Kudu opened its doors to Karachi with a promise to serve 'modern age' contemporary cuisine like none other.
Chef Zaryan Turab perfected his skills in Switzerland and worked at numerous restaurants, both internationally and locally, before setting forth with a place of his own where he could serve the cuisine he wants to.
Contemporary cuisine may be a broad term which includes a lot of subcategories - regional cuisines and so on - but with Chef Turab's culinary education booming from Europe, I went in expecting a fresh take on European and desi cuisine. We were also told to expect dishes straight out of MasterChef so that had us intrigued.
Where to go:
Kudu is located at Bukhari commercial. The restaurant has taken over the place once known as Arbor, and revamped it for their own style. While the structure of the building is exactly the same, Kudu works hard on setting itself aside from the previous resto, with new decor and lighting.
When to go
Kudu is open for lunch from 12:00pm - 4:00pm and dinner from 7:00pm - 11:50pm.
What to order
We got in touch with Zaryan Turab to know more about the restaurant and get recommendations. While he was more than happy to share his thoughts on Kudu, he revealed he never makes recommendations because all the dishes are dear to him.
"There are some dishes that are slow cooked and take hours -sometimes even days- to make while some dishes can be made quicker. But to me all the dishes took a long time to materialise and I'm very proud of all my creations. If I'm not proud of it, it won't be on my menu."
We kicked off our venture with Kudu's bread basket, which is served with a compound butter and topped with tapenade. The variety of breads was really appreciated at the table, especially the soft texture of the apple based bread and the garlic based bread which was topped with thinly sliced garlic. The tapenade topped butter was a welcome addition and the subtlety of the flavours brought out the best of the bread.
The potato 3 ways is great starter for the potato lover in the group. Featuring potato gratin, covered in mashed potato and topped with fried cubed potatoes, the dish is served with basil oil and an edible flower. The varying textures are enjoyable and while the dish is an appetiser, we did wish there was more on the plate.
The Karakoram to Karachi is a dish close to the chef's heart, with a memory of his travels up North attached to it. Flat noodles made in house, served with a beef broth, this is one of the richer starters which is perfect for the chilly weather. The beef was tender and the broth full flavoured.
Kudu shines when it comes to their salads with their Botanical Garden being a pleasant surprise. Served full of edible flowers, microgreens and seeds along with curd, not only is it a visual treat but the nutty flavours with the floral aroma made for a winning dish. Turab revealed that all the flowers are grown in house to keep it free from pesticides and chock full of flavour.
According to the chef, "Our plan is to grow our own produce. We're currently growing our own herbs, some are in our dishes while some take longer to grow but we're working on it. Most of our edible flowers are from our own garden, so it's pesticide free as well."
The Winter Sunflower salad was no different in terms of visual beauty and robust flavours. With marigolds, pistachios and sunflower seeds surrounding Kudu's homemade cheese, the beautifully crafted dish, replicating a sunflower, was an instant hit at the table.
The Chicken Yakitori wings were served with grilled pineapple and made for a little show as a fire is lit between the dish right at the table. While we loved the light seasoning of the wings, I would expect a dish titled yakitori to have some form of tare sauce and that specific note of sweetened soy was missing from the wings. However, the grilled pineapples were a welcome addition to the wings.
Moving on to the mains, the Lemon Based Sole was a table favourite. The flavour of the crispy sole, served bone in was elevated with concentrated lemon butter. I appreciated Kudu's choice to serve the sole bone in as it brings out the best of the fish.
The Chicken Leg Confit with black lentils and spinach puree had components that worked and some that didn't. The chicken itself was cooked to perfection, tender with a pleasant crisp on the skin. Where the dish suffered was the black lentils the chicken was placed on. The lentils lacked a piquancy that would've completed the dish, especially with the mild notes of the spinach puree. Despite making a bite with all the components, it felt incomplete.
Turab's beef wellington has potential but needs perfecting. While we were very happy to see the pink in our beef -- revealing good temperature -- it was the exterior of the wellington that was a let down. The puff pastry lacked crisp and was slightly soggy. However, the wellington served with their in-house jus brought out the flavours of the beef.
"We make our own jus and it's a 16 hour process," revealed the chef, admitting the recipe to still be in the works.
Turab is a hands on chef in the kitchen, training his staff while running the kitchen, but the one department he has handed full control over is desserts.
"I've worked with my pastry chef before and I have complete faith in him," said Turab, adding that he plans the desserts and lets his pastry chef take the lead on the order.
The desserts at Kudu failed to disappoint. Their play on apple tart is slices of caramelised apples on a puff pastry served with vanilla ice cream, topped with Kudu's edible flowers. The ice cream was perfect to cut through the sweetness of the apples while elevating the notes of caramelisation on the slices. The puff pasty was light and provided a crisp that was necessary. Be quick with this dessert though! With the ice cream melting from the heat of the pastry, the latter can start getting very soggy with the passage of time.
The transparent pear is another beautiful dish from Kudu which has a lot of complexity within it. With thinly sliced sugared pear served on a caramel sponge cake, the dessert has numerous components and layers to it, bringing many subtle notes that all celebrate the flavour of the pear. The cake itself was soft and not too sweet so as to overpower the meal.
Damage on the pocket?
Kudu's prices are on the steeper side, the average range being Rs800 - Rs4000 with a few dishes such as the potatoes 3 way costing around Rs550 and some of the higher end dishes - which are meant for more people - going above. However, one can plan a meal according to their wallets and still be satisfied with what they get.
Kudu warrants a visit at least once from the fond foodie who would be interested in trying out the chef's unique balance of flavours and trying out techniques not yet explored in many restaurants.