ISLAMABAD: There are few things Pakistanis enjoy more than digging into a good paratha accompanied by a steaming cup of chai.
Tucked away in F-8 Markaz, Paratha Lounge offers an array of simple parathas, various takes on chai and a few other, simple dishes that include local adaptations of food from other cuisines.
The eatery is simply furnished, with outdoor seating if the weather allows it. The few items on offer are emblazoned on a large board that hangs over a panoramic window to the live kitchen where employees hurry about to prepare your order.
As the name suggests, this somewhat upscale take on the dhaba specialises in parathas, which the chef makes in front of the customer. The staff recommends the qeema paratha and the meetha paratha.
The flatbread is made of fine flour, or maida. The dough is kneaded hours before the parathas are to be made, so that the dough becomes stretchy. All the parathas served at the restaurant are bal valey, or layered. The kneaded dough is stretched and then layered, and every layer is brushed with desi ghee before being shaped into a paratha.
The piping hot, flat-pan toasted bread is served hot and comes with a dollop of cold, creamy yogurt to dunk the hot, crisp, flaky pieces of paratha in before eating.
The qeema paratha comes stuffed with a generous helping of spiced beef mince seasoned with onions, green chillies and fresh coriander.
The meetha paratha, on the other hand, is a sweet variant of the saada paratha and goes well with chai and malai. According to the staff, customers prefer the meetha paratha with their afternoon tea. The parathas should be accompanied with a steaming cup of doodh pati, elaichi chai or the masala chai.
The assortment of parathas on the menu include potato, egg, chicken, plain and nutella parathas.
Though very scrumptious, the nutella paratha is a bit too rich. The nutella naan, which is baked in a tandoor, is a better option.
The cheese naan, with rich molten cheese dripping from the corners, is best eaten with mango achaar and yogurt.
The price ranges between Rs60-Rs250 for a paratha which may sound steep, but is a good bargain for the taste and for how filling the naans and parathas are.
The owner of the restaurant, Abdullah Toor, said the prices were not that high when the quality of cooking is taken into account.
“You get a paratha for Rs30 maybe from a dhaba. But when you are offering quality food prepared in a clean kitchen which the customer can check out for themselves, you have to charge more,” he said.
Mr Toor said he opened a paratha place because “everyone is jumping on the naan bandwagon” and said he thought he would introduce “upgraded parathas”.
“Everyone loves parathas, we even make them from leftover food in our homes,” he said.
“We are also catering to those who cannot afford to spend that much on food and have to eat at least once outside, which is why we also introduced daal chawal and tarka daal,” he said.
Paratha Lounge is frequented by lawyers from the nearby courts, students and young doctors and nurses from two nearby hospitals.
“I live in a hostel nearby and I come to have parathas here in the afternoon. I don’t know how to make parathas and I would miss them because it is tradition in our house to have parathas with our afternoon tea,” said Nisar Khan, a student enjoying his meetha paratha.
“My mother would sprinkle sugar on a paratha to make it sweet and this is pretty close,” he added.
A group of lawyers were having daal chawal and beef chilli dry, which is adapted to suit local tastes.
“It’s like home cooked food,” said one of the lawyers. ”At our age, you cannot get away with eating oily food every day but the daal chawal here is tasty and light and though the beef chilli does not taste like beef chilli at all, I prefer it this way because it is lighter and is not that salt heavy.”
Mr Toor said that when he had come up with the idea for the restaurant, he knew that more than anything else, he wanted the kitchen to be clean and said that he will soon be installing cameras in the kitchen so he can keep an eye on the staff at all times.
He said branches of the restaurant will soon opened in PWD and G-13.
Originally published in Dawn, June 6th, 2016