So, I like to keep a close eye on what is happening in the local culinary scene in Dhaka; I mean eating out is what keeps us Dhakaites sane right? I guess I could go to the park or watch football or do whatever wholesome activities the normal populace indulges in, but activities which involve the possibility of dessert seem so much more appealing. Under my watchful (and high blood sugary) gaze a new and delicious trend seems to be emerging, a trend that every food junkie can appreciate, a trend that takes your standard three meals day and then laughs at it for being malnourished and underweight! Rejoice all ye worthy, a new meal has joined the holy trinity! Say hello to brunch!
Brunch (although not named thusly) was initially a repast favoured by hunters who would be up at the crack of dawn to track their prey. I imagine someone up at the wee hours of the day would be hungry enough to eat their boots by lunchtime. So they would pack something simple, most often bread, cheese and egg to tide them through until the afternoon meal. Now the actual term, this delightful portmanteau combining two of my favourite three words in the English language (the third being dinner of course) was first coined in 1895. However brunch, as we see it now, came about in the USA half a century later. In true red and blue style, the common hunter’s meal transformed itself into the go to repast for the jet setting upper crust. Basically the J-Los, and Brad Pitts of the 1930s would rise bleary eyed and hungover from a night out on and order a late breakfast from room service. Hoteliers (being cannily adept at separating dollar bills from their owners) realised quite quickly that this was a grand opportunity to earn some incremental greenbacks. They also realised that it was in their best interests to ensure that their clientele were suitably “mellow” for the rest of the day as well. Thus the modern brunch menu was born, filled with “decadent spreads of food and signature morning cocktails, such as Bloody Marys, Bellinis and Mimosas.”
“But kind sir,” I hear you ask “Why this convoluted history lesson on this oh so delectable topic?” Well we in modern day Dhaka are experiencing a restaurant renaissance of sorts. The burgeoning middle class and the increase in disposable incomes have resulted in a boom for the culinary industry in this fair city of ours. And of course the sophistication of the industry has created a gastronomic citizenship with a much more sophisticated palate than the foodies of yesteryear. To keep up with this increasingly international client base, many eateries are now offering menus which cater to these sophisticated aspirations. And if sophistications and class were an Olympic sport then brunch would be on the winner’s podium cradling a glass of Moet and reaching for the orange juice.
So over the course of these past couple of years I have had the good fortune to sample many of the fine brunch menus our city has to offer. There are a bunch of options at different price points, so I thought I’d give my two paisas on where I experienced the best brunch in Dhaka so far.
The first contender is to Bistro E. Located in the gorgeous Bay Edgewater Tower in Gulshan by the Baridhara lake, this is a stylish eatery with a great (albeit bereft of variety) brunch menu. The eggs benedict was delish, just the right amount of runniness and the hollandaise was smooth with enough bite to give it character. For dessert, the French toast with strawberry compote was also good, but nothing to write home about. All in all, a solid effort but there was something missing. Like modern remakes of classic songs, everything (including the décor) was very nicely done but a little sterile and missing a certain charm.
On to contender number two, Izumi. First of all for those who have not been, Izumi is one of Dhaka’s classiest Japanese joints boasting (IMO) the best quality beef in the country. Also for those who haven’t been, the location is somewhat of a nightmare to find. It’s tucked away in a corner off Gulshan 2 and would be quite difficult to find without Facebook directions (thank god for technology). The décor is as you would expect, Japanese motifs, wooden and organic but very sophisticated and classy. The menu is again, compact. I ordered the French omelette which was too plain! The croissants however, were to die for and I’m guessing are sourced from the famed Holey Artisan Bakery. All in all, it was good but left me wanting something more.
That brings me to the champ, numero uno; can we get a drum roll please! This is also my most recent brunch experience so one that is quite fresh in this Swiss cheese I call a memory. Over the weekend the family and I took a trip down to Chows to sample their Terrace Brunch. For the uninitiated Chows, is a delightful new eatery located in Banani road 19A, which has made quite the splash with their authentic Chinese cuisine (the dumplings and cold beef are to die for but that’s a story for another day). The terrace brunch is a collaboration between the Gourmet Food Company (GFC, the latest food venture of Mishal Karim, the main man behind Chows) and head Chef George Smith (an American expat who is one of the best trained chefs in the country). Upon a little conversation, I came to understand that the GFC is a premium food delivery service in Dhaka applying the farm to table concept where the freshest ingredients are sourced directly from the producer.
Onwards to the experience; firstly the premises are fantastic. The restaurant is housed in a sprawling duplex, all marble and natural light. We were led to a cosy terrace overlooking the lake. The menu is great, with an amazing variety of items to choose from. They have your traditional English breakfast style; eggs, sausage, beans, beef bacon etc, along with pancakes and a whole bunch of Gourmet pizzas. We asked for the chef’s recommendation which was a brick oven mushroom pizza, chocolate chip pancakes and freshly squeezed OJ.
The pizza was in one word delicious! Perfect, crunchy, 12 inch thin crust drizzled with just the right amount of tomato sauce and basil then topped with what I understand is their own house made mozzarella, and then the perfectly charred fresh mushrooms and gruyere cheese liberally scattered on top. That pie did not last very long ‘cos we totally inhaled that thing! Next up were the pancakes. A plate of three large chocolate chip pancakes with a little cup of thick blackberry zabaglione chocolate sauce to go with it. Being a total savage I guzzled the first half without the sauce and prematurely started complaining to my wife on its lack of flavour. She calmly poured the sauce onto the plate and the resulting goodness kept my trap shut for a good five minutes (a miracle)! Last but not least was the OJ, a seemingly simple concoction but one that is very difficult to perfect and this one got pretty damn close!
All in all we had a great time. The staff was very cordial, the ambience was great and it’s safe to say that I shall be back again to sample more of their wares. The Terrace Brunch menu offers a lot more and usually gets updated every week, so I look forward to my next visit. Entirely a delightful experience; what more can a hungry man desire?
So if you want to try out this delightful new repast, IMHO Chows Terrace Brunch is the best place to begin, middle, and end! Keep calm and have brunch ladies and gentlemen!