They had me at onion gelato.
If, like me, you heard of The Verge on social media (aka Karachi Food Diary), you'd know that their Beef Carpaccio with Onion Gelato has piqued interest among food enthusiasts, and I'm no exception.
Two months after its opening, my friends and I were on our way to the much talked about restaurant.
Where to go:
Located on 14C, Lane 9, Bukhari commercial, you can bet you'll miss it the first time around like we did.
Only a glass door gives a glimpse inside the unassuming concrete building. Peek through and a subtle wall carving with lights reads, "the verge."
There are two setups; the ground floor, which is a yet-to-open patisserie and the basement, which is the main dining area. In-between the two, like a mezzanine is the kitchen, which gives it its name The Verge.
Both floors have distinct interiors; one has a feminine feel and the other is more muted and gritty. The owner, Aman Virji tells me it’s because his wife designed the ground floor while he designed the basement.
When to go:
It's open from 7.30pm-12am all week.
What to order:
The menu is straightforward; there are three savoury sections to choose from which include (mainly) meat and vegetarian options.
Of course, the first thing our table unanimously orders is the Beef Carpaccio which comes with their savoury Onion Gelato. It doesn’t sound appetising, but a bite is all it takes to make one a convert - it’s true for me at least.
While some recipes of this classic Italian dish include an onion salad, The Verge, however, takes it a step further pairing the carpaccio with a gelato of caramelised onions and maple syrup.
The tender slivers of meat and sweet, creamy gelato go well together because of the different textures and the varying temperatures. Not to forget the rocket, parmesan and balsamic vinegar seeds, which enhance the flavour of the dish.
Their Three Chilli Calamari does not disappoint either. The squid is tender and the crisp breading is light, seasoned with chilli flakes the dish only needs a squeeze of lemon on top.
I would say it’s one of the two places in Karachi which has nailed fried calamari.
Another appetiser we cannot resist ordering is their Roasted Bone Marrow. Put together on a trencher and bone, the dish is cleverly plated, though Aman tells us his eatery is anything but (about finery).
The trencher comes with four crisp breads generously drizzled with olive oil, on top rests a long, hollowed out bone filled with cooked bone marrow. The bone marrow is meant to be scooped out, laid on the bread and gently squished with a fork - to flatten it out and make it easier to eat.
No elaborate flavours, just simple garlic and butter seasoning on the light, soft bone marrow. Some lemon zest and it melts in the mouth. My only criticism is that the bone marrow quantity is less. That said, by now it's evident the eatery focuses on high quality ingredients.
The appetisers set the mood and we're now ready for the mains. The first one being the Sea & Land combo, a platter of beef fillet served on a bed of chimichurri sauce and grilled prawns with assorted seasonal sides. The sight of pineapple on the dish is pure delight - sweet and savoury work best for me - and I eat it with my steak, alternating between the two.
There is also the option of choosing one of four sauces to go with the steak and while the ones at The Verge aren't your basic condiments, I felt the meat is a stand-alone
The steak is medium-rare like requested (although the grill marks on the slices are new to me); juicy with the perfect amount of succulent chewiness. The grilled prawns taste fresh and light, though a little forgettable in a platter with steak.
Nonetheless, the sides are unique and we play around with the flavours, especially the silky, smooth mashed potatoes and the well-seasoned gravy.
The Grilled Lobster, accompanied with the same sides, is tender, moist and slides right out of the shell.
The smokiness from the grill and the light seasoning let the lobster be the star of the show. Dunked in or poured on top, the spicy citrus butter elevates the dish.
The last of the mains is the Seafood Roll which includes a lobster roll and a salmon roll, with the same sides. The bread is phenomenal, made in-house, it is soft, buttery, warm and toasted to perfection. It doesn’t outshine the proteins, only complements them.
However, of the two, only one makes the cut for me: the lobster roll, my bias is due to the seafood smell in the salmon roll. I feel the lobster quantity could’ve been more though.
Finally it’s time for dessert, and as of now their menu only has the option of gelatos, but they are not regular gelatos.
First we try their Honey, Ginger, Turmeric Gelato, the one I have been secretly eyeing. The flavour is a pleasant surprise to the tastebuds. From chopped ginger bits to the slightly warm, spicy feel of turmeric, there is a comfort that comes with this dessert... and it is now my favourite gelato in the city.
Hot Pineapple comes next - complete with a dehydrated pineapple slice - and it tastes just like the name suggests. The gelato has a gentle, sweet pineapple taste but the main element comes after downing a bite, instead of being spicy, the gelato leaves behind a hint of heat in the throat.
The heat sensation lingers and lasts a while but it makes one want to reach for another spoonful. This one is an instant hit at our table.
Lastly, their Apple Pie ties the entire experience together. It’s sweet, with traces of cinnamon and pastry flavours. It also comes with a dehydrated apple slice, giving it a nice crunchy element. I'd say it's the perfect companion in winters.
Damage on the pocket:
The Verge is slightly towards the pricier side with appetisers ranging from Rs650-Rs1275. Mains go up to Rs4,500, however, if on a budget, ditch the seafood which is in the higher price range.
The only question that remains, will I be going back? Definitely. Though they have a small menu, there are still a few appetisers I’m looking forward to trying. It’s a welcome change to see such innovation in the city's culinary scene and that’s what makes it such a joy to visit this eatery.
What I find most interesting is the restaurant’s zero waste policy - possibly the first of its kind in our city. Aman tells me they hope to reduce their carbon footprint by compositing leftovers and food waste during prep.
They import glass water bottles, use customised stamps for their logo and stock rice paper bags for customers who wish to take home their leftovers. I hope this inspires other restaurants to work towards environmentally sustainable models.