We share a never ending bond with this unique, desi, fine dining restaurant
When you’ve been starving for 15 hours straight, that too, with mercury rising up to 40 degrees and beyond as if this was Sahara Desert, then the standard assorted iftar platter just doesn’t do justice. One needs an endless stream of food and drinks coming your way so that you can binge on it, no holds barred, and that’s exactly why East End has become sort of an annual ritual for us friends.
This unassuming little place, tucked in between hordes of decrepit residential buildings, offers a window into cuisine that is completely different; it inculcates us into the way of the exotic. East End isn’t your run-of-the-mill, pungent, local roadside diner offering food that is often found laden in industrial quantities of indeterminate ghee; it’s culinary luxury at its best. The décor is sincere and the food has genuine fire and punch.
The place usually offers a five-course dinner but during Ramazan, the appetizers on the menu are replaced with bite-sized iftar items. However, you’d be a fool to think that these won’t help curb the uncontrollable hunger pangs you have been trying to fight off through out the day. In fact, by the time you reach the main course, you’d be so full up to your stomach that nearly 60 per cent of that dish will be going into the takeaway box.
On the menu for Ramazan, are assorted fruit sticks, pakoras, potato cutlets and paapri chaat, and while all of this seems a regular affair, each of these bite-sized delights come with a twist of their own. Let’s begin from the very beginning - the dates. You’d be glad to know that you aren’t paying your crown only to be served two of the many dates that come processed and packaged in cardboard boxes, stamped with a shoddy label that promises it’s imported from Saudi Arabia. You are instead treated with sweet, heavenly spheres of dates, coconut and chocolate that leave you craving for more. The fruit chaat is replaced by assorted cubes of mixed fruits on a stick and a tangy falsa drink, which looks and tastes more like a sorbet.If you belong to the onion pakora clan and not the potato one, you will enjoy every bite of the crispy, non-greasy, caramelized onion rings offered. Don’t forget to dip into the green-spiced chutney that accompanies it. The potato cutlet is flavoursome but it’s the chaat in cups of crunchy paapri that’s the real star. Served with tamarind-flavoured water, it’s a cross between chaat and pani puri and one that is bursting with freshness and vivacity.
The main course menu at East End has recently been revamped to include meatier options. We went for Masala Chops and Beef Behari. At the risk of committing Pakistani food blasphemy, I say these chops are perhaps 100 times better than what can be found at any desi street joint on Burns Road. Before you take out those guns, try it out for yourself. Four pieces of spiced and marinated, slow-cooked meat that gently pulls away from the eye of the bone and literally melts in your mouth is served with a smooth beetroot puree and buttered naan; this is every meat lover’s dream come true. The Beef Behari is less successful of the two main dishes. The dark, charred beef is left slightly pink inside so that it doesn’t turn chewy but has a significant peppery kick to it that won’t sit well with all taste buds. The complementing tamarind chutney and pea pulao, however, salvage this dish.
Our wholesome feast came to a perfect sweet ending with two portions of buttery, thick and sticky crepes called Maalpura, dusted with fresh pistachio and tooth-achingly sweet and ice-cold Kulfi Faluda. Don’t you just love when a restaurant also knows how to do desserts just like the entrees? We do.
Dining at East End is like an experience that you want to keep indulging in year after year. Yes, the exuberant prices are bound to leave a huge dent in your pocket but when you get food that is not afraid to make a mark, then you may as well indulge. The only disappointment was the fact that the iftar menu seems to have been shortened compared to last year when variety was greater in form of tender, fingerlickin’ chicken drumsticks and robust dahi baras. For future reference, we’d like a little more on the plate, especially those heaven sent minced meat moneybags made out of perfectly crisp pastry.