posh & plush eateries to please the palette
In the look out for some eclectic cuisine? Restaurants, with a combination of attractive ambience and interesting menus? Well the following haunts, popular and deserving to be so, are just the places to go. As they can get very busy later in the evening, most aficionados try to arrive before 8 p.m. so that they can settle in before the main crowd. Once seated, there's never any pressure to leave, even if on a couple of evenings the night gets quite late. They're places where it's great to relax, converse and slowly order things that have appeal at that moment in time.
Samdado (Hs 27, Rd 35, Gulshan 2; beside All Community Club)
The menu at Samdado's is quite extensive yummy soups, including a miso and a vegetable, Udon curry, various hot pots, fried noodles, tempura chicken and shrimp, a variety of salads like cucumber salads, seaweed salad, spinach salad with walnut sauce and so on. But it's the sushi here that's literally to die for. It's a common misconception that all sushi is raw fish. Only some sushi is raw. A lot of sushi is cooked or otherwise cured - smoked salmon, yellowtail, shrimp and crab for example. Sushi comes in pairs, so every time you order something you'll receive two. Keep this in mind as you make your selections. Sushi pairs symbolise husband and wife. The Japanese wife would make two of each item in anticipation of her husband returning for dinner. At Samdado's, you can receive the full visual and social experience that is personal and intimate, sitting right at the 'sushi bar' where you can watch and converse with the chef. You'll soon discover that you're experiencing a rich history and culture exemplified through food how it's prepared, presented, arranged on the plate and eaten.
Le Saigon (54 Gulshan Ave.; falls on your left while traveling towards Gulshan 1 from Gulshan 2 circle)
For those craving Vietnamese food be sure to visit this place. There's a charming conical roof of the porch, similar to that found on a Vietnamese farmer's hut and you're even greeted by a doorman in grand costume. The décor inside also leans towards Vietnamese influences. The service is fast but unobtrusive. As for the food, the combination of herbs, spices, and sauces used make it quite different from Thai or Chinese cuisine. There are dishes from the three main Vietnam regions, north, central and south. Central food is considered more authentic because the north has been influenced by Chinese cuisine and the south by French, Thai, Indian and more recently, American. Fresh spring rolls, Pho Bo or Ga, (probably the most popular dish in Vietnam), diced beef in garlic butter, sliced beef slivers in Vietnamese pepper and onions and beef rolls stuffed with picked onions are just a few items to relish here. One of the highlights on the menu is the Lau, a hot pot soup with your choice of fish, seafood, noodles, vegetables, chicken, beef and so on added to a clear broth. Other than your usual menu offerings there's also a dinner buffet some evenings at around Tk 700 a head.
Spice & Rice (Radisson Water Garden Hotel; falls on your left on the Airport Road leading towards the city)
This restaurant gives a whole new meaning to the art of fine dining. Spice & Rice has what one calls a 'show-case' kitchen and 'entertaining' dessert counter, celebrating the finest of Asian cuisine inspired by a combination of flavors from Bangla and the Indian Sub-Continent, Northeast and Southeast. Here there are NO menus, NO buffets. You're wondering how is it then one gets to see, smell and savour the rich textures of Asian food? Well, here the waiters are more like tour guides. You're escorted to your table by a waiter who will then regale you with a brief sketch of Pan Asia and South Asia and the history of spices. Then arrives a 16 course dinner, each dish from a different part of Asia. It's like getting a history lesson on food, the best part being that you get to leave with a full and contented stomach.
Spitfire (NWF 8, Gulshan Ave., Ground Floor; take left turn from Gulshan 2 circle; falls on your left)
If you're in the mood for a true-blue Barbeque experience, then hop over to this place. Decorated like a trendy steakhouse they have logs for the ceiling, a life-like statue of a horse that is jutting its head into the restaurant with its body outside and wooden tables set inside as well as out in the 'front yard'. Spitfire's menu boasts of meals made with imported meats, such as the T-bone steak made from halal American T-bone meat imported from Dubai, and lamb chops made from meat coming all the way from New Zealand. The rest of the menu is filled with other delicious continental cuisine such as ox-tail consommé with quail egg or stuffed pigeon ladled with brown sauce served with roasted potato and vegetables. Open air barbecues at Spitfire are regular affairs and the place is always abuzz with diners.
