“You never change your life until you step out of your comfort zone, because change begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
In the spirit of author Roy T. Bennett’s quote, I decided to step into a meat haven on a dark street. Flanked by other restaurants catering to the palate of meat afficionados, Markhor Smoked Meat Restaurant differs from the usual dining experience in Karachi.
Briskets, ribs, steaks, smoked chicken, pasta, burgers, and seafood are on offer for a fabulous smokehouse experience. The menu is festooned with dishes like Memphis-style sticky ribs, smoked chicken, smoked chicken breast, butterflied jumbo prawns and smoked red snapper.
For starters, there are birria tacos — soft tortillas with slow-braised pulled beef, caramelised onions, mozzarella, jalapenos and fresh red salsa. It turns out to be just as awesome as it sounds.
I had my eye on the New Zealand Grass-fed Rib Eye Steak, which is flavoured with rosemary, thyme, butter and garlic. Unfortunately, the dish was not available, because the meat was in short supply. Instead, I plumped for Beef Tenderloin Steak, which is one of the most sought-after and expensive cuts of beef.
At Markhor, this is 350g to 450g of smoked beef tenderloin steak with classic peppercorn sauce. The waiter said that one dish was enough for a person, but when the steak arrived, it was humongous. Since all platters are served with three slides (smoked vegetables, pickles, parmesan-roasted potato wedges, fresh green salad or coleslaw salad and sauce), it looks enough to feed a village.
Inspired by the majestic creature from the north, and embodying its best attributes, Markhor introduces Karachi to the taste of the classic American barbeque
The amused waiter claimed that customers regularly polish off their platters. I could see why once I cut into the steak. The meat was fresh and succulent and had the perfect blend of spices, while the sauce complemented the steak. A special mention must also be made for the parmesan-roasted potato wedges, which were tangy and crisp.
It was a difficult choice but I preferred the steak to the Smoked Beef Brisket my dining partner went for, although the latter was tender and its smoky flavour made for an esoteric dinner. The refreshing drinks we had were Thirst Burst, which is lemon water, and the ginger-based homemade Moscow Mule. The prices are reasonable, considering the big portions.
After drowning in the succulent meat and the amazing fries, we were glad that the desserts were limited to ‘Berrytastic,’ a strawberry cheesecake and ‘Guilty Pleasure,’ which turned out to be the ubiquitous, rich and treacly Lotus cheesecake that sent the palate into ecstasy.
The owner of Markhor is a self-confessed barbeque hound. During the winter of 2019, Syed Shahmir Ali and his wife were enjoying a trip up north when they caught the aroma of smoke coming from a barbeque. Naturally, that would spark anyone’s appetite, but it sparked his imagination as well.
Back home, he wanted to do something different from the ‘same old barbeque’ and, when the couple came across the classic American barbeque, they thought it would be a new experience for Karachi. That identity became Markhor. “We were inspired by the majestic creature from the north and we would embody its best attributes,” says Shahmir. “Unique, quality, and rare, all focused into a brand-new venture — smoked meat.”
Initially, they started with their own hand-built smoker. However, since smoking meat does not come from a recipe, but from practice and dedication, they had to put in months of hard work. Finally, the meat was just as they wanted it — tender, juicy, and full of flavour.
Then it was time to put together the dishes — from smoked chicken to ribs to seafood and everything in between.
“Why do you love smoked meat?” I asked Shahmir.
“Because smoking meat truly changes the way the meat cooks and dramatically enhances the overall flavour, while tenderising the meat,” he replied. “This is an effect not achieved through simply grilling meat. The smoke from the wood also changes the internal colour to a light pink and, on the outside, a bark. The smoking process requires several hours to complete — the temperature of the smoker and delicacy of specific meat cuts needing special attention.”
The indoor setting at Markhor is as snug as any steakhouse, with warm russet leather seats to sink into as you slice into the mouthwatering meat. Thanks to Covid, indoor dining is off-limits but there is outdoor seating in a small space, where the fairy lights and haunting music mix add an atmospheric touch. Markhor have trained their waiters well. Interactive and nimble, they possess the skill of blending into the background despite the limited space.
Markhor’s location is a plus point, since it is far from the madding crowd and gives you respite and the opportunity to tuck away delicious aromatic food in a smokehouse setting. As the mantra at Markhor goes: ‘Where There’s Smoke, There’s Flavour.’
Originally published in Dawn, EOS, September 5th, 2021