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EATING OUT

SANDWICH SHANGRI-LA

Deli.Dessert.Espresso
People may say that Panini was to be a sure success even before the day of its inauguration. Most people are going to fall for the hype surrounding the grand opening of this restaurant because the promotions have been that impeccably carried out. And Paninis are something new, something that wasn't available in the Dhaka food circuit before. As we all know for a fact, novelty woos our Dhaka foodies like nothing else.

So with so many people raving about the place that is a little over a month old, Panini did have a lot of high expectations to live up to during our visit.

Ambience and décor
We are all taught to always make a good first impression. And that is one thing that Panini manages to do with perfection. As soon as you enter the restaurant, you are welcomed with the delightful smell of food coming from the kitchen. Being greeted by the thick aroma of fresh tomatoes and melting cheese, what more could you possibly ask for from life?

Walking into the restaurant, the next thing to grab your attention is the extreme contrast between the decor and the music playing in the background. The interior is done up tastefully in dark shades, to lend a very trendy yet cosy feel to the place with the help of elaborate wallpapers, attractively designed mirrors and sofas along with the rather gloomy lighting arrangements, whereas the music is simply the opposite.

Their playlist consists fully of preppy and light songs. And somehow the combination of the interior with the music makes for a very pleasant atmosphere to sit and chat with your friends while enjoying one of their dishes.

Service
Basically don't expect to be greeted with big smiles. At all. If we are to judge based on the Bangladeshi standard of customer service then probably the staff at Panini is simply adequate at most, because they managed to get our order wrong twice during one lunch. But then again, in their defense the place was bursting at the seams. And the waiters were putting up a visible effort to do a good job with all the customers. Aside from that the place fares well in that that they serve the food quite fast -- you just have to wait approximately 10 minutes before your Panini arrives.

Also cleanliness is something you cannot fault the staff with. The place is squeaky clean, to say the least, which makes it more appealing in general.

Food
At the end of the day the food is what makes or breaks a restaurant and Panini will not disappoint your palate, even relatively. The menu offers a range of about 26 different Panini stuffings, not only savoury but also sweet.

Unfortunately, we could not sample all of the diverse and delectable dishes on offer but having had the Guido's Burger it can safely be said that it is an amazing, piping hot, cheesy, melty, carb-heavy, meaty burger with potato wedges fried just right. And a small star should be given to the chef as the bread there is toasted to a perfect crisp. But a bit more seasoning would be the icing on top of the cake.

The Chicken Presto, also served with potato wedges, is another good meal choice as it's not only a good size, meaning half the sandwich might do for you if you're not a big eater, and they don't skimp on the meat. Also, in general the ingredients are pretty straightforward so you know exactly what you're ordering. Similarly, the Pizza Steak and the Pollo Caprese both are brilliant dishes. The Caprese especially just hits the spot, especially if you are a cheese and tomato fan.

Moving on to the sweet Panini. All the stuffing here are very intriguing and worth ordering. The Chocolate Hazelnut Panini is simply mouth watering. The food is definitely the main reason behind the popularity of this place.

Value for money
This is the difficult part. Taking the quality and quantity of the food along with the environment of the restaurant into account, the price charged is not very exorbitant. A person can have a proper, filling lunch for about Tk.800. But if you think about paying Tk.800 for just a sandwich, to some people that might not appear to be a very reasonably priced place.

Address: Panini, House-30, Road-19/A, Banani Model Town, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Contact Number- 01726925181

Our Ratings: 3.5/5

By Noshin Nawal
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed


SPECIAL FEATURE

STREET CRICKET

Even for those in their late-twenties it is possible to look back upon younger years when they were all part of a tightly-knit neighbourhood community. Yes, there was a time when everyone in a certain 'para' knew one another, but as happens inevitably people go their separate ways as they grow older, a reality more prominent in a rapidly growing Dhaka where the cityscape changes almost yearly, and feelings of neighbourhood community do not reach the scale and scope it once did.

But there are some pockets that hold onto that togetherness by organising events, even if once a year, that bring together the once-daily acquaintances now scattered throughout the city busy with their own lives. Aru Boys' Club, a collection of childhood neighbourhood friends in Bijoynagar, is one such example. Every winter, they get together and for an evening at least, are transported back to their childhood days through a cricket tournament held under lights on the same street where they used to play three decades ago.

Residents of Bijoynagar have been playing in the gulley since 1981 when road traffic was nearly non-existent. But it is with these floodlit tournaments, which began from 1995, that the feeling of community is especially strengthened. These games, held on one night of the year, draw large crowds from the nearby buildings, making it a special occasion for the whole community. The participating members raise the money to host the tournament, and even the lights used are gotten at a discount as they are rented from the neighbourhood electronics shop. So it is a community enterprise through and through.

Play stops more often than it once used to because cars have to be let through, but more important than the games themselves is the reunion of so many of the people who once formed an indispensable part of each others' lives.

“We organise this event for two reasons,” said Obaidur Reza Razu, the senior 'bhai' who is the main organising force behind the annual matches of the Aru Boys' Club, which is named after another member of this close-knit community, who passed away in the early 80's. “We want to bring together the members of the community we grew up with but who are now scattered all over Dhaka and busy with their own lives, and we want to honour and keep alive the memory of Aru .

"This endeavour would not have been possible without the continuing support and enthusiasm of community members such as Suharto, Kashif, Tanvir and also Shaj," added Razu.

As anyone who has been part of the neighbourhood motley crew will know, games of such nature bring together people of all ages -- boys as young as twelve bowl to seniors nearing fifty on these floodlit, festive nights.

The Aru Boys' Club is an example to follow, because such neighbourhoods with close community sentiments are spread out all over Dhaka. In an increasingly fragmented city, it is worth it to try and retain some semblance of community, even if for one night a year.

By STS
Photo: Hasan Imam and Soumitra Barua


 

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