One of the most popular trends to pick up in the past two years in Pakistan is the Asian cuisine serving bowls, offering you the liberty to pick and choose what you want and add it all in a bowl to please your gut and soul. One can spot places that serve Asian cuisine in bowls everywhere now and honestly, it has gotten a bit too much. That said they are convenient and quick and serve the purpose when you want a filling meal without splurging too much.
Chikpat, a new eatery in Islamabad, has tried to bring innovation to this idea and has combined desi and continental cuisine to be served in bowls with nutritious ingredients, which are healthy as well. Basically, everyone gets to make their own bowl and interestingly, the bowl can be continental or desi or even a fusion of the two. The fusion bowl is a 5-step process where you start with picking a base which can be rice, pita sandwich, vegetable noodles or iceberg lettuce. Then you move on to selecting your protein from grilled chicken, beef steak, pulled chicken, pulled beef and kidney beans. The third step involves choosing curry from black pepper sauce, red chili sauce, sweet & sour sauce, butter masala, mirchi ka salan and mushroom sauce. Then you select what vegetable you want and finally pick your toppings from a variety of offerings. In reality, the concept is just as interesting as it is on paper. It’s basically like a desi version of subway where you go and pick whatever you want to make a unique entree.
What’s even more interesting at Chikpat is its vibrant decor. Street art meets vintage meets hipster. Chikpat is all things that would attract millennials. It has brightly painted walls with funny statements plastered all over them. There is a corner which has the famous wings with neon lights and ‘choose your own happy-ness’ written on them, attracting everyone to pose for a photograph. One of the prominent things in the ambiance is a huge rack with all things vintage displayed in it. From artificial plants to retro colored cars and antique phones to various other small pieces and even video and audio cassettes from the 80s and 90s, this rack has everything on display!
All things aside, the reason why this place is buzzing with people all the time is the food! We tried a bowl with brown rice, pulled beef, zucchini and steamed vegetables and were pleasantly surprised at how good it all tasted. The pulled beef and chicken at Chikpat are delicious and you can have them with any base. You don’t expect these combinations or healthy options at a restaurant that serves Pakistani food and that’s the innovation this place is trying to bring.
We also tried beef steak in a pita, which was perfect. The sandwich had a homemade feeling to it and a sirloin steak marinated in balsamic herb blend that made the taste great! My friend who tried the grilled chicken in a pita with a variety of veggies and toppings was also all praises but then that was expected because how can one possibly go wrong with grilled chicken?
Chikpat also serves a classic menu, which has chicken biryani, karahi, handi, daal, brain masala, baingan and stuffed karela qeema and the likes. While it was definitely interesting to find baingan on the menu of a restaurant, they didn’t really live up to the expectation. The chicken karahi was delicious, just as expected. The meat was tender, the gravy was thick and the naans that came with it were the kind that would make you forget all about counting carbs.
I felt like the biryani at Chikpat was having a bad day. For starters, a serving of biryani with just one aloo is pure torture, especially when that poor piece is a little harder than it should be. Also, the biryani was a little tangier and spicier than it should have been.
Among the desserts, the banoffee trifle really disappointed us but the firni made our day with the right flavor and the ideal level of sweet. So I guess all is well that ends well.
One can’t sum up the review without mentioning that the place is extremely light on the pocket. Most of the items on the menu range between 300 – 500 and the desserts are much lesser. This makes the average per head cost range between 500 to 600 rupees.
If you ask me, despite the few misses, I’d say this place is worth visiting. Especially when you want a quick bite without spending too much!