FOOD REVIEW OBSERVATORY GULBERG, LAHORE REVIEW BY SHAKEEL HAMEED
Observatory a new restaurant presenting Lahore with old school continental cuisine and indigenous mix of local dishes. The restaurant is on the roof top of The FRED hotel which is expected to be functional in a month or so. It offers old classics dishes like chicken shashlik, chicken chowmein and a mix of seafood taka tuk, roast beef, chicken kiev, beef bolognese and cesar salad, etc. It is an up coming spot so flocks are circling making it a desirable place to be seen. The restaurant is designed tastefully and has enough seating capacity to manage large and small groups.
STAFF AND TABLE
The staff was very attentive and were eager to please which is always nice. They changed the plates after every course to enhance the dining experience. The cutlery, glasses and plates were clean and nicely laid out.
STAR RATING: 7 out of 10
COST: RS. 13,000 – 16,000 for 2 people
Batter fried large prawns offered with two different sauces, one being Thai chili sweet sauce and other olive oil with chili garlic infusion. The Thai chili sweet sauce isn’t szechuan sauce as there was no hint of szechuan peppers or peppercorns in the taste. It is store bought Thai chilli sauce that you get in every Chinese, Thai, confused restaurant. The olive oil-based sauce had a nicer consistency, the quality of the olive oil is fantastic and slight chili flavour compliments the oil well. The rest of the ingredients remained hidden. The shrimps didn’t have a smell or after taste and were big in size. They were cooked in fresher oil so it didn’t have that oily after taste but it seemed they were forced cooked because they were crispy from the outside and at times had slightly pasty batter in the taste. If they can get their cooking temperature control right, it is a nice appetizer to be enjoyed.
It is always nice to eat calamari when it is not deep fried. Pan fried or sautéed is always more tasty and you can enjoy the flavour of the squid. It came with a mixture of parmesan and panko flakes with a base of olive oil and a slice of focaccia. It was topped with tograshi which is a basically Japanese chili with a hint of tanginess. The calamari was neither too chewy nor too soft but had a nice bite to it with slight hints of tograshi. The panko mixture with Parmesan was really delicious primarily because they used good quality Parmesan cheese and the olive oil base added slight bitterness to it making it a thoroughly enjoyable base. When eaten together, the Parmesan stood its ground and offered a nice semi crunchy nutty cheesy taste and panko brought its binding sweetness to enhance the flavour. There is a bit too much olive oil in the base but since the quality of the oil is nice, it can always be dipped with focaccia and savoured. Well done.
40 Layer Lasagna
I was really curious about this dish as I had anticipated 40 layers of pasta with layers of meat and cheese but it didn’t turn out that way. There is 40 layers of pasta stuck together without cheese or meat layering sitting on top of the ragu which is a meat sauce. It looked like a plain meat ragu but the menu says it has béchamel sauce (a white sauce made from milk and thickened with butter and flour) but I didn’t see any béchamel in the ragu, may be it was mixed in it. The ragu was thick and from the very first bite there was strong oregano and chili apparent in the taste and it carried even when you added pasta to the bite. The ragu had nice consistency, it had meat flavours and tomato base carried the sauce well on to your palate. The pasta sat on top of the sauce. The essential mistake in the pasta was that it was crisp from the top, al Dente( pasta with a bite) right under and really mushy in the bottom. The overall dish was good but if they don’t get the mushy pasta right, it can turn into a very sub standard dish.
Sambar with Achari Chicken
Sambar is a lentil-based vegetable stew, cooked with pigeon pea in tamarind (imli) broth. It came with a thin slice of chicken with achar on the top of basmati cumin rice. The sambar was made well, it wasn’t spicy and had a nice thick stewy consistency. I couldn’t tell if it was made with tamarind as it wasn’t apparent. The thin strip of chicken sitting on top of the rice was over cooked and dry. It had a thin layer of achar on top of it. The achar was so salty that I had to scrape it off else it will make the dish inedible. When sambar mixed with rice, a little bit of achar and kachoomer (diced onions, tomatoes with lemon), the dish became edible and carried some taste. In my opinion, the dish was flat and just off, I don’t know why slice of chicken was there as it didn’t do much and neither did achar.
The mixed grill came with beef kababs, mutton chops, chicken malai boti, rice and yoghurt. The two mutton chops were soft, had great mutton flavour, salt and fat. They weren’t over powered with any spice which is great. The meat fell off the bone and was delicious. The chicken malai boti was also well-cooked, the juices flowed off the meat and had that slight creamy element of malai in the back. The beef kababs were cooked well, there was meat grain, visible fat and wasn’t dry. The only problem was that it had so much salt that I couldn’t take a third bite. The two yoghurts that came with the dish were flat and didn’t add much to the dish except that after taste of packaged yoghurt. If you are going to offer high quality food, then please don’t use local packaged yoghurt, make it on premises, it tastes so much better and helps your dish.
Observatory is a nice spot and hip for the moment till it settles and then food consistency will decide if it remains to be a desirable eatery. I was really skeptical about this place as creating different cuisines of such wide variety is often bound for failure but it held it’s ground in its fundamental food consistency. The menu created confusion for me in deciding what to eat. It is pricy but the price isn’t justifying itself completely. They must up their attention to detail in the food to justify those price points. It is a good spot to be seen and enjoyed somewhat consistent food, only time will tell if they will improve.
KNOW WHAT YOU EAT, THAT’S HOW YOU EAT WELL