It’s been more than a year since Islamabad's eateries were in trouble.
Restaurants operating in private residences were sealed by CDA on the pretext of a non-conformity clause. Reopening was not easy for all those eateries, especially after they had invested so much in the décor of their original space.
Still, in this last one year, the capital's foodies have seen the emergence of a few new eateries — some that had reopened with the same name, some with a brand new identity but the same owners, and many new small vendors trying out their luck on a partnership basis. Chattha's falls in the latter category.
Where to go
Chattha's is located on Street 14, Tariq Market, F-10/2, Islamabad.
When to go
The dhaaba opens at 7.30am and closes at 11pm, 7 days a week.
What to order
Chattha's menu is hardcore desi.
Breakfast hot sellers are chholay, halwa and fluffy puri. For lunch, chicken biryani takes the lion's share, whereas their range of karahis and grilled BBQ rules the roast at dinner time.
The ace up in Chattha's sleeve is nihari with or without nalli and their famous wholewheat tandoori paratha with daal channa made with desi ghee.
"We source our own organic desi ghee and fresh pure milk from the farm, and for fruits and vegetables, we hand-pick the best available in the market on a premium," shares Waqar Chattha, a vilayat-returned professor at a local Islamabad university.
"One of the reasons for our good biryani is the top quality rice sourced from own farms. And all the other ingredients are chosen after rigorous quality tests."
"The idea is create a 'farm to table restaurant', the first of its kind in Pakistan," says Waqar, who was previously the co-owner of Cheema & Chattha's.
His new establishment Chattha's is two weeks old and has a seating capacity of about 40 visitors at present.
"We are eventually going to have a three-floor setup, with the rooftop accommodating the most customers, taking the number to 200 plus," Waqar tells us.
Chattha’s special chicken biryani boasted a very special mix of flavours. The succulence of the biryani was such that the first bite let loose the taste of mint, the dried plum and even the lemon zest all at the same time in my mouth. The chicken portion too, justified the price. It was moist, tender and well-steamed, thus capturing all the flavours of the biryani.
Moving on to the main course (no, the biryani doesn't count!), we ordered desi ghee mutton karahi, chicken makhani handi, beef kebab and chicken Rajasthani boti.
The mutton karahi came in a tailor-made wok. It was a killer in the first bite. It had the right blend of masalas with black pepper, julienned ginger and green chillis dominating the wok. One could easily feel the difference in taste while comparing it with mutton karahi cooked in regular cooking oil. However, one needs to acquire a taste for desi ghee in order to fall in love with this specialty. The gravy was moderate in quantity and so was the spice level but it was grease-free.
The chicken handi came piping hot in its clay bowl. Cooked in homemade butter, the flavoursome handi was creamy as butter had coated the chicken generously. It was a lot more tender than what we usually eat. The gravy too managed to rightly balance the small chicken cubes in the bowl.
Tandoori roti was a better complement to the handi, although Waqar had suggested an assorted naan basket. The BBQ selection was a little disappointing. The kebabs were a little dry and a notch up the normal spice level whereas Rajastani chicken boti was tender and fairer in colour then the regular chicken boti but not much different from malai boti in taste, so why call it Rajhatani chicken boti?
Meethi lassi was definitely not the healthiest choice to wash down our high-calorie meal at Chattha's but it was the need of the hour and as they say, "a hungry belly has no ears". If one has to savour mutton karahi, chicken makhani handi, tandoori paratha, then why not a perfectly chilled lassi in a typical stainless steel glass on a bright Sunday afternoon.
Brownies and kheer — separately — were the two highlights of the dessert menu. "The brownie is my own creation. I have used sugarcane instead of crystal sugar to give it a local flavor," informed the chef-in-the-making.
Damage on the pocket
Halwa puri is priced at Rs190 for dine-in, while takeaway per puri is Rs30 with channa free of cost.
Beef nihari is Rs590 for a full plate and Rs300 for a half plate. BBQ items range from Rs190 to Rs580 depending on the quantity. The most expensive items are the karahis and handis that can go up to Rs1050 to Rs2100. As Waqar puts it, anyone and everyone can afford to have a wholesome meal at Chattha's, irrespective of the amount of money in his or her pocket.