The House of Pancakes

When a restaurant has the word ‘pancake’ as part of its name, you walk in with the pre-conceived notion that pancakes are their speciality and whatever else you eat there on that day, your meal has to finish off with a pancake and some syrup.

Pancake House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

When a restaurant has the word ‘pancake’ as part of its name, you walk in with the pre-conceived notion that pancakes are their speciality and whatever else you eat there on that day, your meal has to finish off with a pancake and some syrup. The folks at Pancake House do expect most customers to order pancakes as well, just not necessarily at the end of their meals. 

To ensure that the pancake is not flattened under the shadow of better-known dishes, the very first section of the Pancake House menu lists variations of the item that made it famous when it first opened its doors to public in the 1970s. Naturally, if the first thing you see on the menu are pictures of glorious, fluffy pancakes, it is hard to go further without ordering at least one. Besides, this restaurant has been serving customers much before I was born, so if they want my meal to start off with a pancake, that is precisely how it would happen! 

I was advised to order the caramel, banana and walnut pancake and I have now decided that henceforth, all my meals should start off with a pancake! The crunch from the walnuts complemented the soft bananas and fluffy pancakes in a way that can only be described after you have experienced so many delicious textures in one bite. I realised that the pancake is not really a dessert item as I had previously believed. It has been a source of sustenance since the middle ages and could be eaten as a comfort food, celebratory dish, breakfast item, dessert or an appetiser! 

Another thing that I learnt on that day was that a Salisbury Steak is not a steak. It is a sheep in wolves clothing. A more appropriate description would be ‘meatloaf’ that is shaped like a steak. It is also served like a steak and is supposed to be eaten like a steak but it is not a steak. It is basically a dish made from a blend of ground beef and other ingredients, which is formed into oval shaped ‘steaks’ and served with brown sauce and rice. I am not sure how I felt about that but you should have seen the look on my face as I put a piece of this steak into my mouth after cutting it with a table knife.  

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Salisbury Steak at the Pancake House

If you like seafood, I would like to suggest the Tagliatelle Seafood Gambero. This was another dish that was enhanced by so many contrasting textures in each bite. This fettuccine shaped pasta was tossed marinara style, in a tangy tomato herb sauce. The cream dory, mussel and shrimp provided additional flavor and texture to this unique seafood dish.  

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Tagliatelle Seafood Gambero at Pancake House

 

Before I sign off, let me tell you what my favourite part of the menu at Pancake House was. It was a drink called ‘Ube Milkshake’. The ube is a type of yam or sweet potato which is a vivid violet to bright lavender in color. I am not sure how it tastes on its own but when combined with milk in a blender to form a shake, it becomes the sort of beverage for which you may be willing to drive down all the way to Abu Dhabi.

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Chili chicken fingers with Ube Milkshake in the background

Big Chefs @ Riverland.

Istanbul’s hipsters are of a different breed though. Graffiti may be a form of expression but books are a source of inspiration for them. The high-end restaurants in hipster Istanbul seem to have embraced books as a part of their décor. Not just as an afterthought but as a focal point of the entire space.

Big Chefs Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

If you haven’t been to Riverland yet, you are missing out on one of Dubai’s most exiting outdoor destinations. Yes, that is correct, it is a destination in itself. You do not have to be visiting Dubai Parks and Resorts or staying at the mysterious Qasr al Sultan hotel to enjoy what this little French themed village has to offer. I intend to review all of the Riverland restaurants soon but let me kick it all off by the contemporary Turkish eatery, Big Chefs.

I did expect the food here to be of a certain standard (because of the name) but never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined having flashbacks of Sultanahmet and all the eateries in the Beyoglu area of Istanbul. Don’t get me wrong. This restaurant is as modern as they come but so are most of the other new restaurants in traditional ‘old Istanbul’. They have held on to their centuries-old tradition of Turkish warmth and hospitality but they are the amalgamation of posh dining and the hipster movement brewing in the back alleys of old Istanbul.

Istanbul’s hipsters are of a different breed though. Graffiti may be a form of expression but books are a source of inspiration for them. The high-end restaurants in hipster Istanbul seem to have embraced books as a part of their décor. Not just as an afterthought but as a focal point of the entire space. The giant bookshelves at ‘Big Chef’, along with the indoor trees, abundant natural light and luxurious leather seating give an unmistakable Turkish identity to this restaurant.

The food was no different. They launched their redesigned menu about a week ago and Turkish influences can be seen throughout what was otherwise a very international offering. They sell their own Olive Oil and sauces. I found the pomegranate sauce to be particularly interesting. Think of it like a maple syrup but slightly less sweet with an intensely sour flavor which kicks in after a couple of seconds but gives way to the sweet after taste almost immediately. I liked it so much that I ended up taking a bottle home as well!

