Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 6, Issue 07, Tuesday, February 15, 2011



Dhaka's culinary hotspots

So the cricket fever is on: with the sports segments covering the story of our World Cup preparation, newly installed fairy lights by the Bangladesh Cricket Board's (BCB) Local Organising Committee (LOC) and countless billboards wishing the tigers the very best of luck. Bangladesh is already in a festive mode, ready to embrace the visitors and cricket devotees from all over the world. Here, we too are excited to welcome the stream of visitors in the coming months. This feature lists some of the most famous eating spots of the town, all ready to tantalise the taste buds of the global crowd.

An exclusive seafood restaurant on Gulshan Avenue (Second Circle) it's almost as if you are on the deck of a ship. The best part of this restaurant is the delectable food that is prepared with care and finesse. The menu at Saltz is certainly exotic. Take the Chef's Special Soup which includes salmon imported from Norway and comes with crunchy prawns, carrots and imported shitake mushrooms or a main course like Trout Iris -- rainbow trout poached and smothered in a creamy mustard and mushroom sauce. Just reading the menu gets your salivary glands going.

A large part of Saltz's clientele is expatriates who have been delighted with the exotic meals served. Most of the seafood (except the Norwegian Salmon of course) comes daily straight from Cox's Bazar where the best quality seafood is picked for Saltz. The lobsters come from St. Martin's Island where the supplier catches them and sends them straight to Dhaka. As far as success goes, Saltz has certainly hit the jackpot. So it is certainly a paradise for fresh sea food lovers.

Address: NWF-8, Gulshan North Avenue, Gulshan-2, Dhaka.

Just below Saltz is a completely different affair in terms of décor and cuisine. Spitfire as its name implies is a trendy steak house that makes you think of a Texan ranch house the minute you walk in. With logs for the ceiling, a life-like statue of a horse that is jutting its head into the restaurant with its body outside, the wooden tables, clink of glasses and a golden light that warms up the atmosphere, you could be in a steak house anywhere in the world. The food too is very continental. A big attraction of Spitfire is a menu of meals made with imported meats (and so highly priced) such as T-bone steak which is made with halal American T-bone meat imported from Dubai, as well as simple lamb chops, the 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 have given the business an added boost.

Address: NWF-8, Gulshan North Avenue, Gulshan-2, Dhaka.

El Toro:
Filled with Mexican artefacts, sketches and paintings and with Mexican ballads playing in the background, the experience of eating a piping hot chicken fajita and sipping non-alcoholic Pina Colada could not be more authentic. If you are in the mood for something different, you have got to try this place called “El Toro”, which means the Bull. This place is amazing, with really authentic food. They have nachos, tacos, burritos -- almost everything, at pretty decent prices. El Toro is definitely the best Mexican restaurant in Bangladesh. In other words, this restaurant is authentic! The service is fast and the food very tasty. Even the inside of the restaurant is authentically decorated with a variety of Mexican flair.

House: 1/A, road 38, Gulshan-1, Dhaka

Heritage was a bit of a discovery for us; a real restaurant in Dhaka! The food is described as "Bangla fusion"; the menu is varied and interesting and when the food arrives it is extremely tasty, although the dishes with sauces tended to be a little bit heavy but the kebab, dal makhani and panir matter is worth trying with paratha or nan. There are chicken, fish, prawn (try the Heritage Prawn, personal recommendation) and beef dishes. The interior is really well done, the space is not huge but doesn't feel cramped, and the owner has made a serious effort to create a classy atmosphere with coloured lighting, terracotta panels and exposed brick arches, small deer wandering around in the garden. The service is efficient and polite, absolutely no complaints on that front. All in all, Heritage is a great place for an evening out in Dhaka.

Road #109, House #10, Gulshan-2, Dhaka, Tel: 8829359

Hotel Kasturi:
This is a place to have maach bhat, the quintessential Bangladeshi cuisine. The price and the size of the fish they serve are both incredible. Nowhere else in Dhaka will you find fish (like koi, pabda, rui, pangash, galda chingri etc) as big as they have unless you decide to go to Sowari ghat or New Market. The recommended practice is to ask the price before you order because it will depend on the size.

