Restaurant Review: Cafe Ciao, another take!

Eid approaching, it was time to take my wife out shopping. As any shopping trip after Iftaar entails, we had to stop for dinner. I had heard a lot about Cafe Ciao, so I decided to go there since we were shopping in Park Towers.

Arriving at the venue, the one thing which irked me, and is a common nuisance to all such places in Zamzama is the narrow lanes, and the virtually non-existant parking. After a few minutes, I managed to park the car, and went in. The decor and ambiance was nice, and completely what you expect in a cafe of this type. Dim lighting, comfortable chairs, sofas all over, you know what I mean! The waiter quickly whisked us upstairs, only to give us the most awkward place on the upper floor. The table was literally in the way of the waiters and the customers. This was the only table placed in such an awkward position as the rest of the tables looked comfy enough. However we could not get it changed due to the fact that every other table was filled with people. Looks like this is quite the place to be, and I could spot a couple of famous faces too (Gumby, Faris of Blackfish, and ex-model Zoella Q, to name a few)

Me and my significant other pondered over the menu and finally settled on the Ciao Salad, which was a typical salad with lettuce, bell peppers, cucumbers and apple, topped with parmesan cheese. The description actually sounds better than it tasted, and it was nothing to write home about. In retrospect, I think the other salads might be a bit better, but I couldn’t help thinking that they ould have given their namesake to a salad which tasted a little less plain and a little more exotic.

Next up was the main course, a Pesto Chicken Sandwich (which my wife ordered) and a simple Grilled Cheese & Chicken (ordered by me). Both sandwiches were delicious, however I preferred the one my wife ordered, and my wife preferred the one I ordered :) The servings looked a little miniscule, but even then we had some leftover. I suspect it was because we were not feeling very hungry, otherwise I would have appreciated a little bit more quantity. However, I assume it is better to compromise on quantity a bit, than on quality, and I can assure you the sandwiches tasted really good. The drinks we ordered were a Chocolate Shake for me, and a Pina Colada for my wife, and both were exactly what you would expect: Cold and tasty :)

The dessert was to follow, and we had a hard time deciding because of the scrumptious titles on the menu. The waiter recommended Apple Crumble, but we decided to pass since neither of us are very keen on apples. Being chocolate connosieurs, we ordered a Cake of the Day (MudPie Icecream cake) and a Chocolate Dome (which takes 25 minutes to make, and it is specifically mentioned on the menu that you should “Please allow 25 min,”). However, I think the waiter served our dessert in record time, because not even 15 minuted had passed and we were tucking in. This was the heavenly moment; dessert was simply amazing! Even though we were stuffed, and couldn’t finish it, that didn’t keep us from trying! I would put the spoon down, content, but would pick it up again because it was just so good! If there was one thing worth recommending in this cafe, it is the dessert!

We finished off with one cup of their Italian-imported Cafe Latte. It was the average Costa, Starbucks, Grano’s fare. Nothing to write home about.

Service was exceptional. The waiter stayed at a distance, but was there at my every beck and call, and everything was presented on time and in style. Props to the training of waiters, which the managertold me was done by an Italian company called Manuel. Although Cafe Ciao is a local venture, all their cutlery, recipes, training and support is provided by Manuel.

Total bill came to around Rs. 2200, which is a little steep for two people. However, we were testing out the place, and ordered a variety of foods, hence the inflated bill. If you were there for a coffe or drink with friends, expect to pay around 200-300 per head. A sandwich plus a drink, followed by a coffe, should set you back anywhere between 350 to 700, depending on the items you order.

One of the unique things I noticed about Cafe Ciao was that they had a deal with Imation (http://www.imation.com), the removable data storage company. On every 500 Rs you spend, you get a coupon which enters you into the lucky draw to win one of Imation’s USB drives. Now, I am an IT guy, and know that these flash drives (aka USB drives or thumb drives) are an essential for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you are into computers or not, a flash drive is something you should always carry with you. Mine has my CV, cover letter, important documents, as well as some portable applications. Here are a few sites which will tell you how good an idea it is to carry flash drives.
SlashDot article
MetaFilter article

All in all, I would say it was a nice experience. The food was excellent, the dessert was amazing, service was exemplary, the environment was cozy, the ambiance lively, and the Imation USB drive promotion was the icing on the cake! Head on down there, but only when your wallet is hefty.

27 Comments so far

  1. tee (unregistered) on October 14th, 2006 @ 1:51 pm

    nice review!


