By Sonya Rehman
Launched barely two months ago in Lahore, ‘DISH’ comes as a much-welcomed addition to Lahore’s ever-widening platter of eateries in the city!
Conceived and developed by a well-known event-management company (J&S), the DISH experience is one to be reckoned with.
Located in Gulberg, the ambience – quite like the food – is classy and incredibly tasteful.
With its meringue-coloured exterior, a pretty little patio area (situated towards the right once you enter), and the chic balance between a rather Victorian and contemporary (minimalist) interior, the restaurant exudes class minus the fuss and the pomp.
And the three most distinguishing factors of the eatery’s interior has to be the massive wrought-iron chandelier (that hangs above an equally massive sofa), the dull-gold mosaic wall – that glitters like star-dust – set against the bar, and the lighting; which is natural by way of the large patio doors (during the day), and flirtatiously dim in the evenings.
Chef Michael O’ Neill (DISH’s Executive Chef) brings forth a variety of flavours that constitute the restaurant’s menu.
From starters which range from ‘Grilled Shrimp & Scallop Salad’ to ‘Duck Confit’, ‘Blue Crab Cake’ and a few others, in addition to pizzas, pastas and main courses which comprise of ‘Lobster Ravioli’, ‘Grilled Australian Ribeye’ ‘Wild Mushroom Risotto’, steaks and a delectable array of desserts and sorbets, DISH is fine dining at its premium.
Backed by years of work experience in Vancouver, Sydney, England and Calgary, Michael isn’t your ordinary, run-of-the-mill chef.
After launching his very own eatery in Surrey, Michael progressed on to Bangkok – where he opened up another restaurant – in addition to striking up contracts with a well-known luxury cruise company called ‘Radisson Seven Seas Cruises’.
Therefore given Michael’s history of experience in the culinary field, one can be rest assured that he can whip up a storm in the kitchen at any given day.
But coming back to the meal, while I sunk my teeth into a glorious summer feast of an ‘Organic Mixed Green Salad’ (with fried cashew nuts and tossed in a teasingly tangy passion fruit vinaigrette), and a thin and crispy ‘Pizza Margareta’, my friend bit into his dish of grilled chicken breast and fluffy mashed potatoes. And to complete our summer lunch, we downed it with watermelon juice and raspberry sorbet.
Dessert was another matter altogether – sinfully scrumptious, the ‘Chocolate Marquis’ and fresh chocolate ice cream can make you weak in the knees (literally). While the chocolate ice cream was thick (and light at the same time), it tasted like a slightly sweeter version of dark chocolate.
The mini Chocolate Marquis tower on the other hand was soft, mousse-like and harder, crunchier and sweeter towards the tower’s second and third layers…quite a culinary treat like no other.
Even the presentation of each dish was quite wonderful too, rather than being slapped onto a plate, the presentation made the meal all the more inviting and appetizing, and this, I believe, also added to the DISH ‘experience’.
Catching up with Michael O’ Neill afterwards, I learnt that his specialty – given his past work experience – has primarily been in French cuisine – no wonder then, the evident and rather fine finishing touches to the food, that can rarely go unnoticed.
However given that Lahori’s aren’t generally very experimental food-wise and can be very finicky, does that frustrate Michael?
“Initially yes”, he replies candidly, “But I’m certain as time goes on, people will be willing to try out newer things – hopefully!”
But then again, would Michael compromise if a certain customer asked for a particular dish to be made oilier or spicier perhaps?
“I would in some dishes”, the Executive Chef says somewhat hesitatingly before proceeding, “But the aim of the restaurant is to be authentic…we’re not into making too many things”.
This seemed true, because rather than a mini encyclopedia menu (common at a majority of eateries in the city), DISH’s menu comprised of a concise list of starters, main courses and desserts.
While the pastas, pizzas and a few of the main courses come reasonably priced, the exotic main dishes can start anywhere between one thousand and two thousand rupees.
This is because a majority of the ingredients are imported and then made keeping international standards in mind – for example, the ‘Grilled Australian Ribeye’ is prepared as it is abroad, and not as a desi, Lahori version!
Therefore DISH can be enjoyed by both the middle and upper classes; the only difference perhaps could be the frequency of visits…but then again who would want to eat at the same restaurant every Saturday night?
The restaurant should be best kept in mind for one of those truly celebratory days, when a much-needed luxurious feast is long overdue!