Around four years ago, a unique ‘restaurant’ popped up on Lahore’s culinary map. Then located on Jail Road in the EFU building, the School of Culinary and Finishing Arts, or Scafa, was a culinary school by day and an exclusive restaurant by night. Back then it only offered the Chef’s Table -- a seven-course tasting menu (that changed every week) in 8pm and 10pm slots that had to be booked in advance. Now, Scafa has not only relocated, but also expanded to cater to a wider range of diners.

Moving into a building with a glass façade near Gulberg’s Mini Market, Scafa not only offers the signature Chef’s Table now, but also baked goodies at its café and an all-encompassing menu at its bistro that boasts of exotic dishes conceptualised and developed by a string of international and local chefs.

Recently, I had a chance to check out the bistro along with a couple of friends. The interior is unassuming and nothing flashy, mostly done in whites and green, and a cosy space with just a handful of table. But what catches the eye is the open kitchen.

From the starters, we first had the Grilled Prawns. While the description on the menu said “Sriracha prawns, pineapple salsa, tamarind sauce”, there wasn’t even a hint of that hot, steamy chilli sauce. The sweet and sour combination of the salsa and the sauce was delicious. The prawns – though a bit chewy – were juicy and the slight char from the grill just elevated the flavour.

The next starter we had was the fresh Burrata. Sitting in the middle was a soft mozzarella cheese pouch filled with a rich, creamy, milky cheese that oozes out as soon as you puncture the shell. Sprinkled with truffle dust and served on the side with a salad of greens, cherry tomato and berries dressed with some sweet and tangy balsamic vinegar, this dish is Italian cheese heaven on a plate. The perfect combination of a green salad with that fresh, creamy, cold cheese with a tinge of truffle and balsamic made it one of the most amazing things I’ve ever had.

One of our mains was the Nut-Crusted Salmon. A fillet of soft, perfectly cooked-in-the-oven salmon had a layer of crushed assorted nuts on top that gave the fish some subtle Mediterranean flavour. It was served on the side with quinoa salad (something I personally detest), cherry tomato and baby spinach. The splatter of red pepper sauce on the side complemented the dish, providing a slight heat to the mild flavours of the salmon and nuts.

The Prawn Cannelloni was another scrumptious plate of food loaded with flavours of the sea. It had crispy cylindrical cannelloni filled with delicious spicy prawns, topped with shredded cheese and served with a creamy, velvety bisque made from prawn head – may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but was luscious! Seafood lovers will relish this one.

The Sun-Dried Tomato Tortellini looked appetising and pretty as a picture. The neatly folded rounds of tortellini were filled with a delectable sun-dried tomato and feta cheese filling served with a salty, milky sauce that complemented the filling. The tortellini were covered with a tomato coral tuille, shredded cheese and micro greens. But what was disappointing was the tortellini shell that was tough and hard to bite into, which not just diluted the flavour of the filling, but also experience of the overall dish.

The Fillet Mignon emerged as another favourite besides the Burrata. A 200gm sous vide tenderloin brilliantly cooked medium to medium rare was served with sautéed veggies, garlic mash and a mouthwatering café de Paris butter. The succulent piece of meat paired with the buttery herb sauce is what steak dreams are made of.

Besides a ‘world menu’, there are a handful of local dishes also for those not too fond of continental food. There’s also an ‘exotic’ section on the menu offering ostrich, lobster, Angus rib-eye and salmon. The dessert menu also boasts of some amazing delicacies, which we didn’t get to try after a fulfilling meal. But make no mistake! Scafa bistro charges an arm and a leg with the average price of a main-course dish being Rs1,200 without tax. And the exotic section is at least double this rate.

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2019