The first time I heard about Grotto Cafe, I wondered, "Is it supposed to be a cave?"
Because that sounds shady in Karachi, sitting in a ghaar. Then again it could be kinda cool...
But a little Google search let me know it's an upscale cafe that prides itself on bringing the Raclette cheese wheel to Karachi. If you know me (which you should by now), you'll know that cheese is reason enough for me to get myself there.
With an equally enthusiastic colleague, I headed out to Grotto to find out what's up.
Where to go
Grotto is situated at the popular Bukhari commercial area where pretty much everything is nowadays. I'm not complaining, but what is going on there?
The cafe is across The Grid and next to Meat The Cheese -- which also offers Raclette cheese and many other cheese. That's some tough competition there.
Also, Grotto looks nothing like a ghaar. Thought I should mention it.
When to Go
Grotto is open from 12.00 PM to 12.30 AM.
What to order
We got recommendations from our server on what to order and he was happy to assist. Shout-out to Grotto's staff for being so accommodating and helpful!
Grotto has some cheese options on their menu and us turophiles could not resist ordering their Cheese Fondue.
We started with the Cheese Fondue which is served with marinated chicken pieces, baby potatoes and croutons. While the cheese felt rather basic, with a strong taste of cheddar, it did have a kick to it that we enjoyed. There was a subtle seasoning in the cheese and we loved the velvety texture.
My colleague loved the combination of the super crisp croutons with the cheese while I enjoyed the baby potatoes, although some were so soft they'd break off and get lost in the Fondue. We wish it came with baby carrots and cucumbers, or more veggies.
If you're with a bunch of friends, the Cheese Fondue makes for a great sharing platter.
Safe to say, we left no trace of the cheese or the dipping foods and happily moved on to the Crispy Calamari, which were unfortunately a disappointment. Grotto took 'crispy' too seriously and the dish had an unbalanced crisp to calamari ratio. It was a tough workout for the jaw, we could barely taste the squid and when we could, it was overcooked.
We did love the sriracha dip that was served with it. We were wishing we had tried Grotto's Grilled Calamari instead.
We faced a similar issue with the Thai Crispy Fish we ordered for the main. Had the batter been lighter, we would have been able to taste the fish without it overwhelming the dish. A light batter doesn't mean the coating loses its crispy. It was tragic because the Fried Fish didn't do justice to the flavourful oyster sauce at all
Also, some of the fish was covered in oyster sauce and when serving anything fried, sauces always go on the side, never on top, otherwise you lose the crisp. We would love to see fish either grilled or baked to complement the dressing. It truly had potential to be an amazing meal.
Grotto prides itself in bringing the Raclette cheese and suggested we order the steak and cheese combo. Our server recommended the Bearnaise sauce so we went with it.
Gotta say, it was fun watching our staffer serve us the Raclette cheese, it makes for dinner and a show. But I did feel irked that he placed it directly on my steak rather than my sides. Meat The Cheese came to my mind and how they'd try to steer clear of serving cheese on their steak unless a customer insisted. A good steak need not be topped with anything.
I loved the Bearnaise sauce that the steak was served with, it was creamy and flavourful. The Raclette was also great, rich and savoury. Unfortunately, the steak itself was underwhelming, served medium-well rather than what I had asked -- medium-rare. The temperature prevented the meal from being the star of the day.
The dish which was surprisingly the star meal was the pasta. I don't even like pasta much and I fell in love with their Garlic Pasta! Grotto usually serves their pastas with chicken but on request they served ours with prawn. Again, shout-out to Grotto's service! They accommodated us so well that it made our meal better.
The Garlic Pasta was light yet bursting with flavour. dressed in olive oil and served with feta, olives and Parmesan cheese, the table agreed, we'd all come back to Grotto for this!
We ended the meal with Grotto's Peanut Butter and Chocolate Mousse, which also turned out to be a treat for the eyes.
While the hot sauce on top was slightly milky (we agree the sauce should be of milk chocolate but this had that powdered milk flavour), the mousse itself was very well made and all aspects, from the ice cream to the brownie at the bottom and the chocolate disk on top, balanced out.
The blend of chocolate and peanut butter was rich yet not heavy, and the ice cream did not melt even after being poured on top with the chocolate and peanut butter sauce! We definitely left Grotto on a good note!
Damage on the Pocket
Appetizers and desserts at Grotto range from Rs400-Rs600 while the mains vary from Rs600-Rs 1300 (except for the platters which go upto Rs 2500 and are meant to be shared). For an upscale cafe, these prices make Grotto worth a visit. If nothing else, go for their pasta because it deserves the love.