  2. Ghost Buster (unregistered) on October 14th, 2006 @ 2:41 pm

    This Blog seriously represents only 2% of this country.


  3. laydeebird (unregistered) on October 14th, 2006 @ 2:58 pm

    One negative aspect of the cafe: no non-smoking area. I’m not going back there just because of that. In a world where more and more countries are imposing smoking bans in public places (France for example) it’s a shame that new restaurants opening up don’t even offer the courtesy of a small smoke-free zone.


  4. Kashif (unregistered) on October 14th, 2006 @ 3:20 pm

    Another great site for usb apps is http://www.lifehacker.org


  5. yo yo (unregistered) on October 14th, 2006 @ 3:34 pm

    Great review Khurram…Now lets get some MANLY places to eat. I am tired to hearing about these DARK and ROMANTIC places where you cannot even BURP or FART. GIMME some places where they would let me hunt my dinner before roasting it on a pile of WOODS.
    Something like good old QUETTA GOAT SAJJI.


  6. Aussie_Paki (unregistered) on October 14th, 2006 @ 4:43 pm

    Wow Rs. 2200 is crazily expensive. I don’t think many people in Pakistan would be able to afford that? Or is it times have changed and people have become rich in the past 5 years? I went to Pakistan 5 years back..so just wondering? Hmm so basically…jeez, it is even more expensive than a desi resturant here in Australia! But yeh the service and the food does seem good from your explanation. Would be worth trying out, once at least…after all eating is one of my aims when I go to Pakistan in 6 weeks and 1 day =D!!

    This blog makes me sooo nostalgic!


  7. Captain's Log (unregistered) on October 14th, 2006 @ 4:57 pm

    Agree with Aussie_Paki, 5 years ago , my salary was 35,000 Rs in Pakistan and it was considered very good for a fresh grad and now it sounds that 35K is nothing :-(. Now I feel good that I left Pakistan.

    Any how Khurram it was a nice review and you sure could eat a lot :-)

    By the way what are you expectd to pay as tip on a checque of 2200. Just curious …


  8. IllusionFS (unregistered) on October 14th, 2006 @ 6:21 pm

    Khurram Farooq: Good review, excellent details. Certainly not my type of a place ;). I did not know that carrying a flash drive was so important lol. Like why do you carry your CV with you at all times? Is it like you expect to apply for a job on the go :D, just kidding.

    2200 for two people, is kinda absurd. But in a city where eating out is a Prime Activity … sky is the limit.


  9. Haseeb A (unregistered) on October 14th, 2006 @ 7:28 pm

    Tooooo expensive yaar. ITs the same throughout zamzama. Well, sounds good though although my friend recommended me to stay away


  10. MB (unregistered) on October 14th, 2006 @ 8:47 pm

    ” Is it like you expect to apply for a job on the go ”
    lol


  11. danny (unregistered) on October 15th, 2006 @ 3:14 am

    To echo Captain’s Log and generalize a bit: what is a reasonable tip at this kind of establishment. Coming from the US, I usually end up tipping the standard 15% but my local friends say that is too much. What do you guys think?


  12. Faisal (unregistered) on October 15th, 2006 @ 4:56 am

    @Danny,

    Fifteen percent is a bit much in Pakistan.
    I was in Karachi recently and had dinner
    at Sakura at the PC. The bill for three
    people was Rs. 5200 and I left a tip of
    Rs.500. The waiter seemed more than pleased
    with that.


  13. Aussie_Paki (unregistered) on October 15th, 2006 @ 6:35 am

    500 is a lot. I wouldn’t leave more than 100…but then again my compassion may force me to pay more, as those people arent paid much anyway=/


  14. Khurram Farooq (unregistered) on October 15th, 2006 @ 1:09 pm

    I prefer to tip waiters based more on the amount of work and hassle we have put them through rather than the amount of the bill. If it’s just me and my wife dining, ordering just a simple dish or two, and the service is really bad, I don’t tip at all. If there is a party of 5-6 guys, all confusing their orders, ordering a bunch of things, and the waiter is handling it all with aplomb, anything in the region of 100-200 bucks goes. I have never paid more tip than that, and I don’t think it is required.


  15. Captain's Log (unregistered) on October 15th, 2006 @ 5:31 pm

    Khurram , actually even 100-200 is not required for your info.


  16. Moiz Kazmi (unregistered) on October 15th, 2006 @ 9:27 pm

    lovely review, i went for desserts n coffee with frnds couple of nites back…but i agree the negative point abt the cafe is no smoking zone !


