Tucked away in Clifton Block 8 is The East End, Karachi’s first ethnic fine dining experience. Or at least I think it’s the first; I haven’t seen any purely desi fine dining restaurants other than the ones in hotels. And I wouldn’t call them very fine! However, The East End – spearheaded by Fawad Arif, Muffi Halai and Adil Moosajee – offers a unique experience in terms of a five course meal featuring local cuisine. Popular amongst a quiet and perhaps niche clientele is an experience no one should miss; at least no one who can afford it (TEE will set you back a little over 2000 per person). Pricey? Yes! Worth it? Read on and decide for yourself…
I visited yesterday and I think it certainly is an experience to write home about. The very organic ambience has an element of refined distress, a quirky sophistication and the food is a derivative of the mood the place creates. You get to choose from any of the three main course segments: Highway Twist, Captain Charlie, and Bohra Exotic. All three offer serious carnivorous luxuries such as Slow Cooked Meat and Kidneys, Crabs in a Bucket, Raan Roast in Dry Red Baste and Creamy Badami Chicken but there’s also a Gharo Vegetarian’s Special for those who abstain.
The crabs in a bucket are heavenly.
I ordered The Keamari Crabs in a Bucket and they were heavenly. The curry was flavoursome without being overwhelming (it’ll take some time to wash the aroma off your fingers though) and the quantity was actually enough for two. When we sat down we were told that we’d be eating for the next 90 minutes and that was no exaggeration. The crabs came third in a series of five fine courses, starting with a delicate mirchi and ghatia (with a shot of imli and gurhh ka paani to balance the spices), masala aaloo, barbecued prawns with a shot of coconut cream to drink, the crabs and then a choice of either halwa or kulfi as dessert. Satisfying: absolutely!
Every meal starts with the first course: the mirchi and ghatia, served with a sugary guru ka paani to balance the spice.
The slow cooked raan was divine, a great balance to the hybrid daal chawal but the rather homey ‘paleeda’, a squash curry, may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
Warning: I wouldn’t advise you get on the weighing scale until you’ve starved off the after effects of this meal!
I brought the menu home and I must say I am tempted to throw caution to the wind and return for a spot of Paaya with Soaked Naans and Chops, but I would also put in a suggestion or two. It’s great and novel and unique to create a fine dining experience but I did feel the need for an a ’la carte menu too. For example, I preferred the Aaloo Paapar with Imli Chutney that my nephew got as his second course to my Masala Aaloo. The prawns that I got were better than his cutlets. In a nutshell, it would have been nice to have the option to order more of some and less of the other.
The other gentle critique I would have for TEE would be replacing homespun items with slightly more innovative dishes. For example, potato cutlets is something we all frequently make at home, I wouldn’t want to sample them in a restaurant unless they were reinvented with a twist. A tweak here and there and TEE will rock even more than it currently does.
So, my verdict on whether it was worth it: it certainly was! And you should go and try it out too!