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Discovering ‘posh’ food with a ‘health-conscious’ Khwaja

Updated July 26, 2015

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The Cube — Photo courtesy: Nishathotel.com
The Cube — Photo courtesy: Nishathotel.com

The posh ‘food streets’ of upper class Lahore seem to move eastwards every few years. From the walled city it moved to Gowalmandi to The Mall and on to Jail Road to Gulberg’s main market to M.M. Alam Road and then it is along Kasuri Road in Gulberg.

There is no doubt that this perception of being posh is moving to the soulless DHA Y-Block. But for the time being let us explore Kasuri Road. Just as the Eid holidays were over and we had the company of a long lost to the Arab sand dunes, our own dear Khwaja Sahib (do not use my name, Please!), we drove along this road and in the end decided to plonk ourselves in ‘The Cube’, an eatery of the Nishat Hotel, which seems the experimental ‘toe-wetting’ of this corporate group in the world of food and hotels. It seems their new front person will be a veteran hotel manager of Lahore.

It is an attractive small setting and as we were three persons we decided to experiment a bit. For starters we ordered Carpaccio, which I suspect Khwaja Sahib insisted on as he is a health freak and wanted his thinly sliced roast beef marinated with virgin olive oil and ‘super healthy’ arugula leaves and Parmigianino cheese. We teased him over the ‘virgin’ olive oil. I must confess that it was very tasty and with a wee bit of black pepper it was amazing.

Being a Lahori by taste and inclination, the order by Khwaja Sahib made me feel I was imprisoned. For soup he ordered something called Tom Kha Gai Soup (gosh, what a difficult name), which was a mix of chicken and coconut soup with kafir leaves and lemongrass. I told my friend that I was declaring him a ‘non-Kashmiri’.

But then the soup was very light and tasty, and very healthy. He silently smiled as I discovered new foods.

For the main course Khwaja Gee insisted that he orders for everyone, and it was this amazing dish by an amazing name called ‘Pla Ja Med Phad Med Mamoung’. What a scary name, but in the end it turned out to be a simple fried fish with cashew nuts and Thai sauces. I have tried this while visiting a Thai eatery in Cambridge, and it is delicious and very healthy.

We went for egg noodles with this one and it made an excellent meal. For sweets we went for a simple apple pie, which I must confess was very tasty. The company and the food gelled well.

Let me now mark this ‘eating out’ experience on the Michelin Scale of one to nine. For food quality it gets seven, for taste seven, for food variety available it gets eight, for quality of service a seven is fully justified, for cleanliness it gets a massive eight, for ambience it gets six (it is classy, but one feels boxed in … no wonder the name), for quality of crockery of cutlery seven and for prices five (pretty expensive).

Lastly for ease in parking a valet service is there and hence gets seven. This averages out to an ‘Eating-Out Score’ of 6.9 out of nine, which is very impressive.

Recommended:

Paratha with a twist: One of the saving graces of roadside breakfast kiosks in Lahore is that the huge number of workers who come to work in Lahore manage to find a reasonable place to eat in the morning. As the begum is away this remain one of the places I use.

One such place is in the corner behind the Rahat Bakery building in Lahore Cantonment. I have tried it a number of times and found it reasonable. Last week I reasoned with the chef that he should sell ‘desi ghee val walla paratha’. He reasoned that it was too costly, plus pure ‘desi ghee’ was not available. Now that is not good enough reason. A real ‘paratha’ is a ‘desi ghee’ one, and what is a ‘paratha’ without a ‘val’ – a twist.

Published in Dawn, July 26th, 2015

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