Shinwari lamb that is a class of its own

—File photo/Dawn.com

While driving past the Shaukat Khanum Hospital in Johar Town on a hot Friday afternoon, two eateries attracted me. They were the huge Yaseer Broast and the charming Shaheen Shinwari eatery. This part of the city is amply served with quality eateries.

It really was an ‘inny miny minor moo’ choice and the Shinwari name, part Pakhtun part Afghan, held considerable attraction. So into the ‘eagle’s nest’ I soared. Outside ‘chappal’ kebabs and traditional Afghani ‘khameri roti’, long, stretched and yummy that they are, were being constantly prepared. In the middle under a wooden cloth-covered semi-cauldron typical Afghani ‘pilau’, full of ‘kishmesh’ and soft lamb pieces and grated carrots leapt out at you. The server used a special serving spoon and virtually aired the rice.

In a meshed wire shop raw lamb was being cut and provided to the ‘karahi’ expert. It is an orderly sort of confusion as one passes through to the main restaurant door. Everyone is speaking Pushto, and they all seem to come from the same Shinwari tribe, straddled as their homeland is at the edge of the Torkham border.

Inside the exquisitely laid out clean air-conditioned hall, the tables are laid out in section divided for privacy. The polite waiter sees you to your seat and the fun begins. The Shinwari eateries first started in Karachi, then moved to Multan and Islamabad, and now their fourth restaurant in Lahore has picked up pace. They take their time, but soon, invariably, find their feet.

In Karachi their Shinwari lamb is legendary, so it made sense to try it out. I was in the company of three friends who, silly that they are, trust my sense of food. As I was paying they had better. The fresh lamb is cooked without any spices in a low heat with only a wee dab of salt. It cooks in its own fat and the end result is an amazing lamb that actually does melt in the mouth.

My second order was a plate of lamb ‘seekh kebabs’. Mr Saeed Shinwari runs this place and I told him to first barbeque the kebabs, leave them aside to cool for ten minutes and then do a final run. That produces an amazing kebab. I learnt this from legendary Khalifa ‘kebabia’ of Chuna Mandi when as a child I used to supply my father’s lubricated friends with fish and kebabs for dinner.

The last dish was half a kilo lamb Shinwari ‘karahi’, which is so different from the normal ‘karahi’ that we are used to. This one has some salt and a little black pepper. The end result is excellent. With Afghani ‘khameeri roti’ and yogurt and fresh vegetable salad, it was an amazing experience.

Let me mark this ‘eating out’ experience on the Michelin Scale of one to nine. For food taste it gets seven out of nine, for food quality seven is surely justified, for service five, for ambience six, for prices five (this is no cheap place), for variety available six is just fine, and for cleanliness six does reflect the extra effort they make. Lastly the quality of the crockery and cutlery get six (it is impressive). This averages out to six out of nine, which is excellent.

This is a place that is destined to carve its place in the culinary scene of Lahore. Next to it is another Lahore ‘now legend’, the Yaseer Broast, which has come up with their largest eatery in Lahore. Both these places are highly recommended. I will surely return there again.

BLACK TOAST

My nephew and nieces have this habit to going out together – I call them the mob — and returning with amazing stories.

The Polo Lounge, owned and run by a well-known lady politician, has opened a new eatery called ‘The Pantry’ just off the Gulberg Main Boulevard. Next to it another eatery also run by another gutsy lady of Italian origin has opened an eatery ‘Delicatessen’. They have the same layout though the servings are different. The ladies are in fierce competition.

On Friday evening, I stopped there to see just how they managed to serve sandwiches that had gone black. In the end it turned out that olive oil in an aubergine filled with chicken had been over-toasted and that turned the brown bread black. I will not tell which eatery achieved this, with olive oil being the hint. I would put this down to a freak happening. Or was it envy?

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