A couple of months ago Scafa (The School of Culinary and Finishing Arts that originated in Dubai) set up a space close to Lahore’s buzzing Mini Market. Their older set up was much smaller but having a unique edge to the culinary arts, they were able to expand swiftly. A couple of months later they opened Scafe’, their student training restaurant that’s fully operational and open to public – a place where the chef prepares and plates the food live, while explaining the cooking process.
Within the restaurant is the training facility meets kitchen where students seamlessly graduate from one level to the other. It’s a complete way of learning for students but for the gastronomically adventurous like myself, it’s also a place to try unique pairings of ingredients that come together to form some delightful food. I recently went over for a lunch tasting and there I met Chef Rob Burns who’s been with Scafa’ for three years and has created the entire menu for them.
We sat down in the new, rather casual Scafe’ Express, which is located on the ground floor. It’s a fuss free and informal coffee, dessert and sandwich pickup place with a couple of seats for those who want to dine in. It also has a pizza menu, off which we tried the Carni Pizza because a simple pizza is a telling dish as it gives one an idea of the freshness of their bread and cheese. Both were good in this case, and we enjoyed as the pizzaiolo rolled the dough in front of us and baked it. It also had chicken breast, turkey mortadella and beef meatballs for the meat lover out there. However, I wouldn’t say the pizza is the best item I had that day.
We moved on to the Scafe’ Bistro on the top floor, which has food that could be considered to be more fine dining. Our menu for the tasting was curated by Chef Burns himself who sent out their buratta as an entree. A fresh creamy buratta, injected with truffle oil and pesto along with grilled peaches. The peaches had been made with a balsamic reduction which softened them and brought out their sweetness. It was served with cherry tomatoes, pea shoots and mesclun salad; priced at Rs. 950 it made for a slightly expensive but absolutely worth it starter. Next up, was a thick mushroom soup made by blending together pure seared button mushrooms, cepes powder and was finished off with some truffle oil. If you love mushrooms and can have soup in any weather, both of which I do and can, you’ll love it.
On to the mains, the Ostrich Steak priced at Rs. 2200 was an oyster cut packed full of flavor. It was served with walnut mashed potato with sunflower shoots and mustard sauce. If you’re a fan of ostrich meat, you’ll definitely like this; for me the second main was much more thrilling. It was Short Ribs braised for 24 hours. The meat was tender and moist, slid off the bone and had a rosy interior from edge to edge. It was served in a fresh light sauce with chimichurri and white onion. The onion was intelligently cut into a flower and then soaked into milk to remove its acidity. Add the sauteed baby potatoes and charred broccoli and it was a perfectly well rounded meal for Rs. 1750 that I would go back for over and over again.
In trying to utilize local ingredients every season, Chef Burns had created a java plum or jamun cheesecake that I was very intrigued by. It didn’t disappoint and tasted just like jamun itself down to the slightly dry mouth that follows eating the fruit. There was also a small tasting for pumpkin, mango and jamun ice cream that Chef Burns had put together for us and each was equally good.
All in all, Scafe’ is a well thought out concept and with its constant experimentation in the kitchen, the people running it are bound to remain relevant in the restaurant market. Now that they’ve divided it into two – they’re catering to whatever kind of meal you’re looking for – and add to that their Chef’s Table – a seven course meal with a menu that changes every week. Scafe’ is going to remain a hot favourite on my food trek list!