Tavern Grill – The Crème de la Crème

One thing that has become quite common in Karachi is the sudden surfacing of restaurants serving mundane burgers and fries/steaks, Mexican and similar dishes. Every now and then there’s a new burger joint opened there, sandwich place here, or steak located around the corner. When one has so many choices to choose from, in order to survive, not only does the quality have to surpass that of its competitors, but so must the customer service. Nowadays, certain places miss the mark based on various factors; maybe the quality of service isn’t what you would expect from a new place; or the picture you saw of a dish on their Facebook page is clearly NOT what you have in front of you in your plate; or maybe the small plate of ‘barely visible’ pasta is exorbitantly expensive. What ever the reason for your dissatisfaction and resenting taking the decision to visit that specific establishment, when you DO find a place which meets the mark in this smorgasbord [pronounced “sch-mor-gaz-bord” – a metaphor used to indicate any diverse group; synonymous with a vast array of possible choices] of restaurant options, you feel ecstatic and gastronomically awakened!

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Situated at a prime location, Tavern Grill greets you with a welcoming entrance and staff, escorting you up a spacious wooden staircase. Playing, is a selection of excellent music from an era devoted to worthwhile and meaningful compositions, rather than just a catchy tunes with nonsensical words, which is almost everywhere; and in my opinion, is simply noise, nothing more. The menu is diverse in nature, ranging from burgers to steaks, Mexican to Italian, and places in between. However, the vital point to note, which makes Tavern’s wide array different from others who do the same, is that the dishes are competently created and consistently cooked; a rare feature to see.

The owner, Mr. Zubair Dossal, is always present, to not only greet his customers personally at their tables, but also to keep a watchful eye on the quality of food and staff. This courteous host reveals a quality and element many restaurants have been missing; that of care and concern regarding the customer’s needs and satisfaction, not just the monetary benefit hoping to be gained from opening up a restaurant.

For the starters/appetizers, the Tavern platter and Buffalo wings were ordered.

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The platter had various fried items such as thick onion rings, with crunchy onions coated in medium brown batter; and mozzarella sticks, with cheesy and stringy mozzarella, battered and fried; jalapeño poppers, large jalapenos stuffed with shredded chicken and cheesy sauce. Last, but definitely not least, my favourite from the platter; the fried calamari! 20150912_180248

But not the typical calamari you would expect to find at other places; no, the rings of calamari were moist and broke off from a single bite rather than attempting to saw through it with your teeth because it’s rubbery and overcooked. All these were accompanied with delicious sauces to mix and match with.

20150912_180304The Buffalo wings were also deep-fried and tossed in a buffalo hot sauce which was a combination of Frank’s Red Hot sauce and Tavern’s special twist to shake it up a bit. The sauce was not like the typical hot sauces found in Pakistan, which is really just Tabasco and painful to eat in large quantities or excess amount. This sauce had a balance of flavour which, if you’ve ever had Buffalo wings in America/Canada, etc., you would know exactly what the flavour should taste like; and eating these wings brought back feelings of nostalgia and happiness with each bite! The sauce made you nose tingle in delight when you smelled the wings; a blend of tangy and spicy making you crave more! In order to cool it down and balance the heat, it was accompanied with sour cream and fries.

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For those who have had the Roasters’ burger, the burgers at Tavern will give Roasters a run for their money! Tavern’s burgers are quite large in size, which will have you struggling to determine an action plan and figure out, not only where to begin, but how?

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NOTE: the orange-ish liquid at the bottom is NOT oil; it is the hot sauce that the fried chicken breast was smothered in! DELICIOUS!

Though I personally enjoy beef burgers far more than those with chicken, primarily for the reason that many people cannot cook chicken properly; and by ‘properly’ I mean that the chicken is either, completely overcooked and dry, or, in fear of overcooking it, it is raw; I may switch over to eating chicken burgers instead of beef purely based on the burgers at Tavern Grill! After inquiring from Mr. Dossal as to the method of preparing and frying the chicken burgers, I was informed that Tavern Grill individually weighs and assesses the cooking time for each chicken breast, which was a pleasant surprise!

