A Blend of Taste and Informality
Eateries in Dhaka are a dime a dozen, but the advantages of eating joints popping up all over the place is that now we have options for our meals out, and aspect to our dining experience we could even fathom a few years ago. Now not every meal out is a burger or deshi Chinese, the lines between cuisines have been drawn and most importantly they are not arbitrary lines. There are places around the city that now provide high quality Asian and continental food, from Korean to Vietnamese to imported steaks. The latest restaurant to join the fray of high quality food and service is one that caters to almost every major taste, from Thai to Chinese to Continental X-Lounge offers it all and most importantly their quality never wavers.
Located in Abedin Tower at 35 Kemal Attaturk Avenue X-Lounge is set in the heart of the unofficial private university district, but that is not to say their clientele consists of entirely youngsters, many working professionals in and around the area frequent the restaurant at any given opportunity. They are also probably drawn back to the restaurant by the courteous staff, who thoroughly enliven every experience there.
The restaurant itself is spacious and artistically designed. The owner Moustafizur Rahman says "the restaurant was designed by an interior decorator named Naomi and myself. I had a vision of what I wanted, but with her expertise she brought everything from the planning stage into the realisation stage." One walks up a narrow flight of stairs to enter the lounge and is immediately met with mellow colours, large swathes of light yellow along with innovative lighting. It is all quite easy on the eye as is the décor itself. The layout is both spacious and elegant, mixed with the colourful cloth motifs it is a good blend between formal an informal. There are a few segments to the restaurant, at the top of steps one can go in two directions, a turn to the left takes one into an informal dining area which is backed by a cosy sheesha smoking area. The sheesha lounge is casually chic with large pillows and low tables for the sheesha. The only downside is that at times it is difficult to sit with ones feet outstretched as the low table takes up valuable legroom.
Aside from the ambience the food and the sheesha are the main reasons people visit the lounge and it does not disappoint on any of the two above-mentioned categories. Their menu is a literal festival of food as they serve a mixture of continental and Asian cuisine. Moustafizur Rahman is the main man behind the menu, he says "I chose the menu because I wanted to serve a good mix of food, not just be tied down to one type or another", Rahman adds "I used to live in Canada for 20 years and owned a restaurant there, that is where my idea to open one in Bangladesh came from." His aim was that the food, service and price should all be of the highest quality, if he was to truly succeed in the competitive restaurant industry in Bangladesh. Aside from that he was also determined to serve continental food at an affordable price as that was the secret to his success abroad. Bringing continental food to a wider more reachable audience was a major aim.
While Rahman is in charge of the continental food, he needed a good chef to back him up for the Asian side of the menu. He was lucky enough to find Mustafa Parvez a renowned chef with a world of international experience. The name may sound familiar because he hosts a hugely popular cooking show on BTV. He has worked in Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, Turkey, Vietnam, Dubai and Egypt and can cook everything from Lebanese to Italian.
What stands out from the Thai side of the menu are the X-Lounge appetisers, especially the fried Won Thon and Spring Roll with a delicious green sauce, which are quite cheap at under Tk 200 and one is served a fair number of them. The Thai salads are also delightfully tasty and tangy with Roast Beef Salad and the Thai Beef Salad standing out. They are both made with diced beef, tomato, spring onions, cucumber, chilli, capsicum and mushrooms. The difference is that the Thai Salad is tangier with a subtle taste of garlic. From the soups the Tom Yam Gai is possibly the best, thick and rich with a hint of sweet and sour flavours and full of prawns and mushrooms making it almost a meal by itself. The seafood side of the menu is quite unforgettable as they seem to keep the produce fresh and equally tasty. From the rice and noodles side of it, the X-Lounge Special Thai noodles are fantastic and plentiful and at Tk 275 they are a bargain. The Chinese menu is limited yet good but essentially not up to the standards set by the unbelievable Thai menu.
The continental menu is equally plentiful. The starters are all quite decent with the Shrimp Cocktail standing out. The seafood offers items such as Butterfly Shrimps and Red Snapper, while interestingly enough they even have a veal menu where all the items remain affordable. Lamb and Chicken Brochetes are plentiful and reasonably inexpensive. The stand out item from the continental side is without a doubt the Lamb Chops under the well-stocked steak menu. They are beautifully cooked and served with a hint of butter with herbs and are also served with sautéed vegetables which only add to the flavour. At Tk 355 it is unbelievably well priced and can easily serve two, but tasting the way it does I doubt anyone would want to share.
Another major draw is the sheesha lounge which is a well decorated space usually teeming with youngsters indulging in the latest fad, smoking sheesha and nibbling on appetisers. Usually youngsters order a sheesha and choose from a wide variety of drinks from their well stocked drink menu. There are some good coffees and frappes to go with the regular milk shakes and smoothies. The real draws are their fruit drinks such as the Special Fruit Punch, Royal Fruit Punch, Penacolada and the multi flavoured Oriental Planter Punch. The owner went through a lot of trouble to hire a juice specialist named Jaman as he pried him away from a five star hotel to work for him. He prepares all the punches and juices with great skill and dexterity and the subtle mix of flavours is what sets the drinks aside from any other establishment.
X-Lounge is a welcome addition to the many restaurants that dot the city, but it is anything but another dot. Its unique style and flavour set it apart from most of the rest, along with an owner who has a real vision of where he would like to take the restaurant. It is visited by both students and professionals, and that is testament to their very fair pricing policy backed up with genuine high quality continental and Asian food. In the mood for a bite mixing the east with west, just drop by X-Lounge, you will not be left disappointed.
(R) thedailystar.net 2007