs 35 each.
Our children prefer these "pizzas" because they are less of a hassle than eating separate anda's with paratha's on hot plates balanced precariously on their laps in the car.

Doodhpatti Chai - Rs 20

I am not a big fan of our local dhaba-style doodhpatti chai, simply because it is almost always too sweet, and more often than not, it comes topped with a crust of thick "balai" (cream) on top, as you can see in the picture above.

However, I love how they serve it in ceramic cups! :) Strong (as you can see) and creamy (made with organic, "khula doodh" or un-packaged milk), it is best enjoyed by those who love a thick, slow and rich brew of tea.

Verdict: Easy on the pocket and a great option for chilly, wintery mornings, the lachchay-dar paratha's and "pizzas" available in this small kiosk behind Charming Snacks are a great option if you cannot go all the way to the crowded Alamgir Quetta Hotel on a weekend morning for breakfast.

The service is good and swift. Just do remember to take along hand sanitizers, tissues and a newspaper or two to place on your lap, as eating crisp and flaky paratha's in the car, on plates that are steaming hot at first, can get a tad messy!

This is desi naashta eating out at its best! :)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Butler's Chocolate Cafe, Dolmen Mall, Clifton

For the authentic chocolate flavor and quite a wide array of breakfast and savory items, Butlers Chocolate Cafe has definitely made its mark in Karachi.

Their first outlet still operates successfully on main Zamzama boulevard, but they are now also doing business in full swing at their new outlet which is on the ground floor of the burgeoning business center, Dolmen Mall Clifton.

Sadly, the outlet resembles more an airport 'thoroughfare' waiting lounge than a cafe, as it is open on 3 sides, with the constant heavy traffic of shoppers and passers-by having a look at what you're eating. Hardly any privacy. 

A furniture store flanks its back side. I must admit that this adds to the overall aesthetics of the ambience. :) 

Ouch. The tables are a bit too close together for comfort. Plus, I am not a big fan of the stiff, uncomfortable chairs in this cafe (which are the same in design as those in the Dolmen Mall Food Court up on the 3rd floor).
This outlet of Butler's is right opposite the debut branch of UK's Debenhams.

For hot chocolate, nothing beats this: Butler's Famous Hot Chocolate - Rs 290
Interestingly, the waiter at this outlet took our order by tapping away on his smartphone! :)
The service was prompt and polite. No complains. 

As for the hot chocolate itself, I can safely say that hitherto I have not found a combination of sugar and chocolate of any kind done as well as Butler's (except perhaps the chocolate cake at Nando's!). In fact, the only reason we visited this outlet in the first place was because of my sudden craving for a hot, chocolate drink (which is thankfully rather rare).

My children love this starter: Mozzarella Cheese Sticks - Rs 370

Those were some massive cheese sticks! Finger-licking good (hot and crisp). 
Although the price is steep, the quantity was worth it. We also enjoyed the sauces that accompanied them.

Chicken and Mushroom Soup - Rs 230
The bowl seems shallow in the picture, but the soup's quantity was good, as was its taste and texture. It was so hot that I had to wait a bit before tasting it. It was creamy and delicious, laced with ample, chunky mushroom slices. 

Here is the total bill of our rather eclectic snack-tryst. 
As you can see, the prices were exclusive of GST (Government Sales Tax). 

Verdict: A good place to hop into if you have a sudden craving for chocolate or coffee whilst shopping at Dolmen Mall. Don't expect any peace and quiet or privacy, though. You'll feel more like you're probably sitting on the platform of a railway/subway station. :P

Usmania Restaurant, Block 2, Clifton

The term "Usmania Restaurant" brings back many childhood memories for me.

This restaurant has been around since the 1980's, when its only branch operated from Gulshan-e-Iqbal. We used to go out to eat there with extended family once every few years.
Now it has a prominent branch in Clifton, in the area opposite Bilawal House, en route to the Aga Khan Clifton Medical Services Center. 

Steamed Roast is a much-touted speciality.
They claim to be the largest Pakistani restaurant chain. For that, credit is surely due, because they have certainly not gone out of business, despite the increasingly stiff international competition.

As the menu shows, the dominant items Usmania offers are Pakistani and Barbecue dishes.

They have added a sprinkling of continental cuisines as well, such as burgers, sandwiches, steaks and a few other "gora" (English) food items .

Another aerial shot of the Pakistani main course menu.
The prices are not economical, but so what else is new? You can expect to spend the same here as other restaurants of the city, albeit less than the overpriced ones offering gourmet fare. 
The prices shown in the menu are inclusive of all taxes.

There are 2 floors, the upper one for families. Flanking the main eating areas on both, are huge air conditioners. The restaurant sports full glass walls on three sides, and a very clean washroom (always a plus point for our family!).
High chairs are available for the infants. 
All in all, a favorable ambience.

The restaurant decor is old-school Pakistani, well-lit and spacious. 

Every time we have eaten at Usmania, we happened to order barbecue items. 
So this time we decided to try their Chinese menu. 
Chicken Chilli Vegetable - Rs 475 (price inclusive of tax).
The quantity was abundant and the chicken chunks were huge, but the taste was definitely the typical Pakistani-Chinese that you find in every other local Chinese restaurant operated by Pakistani's employing local chefs.

Egg Fried Rice - Rs 250
Ample quantity and very satisfactory. The rice grains were not sticking together, indicating a perfect stir-fry, and tasted awesome (viz. authentic Chinese flavor). 

Brain Masala (a family favorite) - Rs 470
Dense, rich and super-soft -- need I say more? I have had brain masala in many local eateries, and have been disappointed when most serve it floating in limpid, tomato-based, watery curries. 
This kind of perfectly-fried brain masala is getting rarer at restaurants, which is why, in addition to barbecue items and steam roast, brain is what I like ordering most at Usmania

Puri Paratha - Rs 30 (each)
This was huge in size (one was enough, as we were having rice as well) and perfectly done - piping hot and crisp, yet light and fluffy; easy to break off from, yet not flaky and brittle.

Now for the desserts. :) 
Kheer - Rs 150
Don't know if the photograph does justice to it, but this single bowl was quite large for one person to polish off after dinner. We usually share desserts together. 
The kheer was great! Rich, dense and traditionally made to the core. The kind your Ammi makes at home when special guests are coming over. :) 

Tutti Fruiti ice cream cup- Rs 150
Once again, the quantity was more than enough to be desired. In most dessert eateries and bakeries nowadays, you get just one cupcake at this price.
The ice cream flavor and texture was decidedly vintage -- you could tell that it was made from pure, "desi" organic milk, and not the pasteurized, packaged kind (think Baloch ice cream of Boat Basin).

Strawberry and Vanilla 'mix' ice cream cup - Rs 130
The vanilla tasted like the popular desi version - called "Peshawari" ice cream - which is so quintessentially Pakistani, yet getting rarer by the decade. I loved it! The quantity was once again difficult to polish off, even with the children tucking in. 

By the way, we made this restaurant visit over a year ago. I just found time to fish out the draft of this old post to finally finish it off and publish it, so the prices might be higher by now, although I hope not.

Verdict: The authentic barbecue and Pakistani menu at Usmania still retains its taste and quality, which is why this vintage restaurant is still in business. I would highly recommend the tikka, kababs, brain, steam roast (we've had it before) and other local cuisine items at Usmania. The quantities of all items are more than enough for two people (i.e. the dishes at the prices quoted in the menu comprise of double-servings à la carte). 

However, you can find better Chinese at Yuan Tung, so you can easily give that a miss here.