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The burger had fresh and soft buns, a large chicken breast which wasn’t overcooked and perfectly juicy in the center, battered and deep-fried, then smothered in the same hot sauce used for the Buffalo wings.

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An Up-Close look at the Beautiful Behemoth of a burger I had! =D NOTE: the orange-ish liquid at the bottom is NOT oil; it is the hot sauce that the fried chicken breast was smothered in! DELICIOUS!

Complementing the succulent chicken breast in the burger bun were crunchy onions, crispy lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, pickled jalapeños and cheese melting off the sides. YUM! Not to mention, golden and crispy fries with delicious coleslaw.

Finally, for dessert, I tried a slice of their popular Mud cake. The size of the slice of cake was also just as generous as the burger I just had, instead of a sliver, which most places serve; it was moist, soft and decadent without being exceedingly sweet; poured on top was a thick chocolate sauce. Heaven!

[Unfortunately, I was too engulfed in its richness and deliciousness to take a picture; however, next time I visit Tavern Grill, I will be sure to take a picture of the cake slice!]

What else can a person ask for in a restaurant other than hospitality, genuine concern for the quality of your food and experience; value for money; and to have no feelings of regret or discontent when the bill arrives at your table? To find a place which has not only rekindled the flickering gastronomical fires in the customers who visit, but also in the dead embers of the culinary realm in Karachi, Tavern Grill has become a new favorite amongst many, including myself! It is highly recommended!

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One last up-close look at the Burger before ending this Post!

Karachi’s Mexican Cuisine – Bienvenido A Habanero!

‘MexicHabanero an food’, synonymous with spice; your mind automatically thinks of chili peppers, tequila, corn, beans, pineapple, and so much more. Authentic Mexican food is unlike any other, however, there are numerous variations of the same, but Mexican food still remains one that is very much enjoyed.

The front of the Habanero Menu

The front of the Habanero Menu

A new place that recently popped up in Karachi is ‘Habanero’, situated off Khayaban – e – Shahbaz; upon entering, there is a certain atmosphere which is immediately set; a clean and quaint spot. On your right there is a mosaic of, what appears to be, an image of a hardboiled egg cut in half. On the opposite side of the restaurant there are pictures of various dishes. There are also welcoming staff members to greet you as you walk in and escort you to your seats.

Interior with the mosaic on the wall on the far left.

Interior with the mosaic on the wall on the far left.

On the table, you won’t find the common bottles of ketchup or chili garlic sauce. No, there are two small bottles of Caribbean hot sauces, from the company El Yucateco; by the name of Salsa Picante de Chile Habanero. One bottle is red habanero, with a deep red shade; and the other in a bright green, of green habanero. [Just FYI, Green habanero peppers are ones that are unripe and the common colors are red or orange, which are ripened.]The two bottles of Chili Sauce from El Yucateco

The two bottles of Chili Sauce from El Yucateco

Just for those who aren’t aware of various types of chili peppers, a habanero is an extraordinarily hot pepper, which has been rated 100,000-350,000 on the Scoville Scale, which is a measurement used for the spicy heat of chili peppers and other spicy foods.

This is what a habanero pepper looks like

This is what a habanero pepper looks like

Just so you have an idea as to its intensity and heat, on the Scoville scale, a jalapeno pepper has only 1,000-4,000 Scoville Heat Units. And rated the world’s hottest chili pepper since August 2013, is the Carolina Reaper, which is a hybrid/crossbreed of the Habanero and the Ghost chili, and exceeds 1 million with 1,600,000-2,200,000 Scoville Heat Units.

Scoville Scale of a few chili peppers

Scoville Scale of a few chili peppers

Coming back to the two bottles of hot sauce on the table; I had a feeling that they would be awfully spicy based not only on the intense colors of each bottle, but also the strong spiced smell of the sauces. I placed a few drops in my plate and used the tip of one prong of my fork to taste it; and it was a sudden explosion of red-hot heat and chili. Definitely not for the faint of heart!