Kasturi is probably the city's most famous and one of the oldest restaurants for Bangladeshi food, renowned for its authentic local cuisine. The simple and unpretentious décor masks the richness of the food, like their chitol maccher kofta, fried ruhi fish and chingri mallai curry. If you want to taste authentic Bengali food such as, different kinds of "bhorta" (mashed food) and "bhaji" (fries), Kasturi is the right place to be. Also the other main attractions start from shrimp, hilsha to eggplant, beans and an array of "bhorta"s.

Address: 8 purana Paltan, Dhaka- 1000, Dhaka, Tel: 9969542.

Star Kabab:
The best place to go if you are feeling hungry at near midnight after a whole day of cricket. Serving traditional kebabs and biriyani, this place stays open all night. If you want to enjoy some of the best kebab in Dhaka at a very reasonable price, this is the place to go. This restaurant has tons of outlets all over Dhaka city, so if you have the time you should definitely order from here. They sell some of the best kebabs, lamb chops, curries and some special drinks like borhani, lassi, faluda. For the flavour of some good, traditional Bengali cuisine, Star is a must-visit.

If you have a taste for Indian food, look no further than Khazana, Dhaka's premiere and most authentic Indian restaurant. All the dishes are made with authentic Indian spices imported from India, thus ensuring that patrons enjoy the taste of genuine Indian cuisine.

Highlights of the menu include Frontier Mixed Grill, Dum Biriyani, Kabuli Chana Chaat, and Butter Chicken, to name just a few. They also offer an ample dessert option; the Black Currant Kulfi is one that will make you want to forget about your wallet and dietary restrictions, and just keep ordering more. The Gulab Jamun is another such item.

Khazana is a franchise of the exclusive culinary chain of celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor and it first delighted Dhaka foodies in 2002, when the restaurant was opened. It is a one-stop destination if you want a pan-subcontinental dining experience.

Address: House # 9, Road # 55, Gulshan -2. For reservations please call 8826127 / 01711476379.

If you are looking for some authentic Japanese food, Izumi is the place where aside from the world class food, the decor and ambiance should not be missed, especially while the weather is still cool. The restaurant has a wonderful courtyard with a brick waterfall perfect for alfresco dining, whether for lunch or dinner.

Japanese food is not just sushi and sashimi. Izumi is the perfect example of this with an extensive menu with items ranging from salads, maki rolls, tempura, foie gras, steaks, grilled, steamed and BBQ items. All the beef at Izumi is imported and the restaurant is probably best known for their steaks. The options include Australian Waygu, and the world-famous Matsusaka beef.

After the first few months of operation, Izumi started offering Bento Boxes and special lunch dishes. The Bento Boxes range from Tk.800 to Tk.1200 and are excellent value for money - in fact, people with average appetites will struggle to finish a Bento Box meal on their own, especially as the meal includes Miso Soup and fresh fruits for dessert. Sticklers for originality may find Izumi the right type of gastronomically exotic experience they are looking for.

House 24C, road 113, Gulshan -2, phone 8814429.

Mainland China:
India's premier fine dining Chinese restaurant, Mainland China, opened its first international outlet at Uttara in Dhaka. The restaurant is the flagship chain of Specialty Restaurants Private Ltd, a group of restaurants based in India.

The restaurant chain serves authentic cuisine from the major provinces of China. Mainland China enjoys an unparalleled brand equity and is revered for the fine dining experience it provides. Their Drunken Chicken In Shaoxiang Wine is a mouth-watering highlight; you can enjoy the subtle taste of the dish with a helping of steamed rice. Fish With Chinese Parsley Sauce is another such delight -- sliced fish marinated and deep fried and served with fresh and lemony parsley sauce.

