There cannot be two opinions on the fact that if one receives an invite these days, the excitement is beyond explanation. The social call on is a statement which has been swapped by meet-ups on social media in the shape of webinar or face time or zoom meetings, the new normal social call on so to speak.  

A party of six arrived at 8:00pm to tantalize their taste buds at the newly opened Pakistani restaurant at Serena Hotel Islamabad called “Dewaat.” Restaurant Manager Ms Fariha navigated us to our already reserved table placed in one corner, next to a glassed kitchen. One could see the hustle and bustle of servers, chef’s secret recipes on display and BBQ smoke emitting out of the grills.

The menu card by itself was very royal. Emerald green cover with golden thread embroidery inscribed “Dewaat” looked very eloquent. The mood was all set for a Mogul’s feast under the arches adorned with sculptures and painting depicting the Mogul era. 

Ms Fariha was requested to help us out in the choice of menu as all six foodies refused to share their meals with the other. One bite was the maximum one agreed upon reluctantly.

Setting our eyes on the first leaf of the menu “Shuruaat” meaning appetizers, we all went with the expert’s opinion and ordered Paneer Tikka, a novelty at Islamabad eateries. Moving ahead, Hyderabadi Murgh Masala, Balochi Tawa Jeenga, Tawa Sabzi, Sindhi Machli Curry and Shahjahani Goshat Lazizi were picked from the main course pages, whereas, Special Lamb Chops, Sheesh Kastori Kebab from the BBQ section and Murgh Biryani and Nouvaratan Biryani from the rice section were the final words before closing the menu. 

The ardent food lovers know too well that Mughali cuisine is a style of cooking developed in South Asia by the imperial kitchen of the Muslim Mughal Empire. The cuisine is the emulsion of Central Asia and parts of Hyderabad, Delhi. 

Coming to Pakistani cuisine, it is a distant blend of flavors from Afghanistan and Iran with strong culinary influences from the Middle East, central and western and South Asia found in the Indus Valley and Punjab. The food also varies greatly from region to region within Pakistan reflecting the country’s ethnic cuisine, cultural and culinary diversity known for its richness.

The two Paneer platters on silver wear arrived on our table, piping hot. Golden brown chunks of cottage cheese wrapped in crusty crunch and baked in a homemade tandoor, melted in the mouth in nanoseconds. Grilled to perfection, marinade at its par, spice level, just right, the platters were polished off in blink of an eye. 

Witnessing the empty plates, the server gave a heads up to the chef that we are already up for the main course. As our platelets were still romancing with the residue of the Paneer morsels, in comes the copper bowls carrying Hyderabadi Murgh Masala, Sindhi Machli Curry and Shahjahani Goshat Lazizi followed by another sever carrying smoke emitting BBQ items and tawa Jeega and sabzi on a sizzler platter. 

Hyderabadi Murgh Masala was thick tomato gravy infused with seasonal spices and herbs, whereas, one could feel the tanginess of pickles and fenugreek. It was well presented and all the guests managed to take a bite or two raising eyebrows of one.  

Sindhi Machli curry was too good to be true. Palla fish is unique in more ways than one. It thrives in salt water as well as fresh water. Palla’s affinity with Sindh will make you dig into the history books. The aroma, a scent that sends hunger pangs reverberating throughout one’s body. The chef explained that Palla, fried or steamed, based in rice or in curry, provides an exceptionally distinctive taste and smell oozing out of every of dish carrying a flavor of its own. 

Sindhi cuisine has come a long way from the time of Indus Valley civilization. It has had several influences in its past and continues to do so. Pre-partition subcontinent played a prominent role in making of Sindh cuisines as we know them today.  Due to its roots, we see many similarities between Indian and Sindh cuisines in terms of aromatic spices and even method of cooking.

It was time to try Balochi Tawa Jeenga. It was to our surprise, a curry dish with big chunks of prawns though we were expecting king size sea king, sizzling on a platter lying low with golden tales. The curry was a bit bland, whereas, the prawns moist and tender. 

Tawa Sabzi was on-point. It was well represented by okra, peas, bell pepper, cauliflower, carrots, finely chopped in julienned cutting well smeared in herbs and local organic ingredients carrying their own distinctive flavors. It was hands down chef’s magnum opus and deserves a round of applause, a sizzler platter that managed to up the ante.  

The main course was served with wheat bread and white rice. Cheese Naan, Kalongi Naan, Tandoori Roti and Garlic Naan were all in attendance in the jute bread basket.