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Eating out: Middle Eastern Manna

September 17, 2011

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With niche eateries specialising in the cuisine of a variety of foreign countries fast becoming the rage in Karachi, it is not surprising that practically every commercial area now boasts at least one niche or theme restaurant. The latest addition is ‘Abaan’ located in the Khayaban-i-Jami commercial area of Defence phase VII, offering Lebanese food.

Situated on the main road, the building housing the eatery is easy to spot and, unlike most restaurants, has plenty of parking space. An aesthetically appealing ground floor of the office building leads to the elevator that takes you to the first floor where Abaan is located.

A spacious restaurant, it has elegant décor which Parvez Iqbal, the proprietor of the eatery, claims to have done himself using hundred per cent recycled, local materials from his renovated home. Filigreed metal slabs on glass partitions and windows, wooden tables and chairs with fabric seats, wooden flooring and fuchsia walls and concealed lights all lend the restaurant a sophisticated touch. Soft, Arabic music complements the ambience, at once putting the diners at ease.

With complimentary veggies and green and black olives whetting our appetite, we studied the extensive menu comprising soups, salads, cold mezzeh, hot mezzeh and entrees ranging from sandwiches and charcoal grilled items to roasted and pan fried ones. Although the menu claims that the eatery serves authentic Lebanese cuisine, one couldn’t help feeling that the offering is more fusion than anything else when reading their descriptions. For instance, the mutton chops surprisingly come accompanied with baked potatoes and garlic sauce.

For starters we decided to order hummus from the cold mezzeh section. The puree of chickpea, sesame paste, garlic and lemon juice served with both warm pita bread and crisp pita triangles did not disappoint. It had an excellent smooth texture which was difficult to resist.

For our entree, my friend and I decided to share the mixed grill platter as we felt that it would give us a fair idea about the quality of cuisine on offer since the platter contains a mix of items that are also available separately. The platter comprises mutton chops, mutton kebabs, shish kebab, chicken kebab and shish taouk, served with yoghurt and garlic sauce. Like its contents, our reaction was also mixed to the various offerings. We found the mutton chops juicy and tasty, although the meat was not prime; but the shish taouk dry. While we felt the shish kebab could have been more tender, the mutton and chicken kebab were appetising. The accompanying sauce too, was tasty.

To wash down the meal we ordered a mocktail of mint, lime and 7-Up which was refreshing. Although not keen to indulge in a dessert, we felt we should try some of Abaan’s offerings to see how they measured up to our taste. Hence we ordered Oum Ali, described in the menu as a ‘special Lebanese dessert’. It was special indeed, and irresistible. Tasting remarkably like shahi tukray (except that the consistency was more porridge-like), the rich dessert laden with nuts was scrumptious. Of course, no Middle Eastern meal is complete without baklava and so we too, ended our meal with the sweet, rich pastry doused in honey and rose water. It was sinfully delicious and the perfect end to our dinner.

With the service courteous and efficient, the eatery has many things going its way to make it popular. All it needs to do is to concentrate on making all the items on its menu of a steady quality.