The narrow congested service lanes of the long Boat Basin food street are filled to the brim with waiters hopping alongside cars, famished families spilling on to the road, macho guys preening on motor bikes or glowering in luxury four-wheel vehicles and in haphazardly parked vehicles.
Looking for a sushi place amidst this madding crowd could have been the opening scene from a Netflix film. It did not help that the name of the restaurant was prone to misinterpretation. “Pish posh?” asked a perplexed shopkeeper, scratching his jet black dyed hair.
‘Fishop’, explains the enthusiastic owner, Mustafa Kareem, was his father’s choice of name for the eatery. ‘Hooked’ and ‘FatFish’ were the names Mustafa and his sister Anum came up with. After two months of debate, they settled for their father’s suggestion.
Mustafa hails from a family who has been in the shipping business for decades. Known as Kareem & Sons, they are wholesalers who sell fresh seafood to exporters. “People go to Delhi Colony to buy fish, but do you know that the fish you get from there has been rejected by the exporters?”
If you are a sushi connoisseur, there are only a handful of places in Karachi that can indulge your palate, but have you ever wondered how fresh is the fish that is being served to you? The restaurants are known to freeze fish for their use, especially during the summer seasons when trawlers and ships are barred from fishing in the sea.
With customers not having to dress up or pay big bucks, Fishop is changing the culture of eating sushi in Karachi
Having been sushi fanatics all their lives, Mustafa and Anum decided to step into the retail business. The question the siblings wrestled with was: why should eating sushi be an event that one has to dress up and pay big bucks for? Why not cut out the buyer and sell the sushi directly to the customer, so they can enjoy it from the comfort of their home?
Since Fishop is an unpretentious outlet with limited seating capacity, the overheads are small. Hence they are able to pass on the benefits of the prices to the customers. Fishop is modelled on the lines of Yo Sushi, a conveyor belt restaurant serving Japanese street food and sushi, with locations across the UK, Europe, the Middle East and Australia.
What makes Fishop stand out is that they sell the catch of the day, because the focus is on having fresh seafood. They offer a variety of fresh uncooked seafood that you can buy and cook at home such as tiger prawns, lobsters and mackerel. You can order any menu item to eat or get a box of ready-to-eat sushi for takeaway. They also have catering and party platters, which combine an assortment of sushi or a combination of sushi and nigiri.
Looking at their variety of sushi options whets my appetite so I sample the Salmon and Crabstick Sushi Roll, topped with slices of salmon and thin crispy potato strips. The sushi has generous proportions and is amazingly fresh, refreshing and light as a feather, with the wasabi packing a punch. The Crispy California Roll is fabulous with the rolls packed with generous helpings of fresh salmon and rice. The flavour is authentic and on point.
Next up was the classic fish and chips modelled on the famous UK dish. The fish was well-cooked, the crust tangy and crispy. What was interesting was that the oil was hardly discernible, so not a single bite felt oily. The batter was of the right consistency and proved to be the perfect partner for the fish. The price was reasonable compared to high-end places.
Fishop’s adventurous spirit is evident in their choice of menu with the festive green Dragon Roll and Rainbow Sushi Rolls, spicy tuna, salmon maki, prawn cutlets and eye-popping sushi platters.
The friendly and well-trained staff are just five in number. The chefs are from Hunza and Gilgit, community-oriented and take care of each other, so when one man learns the art of making sushi, he teaches the skill to others.
Their customers are loyal because, apart from the food, the customer service at Fishop is exceptional. Their home deliveries are not confined to this side of Clifton Bridge. West Wharf, Nazimabad, Jauhar, PECHS, Tipu Sultan Road are all on their delivery route. “They are price-conscious and consistent customers,” says Mustafa.
When the orders reach the customers, they find that they are fresh despite the distance. The sushi bags are specially insulated with ice coolers to keep the fish cool. It is this attention to detail that is the hallmark of a great restaurant. Fishop prefers making their own deliveries.
What is next on the horizon for Fishop? They are planning to open a restaurant which has a sushi bar so that customers can see what is being prepared.
Sushi may be a niche market, but Fishop has certainly proved to be a game-changer, which has revitalised Karachi’s sushi scene. The world is their oyster.
The writer can be reached at email@example.com
Originally published in Dawn, EOS, July 25th, 2021