Tuesday, November 21, 2006
LAHORE RESTAURANT REVIEW: THE VILLAGE
An essential part of any visit to a foreign country is sampling the local cuisine, and I did a lot of that in Lahore. Simply put, I loved the food there and preferred it to the native food offered in Thailand. Like Thai food, most Pakistani dishes are spicy, but it's a different kind of spice and one that was much more suitable for my own personal palate. Pakistan also far exceeds (in my opinion) Thailand in two important food groups: bread and dessert - and I can have a full meal based on those two categories alone (thankfully for my waistline I was only there a week).
My personal favorite restaurant of all that I visited was called the Village and it's part of a local chain called Salt n Pepper. Each restaurant in this chain has a different theme (like fast food and barbecue) and this particular one is set up like a traditional Punjab village. No detail is overlooked and the exterior even looks like an old Punjab house made of mud and clay.
This is a buffet style restaurant and it is done up like a live bazaar, with all of the food cooked fresh in front of you. There are over forty main dishes to choose from and the menu changes all the time to reflect what vegetables are in season and what desserts should be served (hot ones in the winter and cold in the summer).
There are also salad carts and a fruit stand that looks like one you would find on any Lahore street.
The desserts were fantastic and I particularly enjoyed kulfi, which is a Pakistan's traditional version of an ice lolly. Again, these are made fresh right before your eyes.
The atmosphere is livened by a flutist who plays traditional Pakistani folk music. This is a nice touch and it helped me relax as I devoured myself into a food coma.
The owner of the Salt n Pepper chain is Mahmood Akbar and his cooking and expertise are so renowned that he was asked to contribute the entire Pakistani section of a new book entitled Curry Cuisine, published by Dorling Kindersley. He is also a great guy and really puts out a lot of effort to make you feel welcome in his restaurant. His hard work must be paying off as his customers have included Princess Diana, Hillary Clinton, Pervez Musharraf (the current President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan), and now yours truly.