Saltz (NWF 8, Gulshan Ave., 1st floor; the floor above Spitfire)
The only one of its kind, this is really the only place in Dhaka where you can indulge in yummy dishes from the deep blue watery depths down below. The décor inside the restaurant, with its predominantly blue walls adorned with sea shells, boats and motifs of sea fishes, gives one the feeling of being literally under the sea. And the menu at Saltz is certainly exotic. There is the Chef's Special Soup sliced Norwegian salmon, crunchy prawns, carrots, and shitake mushrooms, simmered in herbs and main courses like the delicious Stir-fried Squid, served with seasonal vegetable and teriyaki sauce with garlic bread on the side. There are Italian and Spanish specialties, some recipes from the Mediterranean coast, seafood pizza, a few Thai gourmet delights, shellfish galore, and an array of seafood sandwiches. Most of the seafood, other than those imported, comes daily straight from a regular supplier at Cox's Bazar. For the Catch of the Day, be it a whole bass, mackerel, pomphret or red snapper, you can choose the cooking style pan-fried, poached or steamed, deep fried, grilled, or bbq'd and the type of sauce in which you want it served Thai ginger, lemon-butter, garlic-butter, yellow curry, barbecue, mushroom-mustard and so forth. There is a terrace where you can enjoy these dishes under the open sky almost as if you were on the deck of a ship. So dive into Saltz's cuisine one cool and clear evening. You're sure to enjoy it.
Khazana (Hs 12, Rd 55, Gulshan Ave.; comes right before Spitfire)
Khazana has to be the treasure chest for Indian cuisine. To start with drinks, they have the most supreme collection of lassis thick, rich, creamy and wonderfully frothy. Dishes like Saag Gosht, Machli Ke Sule, Fish Tikka Shaslik on a bed of raw papaya salad, Aachari Murg Tikka are mostly cooked in yogurt based gravy and in one word can be described as lip-smacking. The seasonal vegetables and mushrooms essentially cooked with a variety of hand-picked spices all imported from India and served with tomato chutney are to drool over. The naans are soft in texture and great to the taste. The exclusive paneer items served with mint and raita, assortment of chickpeas dishes, lovely collection of dahls, and meaty kebabs will make one sigh in bliss. Other prized dishes include Chana Chat, Raan Buzkazzi, Frontier Mix Grill and the Khazana Special Jelebi. Khazana also offers a lunch buffet at Tk. 399 per person all inclusive. Its interiors have a traditional ambience with a hint of western fusion, the wooden Elephant headpieces and hanging partitions reflecting the greatness of the Indian culture which blends beautifully with the soothing music and off-white drapes. The eye-catching paintings on the walls are actually for sale. So go and enjoy the impromptu art exhibition while savouring the wonderful items on the menu.
Vintage (Dhaka Sheraton Hotel, Ground Floor, 1 Minto Road)
The Vintage restaurant offers semi-formal dining in stylish surroundings and is famous for its haute cuisine. This restaurant has a fascinating décor that is very 'vintage' Vintage gramophones, wall clocks, brass plates from antediluvian ships, and vintage wooden panels and chandeliers create a truly wonderful atmosphere. The menu is quite extensive with dishes prepared from a range of imported beef, game, poultry and seafood, complemented by a selection of fine wines. The restaurant, closed on Fridays, is open from 12:00-3:00 pm for lunch and 7:00 pm-12:00 am for dinner.
Koreana (Hs 5, Rd 136, Gulshan 1, the road between Anderssen's Ice Cream and Abacus restaurant)
Whenever one thinks of Korean cuisine, the mind veers towards tofu, but there's a lot more to it than that. At Koreana you can set yourself a leisurely pace to explore it all. There's kimchi (virtually the national dish of Korea), pickled vegetables, usually first salted, then seasoned with garlic, ginger, chilli pepper, and salted fish, shrimps, or oysters. There are meat dishes like pulgogi (or bulgogi), a Korean style marinated barbequed beef cut into thin strips. There's also kalbi, one of Korea's most famous grilled dishes beef short ribs marinated overnight in a mixture of green onions, garlic, sugar, sesame oil, and soy sauce. For soups you can try sunbudu-jiggae, a soft tofu soup or maeun-tang, an outstandingly delicious hot and spicy fish soup that contains great chunks of fresh fish, stewed with chilies and kochujhang.
