The third edition of foodpanda's famous tour was an unconventional journey through Mediterranean restaurants in Karachi.
The third edition of foodpanda's famous tour was an unconventional journey through Mediterranean restaurants in Karachi.

How does a perfectly average Friday at work turn into something wonderful? You get asked by your boss if you’re willing to go on the foodpanda Good Food tour. I mean, four restaurants, serving me a selection of their best dishes, all in one night? It took me five seconds to say yes.

Later the same day, I found myself at the foodpanda HQ meeting the team and other influencers who'd been invited to join the tour. All of us then piled into a snazzy bus (decked out in their signature pink) and were on our way.

Paramount Fine Restaurant

The first stop was Paramount Fine Restaurant in Sindhi Muslim, where we arrived promptly at 7pm (This was uncharacteristically on-time for this particular tour, or so I was told).

For starters, Paramount served us a veritable feast. There was Fattoush Salad, two kinds of Lebanese Pide (a type of flatbread pizza) and two kinds of hummus with an unending supply of fresh pita. And, hungry as we were — some of us having skipped lunch for this — we tore right in.

Right off, it was clear that Paramount has done a fantastic job adapting the somewhat-bland Mediterranean spice profile to a Pakistani palate.

First to get attacked were the two kinds of hummus, one with chicken and one with beef. The generous amount of meat was drizzled with olive oil and served on a bowl of hummus. For those who don’t enjoy hummus by itself will love this perfectly balanced dish. The pide, on the other hand, were under seasoned and failed to impress.

The clear winner here though was the Fattoush salad. Fat cubes of cucumber, peppers and lettuce, drenched in a zesty lime dressing, and topped with crunchy pita pieces. Every single bite was a delight, and I’d be heading back to Paramount just to have it again.

Zaatar

My first impression on entering Zaatar was that it looked like one of the many cosy family-owned restaurants I went to in Turkey. From the subdued lighting to the kilims adorning the walls, the vibe of the place was very welcoming.

Service was prompt. Drinks arrived right as we sat down, and the food just a few minutes later. From the two drink options, I opted for the rose lemonade. A little too sour for my liking, it however had an appealing rose scent and was served appropriately chilled.

Of the starter options served here, the ‘Jawaneh Kusbarah’ stood out head and shoulders above the rest. Contrary to the intimidating name, these were just ‘popcorned’ chicken wings, deep fried, and served in a puddle of garlicky olive oil. The flavours were not complicated, but burst with vibrancy on the tongue, and the whole dish was devoured in minutes.

Ala Rasi

This was the main event. We arrived here around 9pm, and food started coming in 30 minutes later. The smorgasbord included four kinds of kebabs, a mutton dish, a rice pilau and something called an ‘Attish Dajjaj’.

This dining experience was akin to watching a live show. There were elaborate theatrics involved in serving the meal. Rice arrived wrapped in a mound of dough, which then got carved by a skillful waiter while diners oohed and aahed and recorded boomerangs.

The mutton dish was uncovered with a flourish and individual shanks picked up to demonstrate the fluidity with which the meat falls off the bone. The piece de resistance was a trolley that got wheeled right up to our table with a mound of sand lit on fire. This, then, was the Aatish Dajjaj. What emerged from the depths of the aflame sand was a baked chicken dish served with fragrant rice.

The burning (pun-intended) question here is: Did the food live up to the hyped presentation?

The pilau was the obvious hit. Rich, aromatic and so perfectly spiced, I didn’t even mind the presence of raisins in the rice. Mutton shank came in as a close second, with tender chunks of meat barely clinging to the bone, all soaked in a flavourful curry. The Atish Dajjaj, however, did not match the level of the former two. It tasted like a blander cousin of what you’d get at any ‘flame-grilled chicken’ place across the city and left me underwhelmed.

B&B Cafe and Restaurant

By this time we were stuffed to our gills with meat and really looking forward to something sweet. I had been expecting something along the lines of Baklava or Kunafa (in keeping with the Mediterranean theme) but the news that B&B was going to serve us Kheer and Gajar Halwa wasn’t unwelcome. You can never go wrong with Gajar Halwa.

To our surprise, the first thing served to us here was a tray of honest-to-God Halwa Puri, complete with aloo tarkari and achaar. All of us exchanged perplexed looks: ‘Weren’t we supposed to get dessert here?’. A few tentative bites were taken, and a mutual agreement was reached: serving Halwa Puri for dessert (after a literal carnivorous feast) was maybe not the best idea.

But all wasn’t lost! While the Kheer was maybe a little reminiscent of the kind served at Pakistani weddings, it still was creamy and delicious. And the Gajar Halwa saved the day. With adequate khoya and a balanced sweetness, this was the perfect weather-appropriate end to the night of gluttony.

The verdict

All in all, this was truly a one-of-a-kind experience. Special shoutout goes to the foodpanda team for arranging everything to a tee and bringing together such a fun group of individuals. Slights hitches aside, this tour is recommended to anyone who lives to eat and loves great company.

Looking forward to more innovative tours from the brand soon.


This content is produced in paid partnership with foodpanda.

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