Scoville Scale used to measure the spicy heat of peppers

Scoville Scale used to measure the spicy heat of peppers

At Habanero, I ordered a quesadilla, nachos – Spicy for the starters, and for the main, enchiladas. I was a bit hesitant to order nachos due to the fact that some places that I have been to who claim to serve nachos use Doritos (yes, the chips you get from your local gas station or store) instead of tortilla chips. Habanero, on the other hand, used tortilla chips and they were fresh and crunchy; clearly not left over or stored for a prolonged period of time.

Starter - Nachos - Spicy

Starter – Nachos – Spicy

Layered on the tortilla chips were refried beans, marinated and seasoned ground beef, nacho cheese sauce, pickled jalapeños, sweet corn, grated cheese, tomato salsa and sour cream. The nachos were delicious and fun to eat since most Mexican food requires a ‘hands-on’ kind of an approach.

The sour cream, nacho cheese and tomato salsa which were poured on the nachos, were also given in small bowls on the side, in case we wanted more… which we did! Long story short: not a single drop went to waste.

Closer Close-up of the Nachos

Closer Close-up of the Nachos

Because the nachos were labeled ‘spicy’ on the menu and the waiter warned us of the same, we hesitantly took small bites, just so that we eased our way into the spicy flavours. However, the ground beef was far from spicy; rather it was quite bland. After speaking with the Manager, we notified him what a letdown the meat was and how it was exceedingly mild and nearly tasteless. He explained to us that people initially wanted it spicier and then it became too spicy and they were forced, due to the customers’ feedback, to make it the way that it currently is. He informed us that he would happily make another order if we weren’t satisfied with the current one.

One of the walls

One of the walls

Though the offer was quite tempting, we decided to simply voice our opinions and how it should neither be too spicy, nor too bland; a balance should be struck; and left it at that. And moved on to the next dish!

“Birds’ Eye” View of the Quesadilla =P

The quesadilla was cut into quartered triangles and were nicely fanned out, accompanied with that delicious salsa and sour cream. The tortilla used was very soft and not gummy or pasty as you bit into it, with meat in the middle and cheese. The tomato salsa was amazing! It was bright red; so vibrant in color and taste.

Starter - Quesadilla

Starter – Quesadilla

There were two large Enchiladas, smothered in cheese and a tomato-based sauce, and pickled jalapenos on top. When placed in front of us, we were overwhelmed and trying to figure out where to begin! Though there were two enchiladas, side by side on the plate, they were enormous! It became apparent that this is a dish for two people, rather than one.

Main Course - Enchiladas Yes, there are TWO under that thick blanket of cheese and salsa

Main Course – Enchiladas
Yes, there are TWO under that thick blanket of cheese and salsa

Main Course - Enchiladas

Main Course – Enchiladas

After slicing into it, it we were greeted with juicy pieces of beef steak, marinated and absolutely delicious. There was a mix of various spices; grated cheese, chopped onions, salsa; and it wasn’t too spicy. One thing that really could have been taken into account was the bottom of the enchiladas.

Main Course  - Enchiladas Yes, there are TWO under that thick blanket of cheese and salsa

Main Course – Enchiladas
Yes, there are TWO under that thick blanket of cheese and salsa

The bottom portion of the enchiladas, which is the portion that stayed on the bottom when the pan went under the broiler in order to melt the cheese, was very soggy and gummy. It was actually a bit difficult to eat due to its thick and had an unusual texture.

Habanero, as a new establishment, is very nicely set up with courteous staff; and I wish I had the chance of trying the aforementioned dishes prior to the changes made as per customer demands. If you wish to try Mexican food, then this place would be a great place to visit IF you notify the waiter/manager that you would like it to be spicier than what it currently is. If they have already amended the spice levels, then a new review is in order. Moreover, the sauces, however, are exceptionally wonderful and full of flavour!