El Toro (Hs 1-A, Rd 138, Gulshan 1; the road beside Abacus restaurant)
El Toro meaning 'the bull', serves SONORAN-style Mexican food. Sonora is a high-desert country state of El Norte or the North. Established in 1994 El Toro is a place where each and every visitor is considered a “guest”, following the old Spanish adage mi casa es su casa my home is your home. The adequately lit ambience, the Mexican masks and artifacts, Mexican tunes, the flaming adobe walls, the cactus neon, the already popular menu items, all add to the diner's eating out experience. Tacos, burritos, enchiladas, chimichangas, mouth-watering salsa, quesadillas, nachos, and fajitas are among some of the Mexican favourites that the chefs prepare, using fresh ingredients, with a soulful passion and consistency. El Toro is also famous for a unique dessert rightfully named “Deep Fried Ice-Cream-yes literally: the ice cream is covered in corn flake crumbs and then deep fried in oil. The taste you ask? Hot outside, cold inside and yummyliscious! Generous portions of El Toro food on the average is Tk. 250 per person. The 'fiesta' at El Toro begins at 11:30 am and ends at 10:30 pm everyday.
Mondira (Hs 42, Rd 123, Gulshan Ave.; the road beside South East Bank)
For 100% Bangla food Mondira is the place to haunt. With a two-part theme permeating the décor one side leaning towards the village scene complete with hukkas and langols, the other towards the era of the Jamindars, showcasing pictures of precious jewellery and charming architecture on the walls the place oozes with all things Bangla including the yummy food. All diners are welcomed at the gate by a doorman resplendent in a “notun jamai” get-up, then are shown to their tables by waiters and are offered “tetul'er shorbot”. At the end of the meal diners are offered sweet paan to indulge in. Mondira's menu highlights dishes from all over Bangladesh but in order to cater to the eclectic needs of the clientele's palette, it also features North and South Indian cuisine. Popular Bangla dishes include shorshey ilish, dopiaza of rui, rupchanda, chingri and other fishes, and a wide range of bhortas and chutneys like taki maach'er bhorta, shutki bhorta/chutney, begun bhorta, tomato bhorta, kacha kola bhorta, alu bhorta, borboti bhorta, pudina chutney, dhoneypata chutney, etc. And yes, the daal is to die for. So expect to give a satisfied, hearty burp at the end of a dining experience at Mondira.
Heritage (Hs 10, Rd 109, Gulshan 2)
Heritage's décor and feel is based on Bangladesh's rich heritage. There are seven dining areas, each having their own unique ambience and named after a heritage sight of Bangladesh. For example, the two dining halls on the ground floor are called Sundarban and Paharpur and the patio on the 1st floor, where one can enjoy dining under the open sky, is called Panam Nagar. There is a “heritage” map where you can see the location of all the famous heritage places in Bangladesh. But apart from the exotic décor what one should know that this is the signature restaurant of famous chef Tommy Miah dubbed the “Curry King” of Britain where diners can tuck into his mouthwatering “Bangla fusion” culinary creations and the winning dishes of his International Indian Chef of the Year competition, now in its 14th year. Diners keep coming back to savour dishes like chicken tikka masala, chicken loroial and smoked hilsa and sip at the house drink jira pani. Heritage has a lunch buffet with 35 items for Tk 300 per + Vat and is open for lunch from 12-3 pm and for dinner from 6-11 pm.
Café Bazar (Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel, 107 Kazi Nazrul Islam Ave.)
Located on the lobby level of Sonargaon, Café Bazar recently got a face-lift from the world renowned Master Chef, Davied Jones who's decided to run a different theme each day for lunch and dinner focusing on quality food from particular regions, giving guests global tastes every day of the week. The regional cuisines served are what are globally deemed to be the most popular, and the dishes are very well known. At this buffet style restaurant, quality food is plentiful and the range of dishes vast without sacrificing the authentic flavours and recipes. The place focuses on specialty days such as Thai on Mondays, Arabic on Tuesdays, Vietnamese on Wednesdays, Chinese on Thursdays, Bangladeshi on Fridays, International on Saturdays and American on Sundays. Café Bazar stays open from 12:30-3:30 pm for lunch and 7-10:30 pm for dinner.
Prepared with a budget between BDT 1,000 to 2,000 for a nice time out for two, your time at these posh eateries is sure to be a great culinary experience each and every time.
Special thanks to Radisson and Khazana for helping us with the photo shoot.
Photo: Amirul Rajiv, Vintage, El Toro, Cafe Bazar, Khazana
By Simin Saifuddin