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Big Chef branded Olive Oil and Pomegranate syrup

Since I am a sucker for looks, I ordered the Lamb Shank because I could just not stop imagining how good it would look on my instagram. Unfortunately, the photos did not come out as great as I expected. I think I was too hungry to get up and sit with the light behind me. Thank God for editing and filters. (Note to self: always eat a little bit at home before going out to take pictures of food)

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Lamb Shank with Barley Risotto at Big Chef

Though the lamb shank itself was tender and nicely cooked, the barley pilaf risotto accompanying it  was pretty ordinary. A less fancy name for it would be ‘boiled barley’. The gravy sauce that was supposed to be served with the dish was nowhere to be found and I was just too hungry to bother asking for it. Overall, I think this dish did ok but that could have been so because I was starving or maybe just because the meat was full of flavor, was really well cooked and was literally falling off the bone. 

The Casarecce pesto rosso (pasta with pink sauce) provided a more, well-rounded experience. The portion was enough to feed a hungry adult and was appropriately creamy and very delicious. The sun-dried tomato provided a nice little zap while the red pesto gave the gorgeous pink colour and a wonderful flavor to the dish.

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Casarecce Pesto Rosso at Big Chef

The home style meatballs were what reminded me of Istanbul the most. This was a classic Turkish meat dish with potatoes. I initially thought that it was modernised by adding caramelised onion and sautéed tomatoes but after doing some research, I learnt that this was exactly how traditional meatballs were cooked and garnished in Turkish homes. 

So drop into Big Chefs whenever you crave authentic Turkish meatballs or some wonderfully pink pasta and if you do, make sure it is at the Riverland branch. It will transport you to the back alleys of Istanbul and the giant bookshelves and ladders will give you a glimpse into the posh restaurants of Beyoglu and Kadikoy.

Ginger and Mint lemonade at Big Chef

Traveling back in time @ Ketli Café.

View my food journey on Zomato!

Once in a while, you walk out of a restaurant with a warm fuzzy feeling brought about by a mixture of nostalgia and accomplishment. A sense of attainment over the discovery of a gem in the back alleys of Karama and nostalgia that takes you back to the wonder years. A time when your heart was bigger than your wallet, your friends were an integral part of your love story and you swore by mom’s cooking every day.

I had that experience at Ketli Café recently. Ketli is a quaint little eatery that serves finger food, pasta, chicken steaks and burgers with an Asian twist. It is run by a dynamic mother daughter duo who manage the business in an extremely hands on manner. Their personalities are reflected in the menu and in the place itself.  We met the daughter Renad, who had come to Dubai as a student from Saudi Arabia and ended up making her whole family move here. Mom has an eye for detail  and her personality shines through in everything, from the decor to the menu.

The menu consists of a good selection of nibbles and main courses along with of a wide variety of shakes, coolers and hot beverages. Some of the items are as quirky as the pop art on the walls.  I was fascinated by the Oman chips paratha, Desi style loaded nachos and masaledar cheddar slider. We ended up ordering he last two on the list and quite enjoyed the Subcontinental twist to these two dishes.

We also ordered the pasta with pink sauce and the stuffed chicken with creamy pasta. These two dishes were what teleported us to the distant time I spoke of earlier. I know now, that all I have to do, to relive my youth and be reminded of mom’s comfort food is to head down to Ketli Café in Karama and order one of these two dishes. The pink colour in the pasta could have been the result of the creamy cheese and the tomato sauce. Whatever it was, I was too busy savouring every bite and thinking of my childhood to worry about ingredients. I do know that together with the chicken mince and pasta, this sauce was a gift from heaven.

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Masalaydar Cheddar slider at Ketli Cafe

The best dish of the evening was saved for last. If you are ever down in Karama please do go and try the stuffed chicken with creamy fettuccini. If you are not in Karama, driving down to Ketli Café just to taste this dish will be worth your time. The succulent chicken breast was stuffed with spinach, garlic and cheese. Now pause for a moment to process that information. How good do you think this was? It was just as good as you could imagine it would be. This was accompanied by a generous helping of creamy, pesto fettuchini. I remember closing my eyes as I gradually worked through every creamy bite. At 45 AED this dish seemed to be quite a bargain. The whole menu infact, was very reasonably priced. The Pina Colada and the Mint Mojito were both priced at 18 AED and tasted much better than some of the 50 AED drinks you get at fancier joints.

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Stuffed chicken breast with fettuccini at Ketli Cafe

So the next time you are playing tourist in your own city or are headed down towards Karama, please do check out this cute little café. We need to encourage small businesses. We need to appreciate the quality of service and food we can get when the owners are directly involved in managing the business. We need to stand behind those who embrace innovation in their menus and  actively seek to change service standards. We need to foster the entreprenurial spirit. After all, that is what made this city so great and attracted people like Renad and her family here in the first place.

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Mint Mojito and Pina Colada at Ketli Cafe

Ketli Café Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato