ISLAMABAD: With its extensive and reasonably priced menu The Oxygen Lounge, which is located on Jinnah Avenue near Parade Ground, is well suited to students and young professionals.
The interior of the restaurant is a little bland and with the tightly drawn curtains, dark walls and dim lighting, it can feel a touch cramped as well.
The menu offers various varieties of cuisines including Continental, Italian and Chinese food, fast food, steaks and salads, and a single serving of most items is enough for two. Food from other cuisines has been adapted to cater to the local palate.
The limited starters section has a mix of dishes, with the supreme nachos standing out. The nachos come in a huge ceramic plate and are drizzled with a generous chutney-style, tangy salsa, jalapenos, creamy yogurt, olives and chunks of pan-fried spicy chicken. Grated cheese is then sprinkled and melted on top. The nachos are crunchy and the toppings tangy and savoury, and certainly takes up the time one would have to wait for their main course.
The eatery specialises in steaks and has a selection of accompanying sauces. The more popular ones are the parmesan crest where the steak meat is topped with cheese, pasta and a creamy sauce, the Mediterranean steak where the meat is drizzled with a honey-laced mayonnaise, and the simple, creamy mushroom steak.
All the steaks come with the option of a side of either mashed potatoes, fries or a baked potato and come flanked by seasonal, crunchy, sautéed greens.
The Oxygen Lounge’s operations manager, Mohammad Rashid Awan, said that although the restaurant does not have any items that are different from what you can find elsewhere, over time, the chefs had changed various recipes according to the tastes and recommendations of diners.
“Everything will be just a little different,” he said.
To show what he meant, he recommended the beef burger. The burger patty was thick, juicy, char-grilled and mixed with the tangiest of black peppers. It came sandwiched in a fluffy, pan toasted bun. The red sauce that was spread on top of the patty was chunky and tangy. The burgers are light but filling at the same time.
The restaurant has also tried to experiment a bit with its drinks and offers variables on standard drinks. The many flavours of lemonade go particularly well with the predominantly meat-based items. When asked, Mr Awan recommended the blueberry lemonade which came in a pintsized serving. Although refreshing, the blueberry overpowered the lemonade, making the drink seem more like blueberry soda than flavoured lemonade.
Food at the restaurant is reasonably priced. A steak costs Rs600-700, as does a double steak, while the other items range between Rs300 and Rs500. The serving sizes and quality of food makes the price a particularly good bargain.
Habib Khan, who had come with his three siblings, was laughing over how one of his brothers had finished his share of the supreme nachos and should not get to have any more.
“We like coming here because it is quiet and out of the way. It is a nice change to the more crowded fast food places and cafes and we can laugh openly. This is also a more affordable place, which is convenient since we are all students,” he said.
That the restaurant is out of the way is also why another group of diners said they chose to come here.
“We have been friends since college and like to have a meal together every now and then. Although we are not regulars here, we are older now and don’t like noisy places. This is a nice, quiet place where you can sit outside in the evening and have a nice meal,” said Naseer Shah.
Mr Shah added that the steaks kept him and his friend coming back to the restaurant.
“I like my steaks well done and this place knows how to do that just right, without spoling the texture of the meat with all the extra time on the grill,” he said.
Originally published in Dawn, July 18th, 2016