Café Forty4: An oriental taste in every bite

Published: February 18, 2012

Fried beef strips with sesame seed and honey hoisin sauce.

Café Forty4 is not just a regular cafe; it can be used as a venue for a range of events. The restaurant, a new addition to the eateries of the Clifton Block 4 neighbourhood, opened just a few months ago and is already creating a buzz in the city.

Samina Bilgrami, one of the working partners, has been in the food and bakery business for over 25 years and has given personal attention to every little detail of the operation, making Café Forty4 an experience beyond dining.

The contemporary, double-storey facility encapsulates many artistically designed seating areas. The ground floor has a total seating capacity of 55 and is divided into several sections. The main dining hall is divided into two different areas and a third one, the patio area, which I instantly fell in love with. The spacious patio is the ideal spot for a romantic dinner for two.

The ambiance is enhanced by the abstract artwork of Sonia Chundrigar, and a wall displaying black and white photographs of Karachi. The great thing is that the entire facility is wheel-chair accessible and child-friendly, with a kids’ menu coming up soon.

But let’s move onto the more delicious details.

Samina and a Malaysian chef with a skilled team do an outstanding job of presenting a fine selection of pan-Oriental cuisine. They use techniques from China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Japan, Korea and Vietnam to bring an altogether unique and distinct dish on the table.

To cater to changing temperatures and eating preferences of the customers, the menu varies with the season.  The chef confirmed that most ingredients used at the restaurant are local, including fresh fruits and vegetables. From starters and soups to main courses, the place offers great selection for vegetarians too.

It started with a selection of starters, which included sizzling prawns, fried dim sum and satay – all served with a medley of delicious homemade sauces. I especially loved the spiced tiger prawns that had an oriental chili taste. The satay reminded me of my first ever bite in Indonesia, the skewered chunks of pan-seared chicken tasted sweet and nutty in a sauce made of spices and roasted peanuts.

The pumpkin soup was sweet, fresh, well blended and creamy. The chef suggested the Thai soup, a tasty light broth with colourful chunks of vegetable and chicken, but a tad tangy. The roasted spicy chicken in Vietnamese rice paper roll turned out to be a true delight stuffed with fresh lettuce, roasted ground peanuts and topped with a tangy dressing.

The crispy Chinese bean curd is one of the unique dishes at Forty4; freshly marinated bean curds fried and served with cucumber, tomato salsa and homemade teriyaki sauce. My favourite by far, however, was the crispy blackened beef; crispy strips of beef stir-fried to perfection and coated in sesame seeds and honey hoisin sauce. The pièce de résistance is the attractive and tempting red snapper, a steamed delicacy served on a bed of Chinese cabbage with soya sauce and garlic chips.

The different options of rice served were a delight; steamed, garlic and the typical Japanese style sticky fried rice with eggs and sour sauce. The Kampong fried rice is cooked with squid, Shitake mushrooms and fried brinjal. Each stands as a perfect side with the main course.

The desserts at Forty4 were sinfully delicious; homemade cheese cake, a white chocolate parfait, and the Sagu Gula with a layer of molasses. The restaurant also has a bar that serves fresh seasonal fruit juices and refreshingly cool mocktails.

On new year’s eve this year, when I landed at this restaurant without a reservation and without knowing much about it, I left with great memories of an impressive meal served by a most skilled staff.

The portions are great for sharing and the average cost per person for a complete meal would be between Rs1,100-Rs1,400.

If you want to enjoy an unforgettable meal, feel special and get value for money, Forty4 is for you – an innovative fusion of oriental tastes and contemporary cuisine.

Farah S Kamal

Farah S Kamal

An education and development consultant, who is currently leading the iEARN programs in Pakistan. Photography is her hobby and passion and she tweets @FSKamal (twitter.com/FSKamal)

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