The pain is real. Every Pakistani will moan about the lack of decent steak in their city. The overachievers will post selfies of themselves and their meat at Le Relais de Venise L’Entrecote in Paris or London and the home Masterchefs will complain about how the local butcher can’t tell a sirloin from a T-bone.
“Please, don’t order your steak well done or medium well,” said Khurram, the main man at CFU in Karachi.
“Arey, kyun?” I asked, just for ainween.
“Ziadti hai humare meat kay saath,” he responded.
Khurram says that to everyone apparently and urges them to try his steak style. And so we did, Brazilian style.
The small restaurant that serves around 25 people for dinner, is Karachi’s answer to a premium steak house. Though it’s no Wagyu, it’s local meat is dry aged for more than 20 days.
It’s a small, dreamy, low lit place, with tables seated so close to each other, that if you don’t speak with the strangers sitting next to you, it would be rude. Though it can get awkward if the guest next to you is someone you know – you automatically feel this need to ask them to join you – you’re sitting close enough. Definitely not a place for a first date with someone you’ve been day dreaming about.
Was it the steak of my dreams? Definitely not. But was it the best in Karachi? 100 percent. Tender, juicy, melt in your mouth, fantastically seasoned. It came on a large wooden platter with roasted garlic, (a trend that Okra began), grilled veggies, mushrooms, creamed spinach and potato wedges. Looked good and tasted great; a rarity to be honest.
On the other hand, Lahore’s food scene is largely based on inspiration. I’ve had steak in Lahore that tried to copy the famous secret steak sauce of Le Relais de Venise L’Entrecote (didn’t come close), and I’ve sat in a booth at Howdy’s, the burger joint, before it became the next big steak place of Lahore.
Launching their steak platter just a short while ago, I was incredibly apprehensive about trying it out. Mostly because their burger had been terribly mediocre. But pulled into the best restaurant scam (CFU and Howdy are both guilty) of limited seats, months long wait, and aged for days steak, it was a must-try.
Priced at the same 2500 per head damage as CFU, with just 25 steaks available a day, like CFU, and using local meat, like CFU, the comparison begged to be made.
Did it beat it’s Karachi inspiration? Sadly, no. But is it the best steak in Lahore? Yes.
The steak was good, tender and juicy, but terribly under-seasoned. The sides ate up the steak, making it difficult to focus on what to eat.
A loud, big restaurant, they haven’t limited their seating but have limited their steaks. Noisy, with kids jumping around, it’s got life in it’s environment; but not in the best of ways.
The difference between Lahore and Karachi screams in the appearance of their food. CFU is classic Karachi. Small, uptight, and contemptuous, Karachiites tend to think of themselves as connoisseurs – and the food is usually proof that some of them are. Preferring quality over quantity, you can serve a Karachiite delicious morsels and they will leave happy.
I didn’t know where to look on the wooden block. At the Mac and Cheese, which needed more pepper, the massive bowl of creamed spinach, which was mediocre, the giant bone of marrow, the roasted garlic, the perfect mushrooms or the large green salad. It was a classic comparison. Lahore would not pay 2500 for just a steak. They needed a buffet to go along with it.
CFU and Howdy will both be busy for many more months to come and Howdy’s steak is a welcome addition to Lahore’s food scene. It is bound to create many more inspired joints, perhaps pushing local butchers to produce cuts steak lovers crave, push local restaurants to do more with local products, and tempt selfies at CFU and Howdy instead of the Parisian dream.