Published: Tuesday, July 23, 2013

FOODIES' GUIDE

Iftar deals around town

Almost every restaurant and hotel comes up with special iftar spreads and offers every Ramadan. Nearly every street has at least one makeshift iftar shop. Even many tiny tea stalls put a table in front and sell common iftar delicacies. Street food vendors of course, shore up their volume. Post-Asr, the whole city livens up for the preparation, buying and selling of iftar.
The fame of Old Dhaka iftars is related to heritage. After all, the land was ruled by royal dynasties like the Mughals. When they came to this land, they did not come alone; they brought their chefs with them, and hence trickled down the art of making great food.
Chawk Bazaar’s iftar is not without some drawbacks. “The quality of food is not the same as it was when I used to come here as a student,” Johi, a middle-aged service holder opines. “Also, I think many of the items such as boro baaper pola and koel bird’s roast are overhyped. Also, because of the rain an hour back, the street has become dirty and muddy.”
Nevertheless, the vitality and festivity of the environment and the history it has is perhaps the true charm of the place, making it a must-visit at least once every Ramadan.
Nurani Cold Drink, a store very near to Chawk Bazaar’s iftar marketplace, is legendary for its lassi. Priced Tk. 20 and Tk.25, it will enchant you to a great extent. The tiny shop on the ground-floor just beside the main street has an infinite number of thirsty customers to take care of. But you needn’t wait for a long time. Service, and the whole process, is impressively swift. From hammering blocks of ice and adding ingredients, and then mixing those by repeatedly pouring and ‘unpouring’ sherbet from one glass to another with incredible precision and speed will make you realise the value of experience. Other than lassi, the shop also sells lemonade.
Without an amazing drink beside your Iftar platter, the deal doesn’t seem worthy. Another drink that has become legendary is the lemonade of the eatery popularly known as “Beauty”. Located in Nazira Bazaar (and a few other places in Old Dhaka), this small shop will give you the best lemonade in the city, for just a small price of Tk.15. And we all know of no other drink better than a glass of lemonade to refresh and reinvigorate ourselves after a long day of fasting. And among lemonades, people say Beauty’s lemonade is the best. It also sells lassi and faluda.
While we are on the subject of sherbets, Royal Restaurant’s ‘badamer sherbet’ ranks similarly. Royal Restaurant, located in Lalbagh, is one of the best places for Iftar, with a royal menu of chicken tandoori, doi bora, shish kebab, boti kebab, etc.
Another amazing place to have Iftar is Mohammadpur’s Bihari Camp. By 6pm, all the eateries are crowded, with tables and chairs set in the street to handle the demand. Tehari and halim are also quite popular, more popular is the ‘chaap’.
After all, the much-famed “Mustakim er Chaap” is found here. Definitely try their beef, chicken and mutton chaap. Other than chaap, mutton brain fry and corn soup are other items available at Mustakim and the rest of Bihari Camp that are very popular.
The rather salty corn soup ranks vey high among customers, perhaps right after chaap. Luchis heaped on a plate, one chaap, a plate of mutton brain fry and a glass of lassi should add up to a terrific meal. Depending on how much you order (the quantity per plate of many of the items may seem modest), the bill for one person should be between Tk.200-Tk.300 or even less.
After the scrumptious meal, have a paan (mixed betel leaf) from the shop located near the entrance of Mustakim. With dozens of small glass boxes containing different spices and other ingredients, the cart-like container (which is basically the shop) lure the customers. A paan can be prepared using as much as 32 different ingredients. “This is not paan, this is chocolate,” a customer remarked.
Other than the eateries in Old Dhaka and the numerous street-side restaurants all over the city, there are several places that offer fine-dining. A lot of restaurants, such as The 8, Baton Rouge, EFES, Khazana, Topkapi, Charcoal Steak House, Spitfire, etc. offer “Iftar-come-dinner” buffets. The price range is roughly Tk.800-1500.
Many banks give discounts and even have “buy-one-get-one-free” type of offers if you purchase through credit or debit card. So keep your eyes and ears open for good deals. If not anything else, glance through Star Lifestyle’s Ramadan issues for news and reviews on different eateries and iftar deals.
Happy eating!