  17. Azar (unregistered) on October 15th, 2006 @ 11:21 pm

    Was there when visiting Pak last month after 8 years. Certainly not cheap but I wasn’t so shell-shocked once I converted the prices into $. Still too much for Pakistan, I’d say; I wonder how people afford such extravagances there. Good ambiance (much better than gunshot /gunsmoke + espresso?) and decent food. Desserts were superb! But what put me and my wife off was the loud haggling between two lovely ladies-of-the-night and 4 not-so-polite looking gents on their rates. Honestly we heard more than we cared to; made my wife real uncomfortable. I did let the owner know of the good food and the rude company and he was truly apologetic. Overall I would give Ciao a strong 4 out of 5.


  18. Jahanzeb (unregistered) on October 16th, 2006 @ 3:51 am

    This review seems biased towards Cafe Ciao. After Cy’s experience it seems someone wanted to improve the image and made up this story. How very predictable!

    and yeah its expensive.
    Jz


  19. Jahanzeb (unregistered) on October 16th, 2006 @ 3:52 am

    This review seems biased towards Cafe Ciao. After Cy’s experience it seems someone wanted to improve the image and made up this story. How very predictable!

    and yeah its expensive.
    Jz


  20. wasiq (unregistered) on October 16th, 2006 @ 3:59 am

    no one meal good or bad could ever make me write so many words.no matter who i have it with and where i have it…..this is incredible!


  21. Aussie_Paki (unregistered) on October 16th, 2006 @ 8:22 am

    Azar, how did u manage to stay away from Pakistan for 8 years?? that is longgg…I’m sick in 5 years! missing grandparents very much!


  22. Azar (unregistered) on October 16th, 2006 @ 8:51 am

    Hey Aussie_Paki: Didn’t intend to stay away that long… just took a while to finally plan a trip. Most my family is here now so the brother-in-law’s wedding is what did the trick for me. Karachi was fun as always; the only downers were rain, no electricity, and nostalgia for college days. The city is awesome if you bring a fat wad of cash and can spend on yourself and your family. Honestly going to Cafe Ciao proved good for one more reason: we felt guilty over the amount of money we spent on a whim on food that night and from then on started helping cousins /extended family financially instead of mindlessly eating fancy dinners. I’m not ashamed to admit it: lots of needy ‘sufaid-posh’ people back home. Well, I hope you get a chance to visit back soon. Good luck!


  23. Aussie_Paki (unregistered) on October 17th, 2006 @ 9:05 am

    @Azar

    Thanks for the info…yeh I am going just 5 weeks and a bit to go. I cannot wait. Yeh I do realise, I guess it is great to help people in need back in Pakistan. But yeh we would be going out for dinner. I might visit the likes of Cafe Ciao…but the thing is the people that visit there are generally so material, and they are just not themselves…So I find may be I might find a bit unfcomfortable. Last time I was in Pakistan, I went to the Pizza Hut in North Nazimabad, what irritated me was that the lady was talking to me in English and I was talking in Urdu…like what the? You don’t have to speak in English if you visit “Pizza Hut” which is supposedly a junk place to go here in Australia anyway – last resort if you don’t feel like cooking much. But yeh, I am after the pure desi barbq…we have it here at home often, but would be nice to sit with grand parents and have a nice meal…visit the good old Urdu Bazar and drive past FTC at Shara-e-Faisal…that KFC near Guilstan School etc etc…and Teen Talwar…just where we used to go every so often, especially the “CDs” market in Uzma arcade, along with the music CD stores at Boat Basin…it is sooo nostalgic! =D.

    Cheers!


  24. Ali Khan (unregistered) on October 18th, 2006 @ 4:19 pm

    anyone have the phone number of Ciao?


  25. Hasan (unregistered) on October 19th, 2006 @ 1:35 pm

    @ ALI: Here you go brother.

    Ciao Cafe: 5877971-75


  26. Ali Khan (unregistered) on October 20th, 2006 @ 12:41 pm

    @Hasan: Thanks buddy!


  27. Rehan Younus (unregistered) on October 31st, 2006 @ 11:33 am

    I dont understand why they keep it so expensive. Are those places reserved for elite class only? who do not care spending thousands on just one time meal. Middle Class does not have any right to have such sort of food ever in their life.

    This culture should be changed and the discrimination among masses has to be end now.

    anyways i think the review is more exaggerated than what it has to be.

    Regards
    RY



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