Alvin Thomas finds a Pakistani restaurant off the beaten track and DISCOVERS flavour with flair at this taste of Lahore.
There are no tell-tale signs of a restaurant, but a sorry-looking McDonalds marked by a ‘Coming Soon’ signboard has been posted on the stretch of road that leads up to Al Ghubra from Al Ansab. It’s uncanny, but tucked deep in the heart is a restaurant that has etched its way into the affections of the Asian community in Oman – the Haveli Restaurant.
Finding the eatery is a task, no doubt, and your success would rely on whether or not you can find the car detailing shop next to the Oman Oil petrol bunker in Al Ghubra. But once you’ve narrowed down the spot, make your way to the back of the building.
You won’t miss it. Marked with heavy neon banners, the restaurant summons to the inner Asian in you… even if you’re not really from this part of the world.
Neon lights – Asian truckers; you get the gist, right?
But that’s where the gaudiness ends. The insides are well-lit and the ambience is akin to some of the upscale Asian restaurants in Oman. It looks nothing like what has been advertised on the outside.
Maybe it’s the locale or the timing but we – my family and I – were the only customers in the restaurant on Friday evening.
My parents kept things simple, ordering two mutton biriyanis while I opted for the buffet.
The latter was all set and ready for customers but sadly, there was no one to enjoy it. I was a bit bemused but also well-prepared for a cold, perhaps even a stale meal.
But boy, was I wrong!
On offer were some of Pakistan’s delights: mutton gosht (mutton curry), chicken korma, dal tadka, sweet naan (oven-baked bread), fried rice, chicken and mutton tikkas, soups, and chats – all fresh, and piping hot.
If there was a winner, though, it would have to have been the mutton gosht. The melt-in-the-mouth soft mutton cubes doused in just the right portion of mildly spiced gravy gave the dish its edge. I was quick in declaring it the best gosht I’d ever had in Oman before shamelessly heading to the buffet station for seconds… and thirds.
This further extended to the fried rice and dal too. True, on paper, it sounds like a disastrous combination but somehow, it worked.
The waiter could only throw me a reassuring smile – almost like it was alright that I was wiping his buffet plates clean – as he noticed me make my way to the station for more curry and rice.
Even the soup, which I must confess, I only saw and managed to grab a bowl of midway through my meal, was splendid. The thick yet smooth and creamy consistency of the base was further complemented by a generous serving of chicken.
My only concern was the sweet naan, which was a miss. Pakistanis take pride in being the masters in roti making but it just wasn’t their night.
Meanwhile, my parents were quite astounded by the generous portion of biriyani they received – and all for a mere RO1.9.
Granted, it didn’t last too long on their plates, as they dug into the succulent and well-marinated mutton and the evenly-flavoured rice like there was no tomorrow. They then went on to declare it a hit; high praise coming from the avid biriyani enthusiasts that they are.
The Haveli Restaurant certainly raises the bar for other Asian eateries in the city with its authentic, yet affordable fare. It’s a pity that it’s concealed and away from the eyes of lurking commuters.
Otherwise, this may very well have been one of the prominent Pakistani restaurants in Oman. But, you can’t have everything, right?
Delectable Pakistani food that we imagine captures the true essence of Lahore. Sorry vegans, this is a meat-lover’s paradise.
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