A trip to Lahore almost always means a weight gain because of the criminally rich and exotic local cuisine and this time was no different. The nihari and payee, the haleem and yakhni pulao, the damned samosas that come with a bright red plum sauce that is not available in Karachi. That, with the channa chutney, is heaven. Especially if you attack it with a plain naan, as we used to at the Kinnaird College canteen. Oh and if you visit Lahore in winter then the fish at Bashir Daar-ul-Mahi (whom I prefer to Sardaar) is a must-go. So yes, I am a foodie as much as a fashion critic.
While continental/fine dining options are limited in Lahore – the Cosa Nostra, its Deli and Cafe being where we always end up – this visit we decided to try out our Chinese options at X2, Pan-Asian Dining in Gulberg. For people familiar with Lahore back in the nineties, X2 is an initiative of the same entrepreneurs who started Xinhua on the Liberty roundabout. Here are my thoughts:
What to order: The food at X2 is extremely fresh, that was my first impression. The prawns tasted as sea-swapped as any sea food you get in Karachi and that is quite a fete. We ordered two soups – the Schezuan and the classic Chicken Corn – and while the Schezuan was weak compared to what we’ve tasted at other Chinese fine diners, the Chicken Corn upheld its reputation. The drumstick appetizers were delicate and flavoursome as opposed to the fatally floury concoctions that most restaurants swaddle their drumsticks in.
Sweet and Sour Prawns are highly recommended
Over to the main course, the food was generally very edible and pleasant. The Sweet and Sour Prawns, Dry Beef Chillie and Kung Pao Chicken are dishes I would order again. Especially the beef which again, was of a high quality. The Chowmein, however, was not. When I came to dessert, I especially enjoyed the clove infused Vanilla Ice Cream with figs, though it would have been much more impressive had the figs been freshly poached and not the dry fruit variety plumped up in a syrup. That said, yum. The Apple Pie looked appetizing and must have tasted good as I got a couple of crumbs by the time the plate came around to me. There are, by the way, ‘Pan Asian’ options beyond the conventional Chinese menu but we didn’t experiment that evening. Maybe next time…
Sights & Sounds: The first impression is clean, slick and fancy, especially the outdoor seating and the entrance staircase. That said, X2 is so expansive that it lacks the intimacy, lighting and music that you’d expect from any fine dining restaurant. It was very noisy and restless the evening we went – lots of kids running around and families waiting in an open reception area – but the management assured us that it was holiday induced (Eid Holidays) and that children were generally not allowed after 8pm. I’d be delighted if that were true because not many restaurants in Lahore offer that kind of Okra peace.