Contact info: Mainland China, Siam Tower, Floor No 15, Sector No. 3, Uttara Model Town,

Tucked into a quiet by-lane in Uttara, you will find Nagasaki. Stepping into the restaurant itself, one is greeted by warm wood paneling, paper windows, silk fans and mini rock-garden landscaping, with J-pop piping cheerfully in the background. MA Salam, the manager, who happens to have designed the interiors, tells us he picked only natural materials to create the peaceful ambience that is de rigueur for the proper dining experience. One takes off one's shoes at the entrance, slips on a pair of straw slippers, and enters the dining area, which is furnished with low tables on raised wooden platforms and punch spaces by the seating area, where one can sink in, and sit comfortably, and still maintain the illusion of sitting on the floor.

illusion of sitting on the floor.

The menu is comprehensive, ranging from tempura and nattou, to sushi and set menus featuring rice/noodles, miso soup, vegetables and a choice of meat or fish. The grilled butter squid, which melts in the mouth, is a must-try, as is the sushi platter, which provides a wide range of fish and vegetable sushi, teeming with savoury flavours, and that elusive taste of umami.

Chef and restaurant owner Mori Shinji has an eye for detail, so expect to see pretty little extras like the wasabi being molded into the shape of a leaf, or the red ginger curled into the shape of a rose. One has to appreciate the fact that the food at Nagasaki remains true to its roots without being distorted to suit the deshi palate. This is definitely a place for serious connoisseurs. The seafood ingredients are all freshly imported from Japan to provide that authentic taste, and there are takeout facilities for the fried food. The menu also changes on a seasonal rotation.

Nagasaki Japanese Restaurant is located at: House #13, Road #6, Sector #1, Uttara Model Town.

The 8:
The new menu of the 8 offers cosmopolitan Asian fusion fare, with a Malay twist from the master chef Rozaiman. The à la carte menu offers original, unusual food using traditional Asian flavours such as tom yum, green curry, red curry, red chilli, miso. The food is made to order. Nothing precooked, nothing microwaved. It might take ten minutes longer, but the difference is noticeable. The vegetables are lightly cooked, fresh, and speak for themselves. The meat is imported, as is the salmon. The ingredients are not skimped on, and you can tell the difference.

Mary Had A Little Lamb is imported lamb with a green curry reduction, a fabulous combination rarely seen anywhere.

Miso Beef is also imported beef steaks with miso sauce, no fuss, no messing around, just well cooked meat with flavours that make you wonder why no one has offered this dish before. Satay Ayam is chicken satay malay style, char grilled with peanut sauce marinade, dipped in chunky homemade peanut sauce.

The 8 has also added an 'Asian Favorites' section to the menu, which offers fare a little bit more tradition for those who have a craving for the good old days, here they have perennial favourites such as Pad Thai, Khao Suey, Mee Goreng, Nasi Goreng, amidst other treasures.

The 8 also offers a number of desserts, the highlight of which is undoubtedly chocolate. Chocolate fondue with mixed fruit is the real deal: melted swiss chocolate, and if you're a real deviant, then just forget the fruit and grab a spoon!

The Nest:
Above The 8, surrounded in leafy splendour, is an open plan venue for hire. The Nest offers an air of tranquillity impossible to find anywhere in Dhaka. Glass on all sides offers a three way panoramic view, and it's not just concrete you're looking at. This is an old house, and you can tell. There are large trees everywhere, and all views end in green. The riot of leaf, glass and slate walls soothes the senses on an almost subconscious level. There is a long terrace running the length of the space, practically a garden filled with plants, beautiful at night, perfect for al fresco dining. Inside is one large room; an open space with minimum fuss. And the food is pretty great too. The Nest offers a premium, customised buffet designed and prepared by the Malaysian chef, starting from a basic Tk.500 per head.

House 24, road 2, gulshan 1 The 8 (1st floor), The Nest (2nd floor)

By Tanziral Dilshad Ditan
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed/Lifestyle Archive


Out in the Green

Bangladesh isn't known as a major tourist destination, but this doesn't mean there are no places to go. Only a day's journey away from Dhaka, this country offers breathtaking experiences. Everywhere you go you will meet friendly, helpful, warmhearted and hospitable people.

To book a trip, it is best to get in contact with one of the well-established tour operators in Dhaka. Guide Tours and Bengal Tours both offer a big variety of packages and have a very good reputation of providing safe, enjoyable and well-organised tours. Their employees speak English and are very knowledgeable.

If you are tired of bustling Dhaka after some time, a trip to either Bandarban or Sundarbans will be a relief to you. Both destinations will allow you to relax, breathe fresh air and discover that Bangladesh is actually very green and peaceful outside the cities.

A perfect getaway from Dhaka is the Bandarban Hillside Resort, which is run by Guide Tours. The resort is located on a steep hillside four kilometers from Bandarban Town. Surrounded by the jungle, different types of cottages offer a comfortable and authentic atmosphere. From the restaurant at the entrance, there is a great view over the rolling hills and the river below. Here, you will also find some of the best foods in Bangladesh.

Bandarban is located in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, a region very different to the rest of the country. There are peaks as high as 1200 metres above sea level and many inhabitants belong to either Buddhist or Christian tribes. Bandarban is the centre of the Hill Tracts, and if you stay in the Hillside Resort, it will be easy to arrange short trips and hikes to interesting and scenic places.

The local guides at the Hillside Resort will be glad to take you to viewpoints like Chimbuk, one of the highest points in Bangladesh accessible by road. With a guide, it is also possible to visit different indigenous people in their tribal villages. Another interesting excursion is a visit to the golden Buddhist Temple in Balaghata, just a few kilometers out of town.

From Dhaka, there are direct buses to Bandarban. However, to travel by bus is not recommendable. The Dhaka-Chittagong highway is very busy, especially at night, and there are a lot of accidents. Taking the train or flying is safer and less nerve-racking. Guide Tours will help you to make any arrangements.

Another inescapable destination is Sundarbans, the world's largest continuous mangrove forest. It was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1997. The Sundarbans is inhabited by a sustainable number of Royal Bengal Tigers.

You may not always have a chance to meet the tiger, but you can be sure to spot other wildlife. Over 270 species of birds have been recorded here, including 9 species of kingfishers. Other wildlife includes spotted deer, monkeys and crocodiles.

The Sundarbans National Park is a large swamp in the southern part of Bangladesh, where all travel is boat-based. Both Guide Tours and Bengal Tours offer trips of several days' duration. It is most common to first travel from Dhaka to Khulna by bus or train and to embark there.

The mangrove cruisers are boats with cabins suitable for solo travelers as well as families. Meals are served in a dining room on the lower deck or on the roof deck. A team of cooks will prepare traditional Bangladeshi dishes, snacks and special treats such as barbecues.

From Khulna, it takes a full day to get to the wildlife sanctuaries on the Bay of Bengal. All tours are accompanied by multilingual nature guides who will take you on cruises inside the mangrove forest. They will point out animals to you and provide you with interesting information about the creatures living in this wild and beautiful environment.

The most exciting thing is an early morning trip through small creeks and canals by country boat. In the light of the rising sun, there is a touch of magic and mystery to the scenery. Make sure though to take warm clothes and a hat with you, as temperatures can be quite low, especially at dawn.

Tour operators will offer a wide range of activities, such as trekking through the mangrove forest, bird-watching, whale and dolphin watching, evening film shows, mud baths and refreshing swims. Every now and then your vessel will pass fishermen. There is a good chance that cooks will spontaneously buy some fresh seafood from them and prepare it for their passengers.

On board, you will have plenty of time to wind down and to get to know your fellow travelers. As a rule of thumb, foreigners tend to book at Guide Tours while Bangladeshis do so at Bengal Tours.

However, you should have no inhibitions to break this rule. On every boat you will find nice people to chat with and the experienced crews will do everything possible to get their guests into a good mood.

By Andrew Jones
Source: www.guidetours.com, www.bengaltours.com


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