I’m headed downtown, cruising through the alley
Tip-toeing in the street like Dally
Yes, you read correctly, downtown is where our journey begins in this cold October night which took place in Lal Qila’s new branch in Darling Harbour.
When I first received an invite from Lal Qila, I was a bit hesitant to accept because eating authentic homemade Pakistani food everyday would lead me into being too harsh of a critic. Personally to me, sultanas and nuts don’t belong in biryani and curries should not be sweetened with coconut milk. However, after hearing good reviews about Lal Qila I decided to give it a try with my sister and the best Pakistani cook I know; my mum.
Before I go into the restaurants ambience and design, let me first give you a brief history lesson. Lal Qila basically means ‘red fort’. Lal meaning red and Qila meaning fort. Located in Delhi, the Lal Qila was built in 1648 by the fifth Mughal Emperor of India named Shahjahan. The Lal Qila was designed to meet Shahjahans’ numerous needs such as entertaining guests, holding meetings and even had a separate room where hired musicians could play their music. It was a place fit for a king and to imitate the interiors of Delhi’s Lal Qila, the Lal Qila in Darling Harbour is adorned with exotic sculptures and paintings to give it a real traditional Mughal (Indian royal) feel.
When we were seated at our tables, we were reminded of Pakistanis generosity when it comes to feeding their guests. The menu for tonight contained a total of 17 items that we were expected to try. One of the items I was looking forward to trying was the Noorani Salmon.
For entrée, the dish that stood out most was the Noorani Salmon ($29.90). The salmon is marinated overnight in traditional herbs and spices and then cooked off in a tandoor oven. Now while the herbs and spices might be traditional, the choice of fish is anything but. Salmon is not a common fish to use in Pakistani cuisine and so I was very interested in trying this dish out. The fish was overall cooked to perfection where the fish was still tender from the inside and with the overnight marinade, has flavours coming from deep inside the salmon. It was a melt in the mouth experience and I really applaud the chef in taking the brave step in using salmon instead of a more traditional white fish.
For the main, the goat karahi ($28.90) was the dish that really stood out. It was a blend of traditional flavours which was a mixture of piquant sensations brought from the spices and a tangy saucy texture coming from the tomatoes. The best way to eat this was by using the Roghni naan to soak up the gravy and using the soaked bread to wrap around the pieces of chicken. This dish stuck to the traditional flavours which gives me a very nostalgic feeling of eating this food on the streets of Karachi. A must try when you visit Lal Qila.
For dessert we were served gulab jamun ($6.90) which are deep fried milk balls soaked in mixed spice sugar syrup, and kulfi which is a traditional style of Pakistani ice cream. The desserts were the familiar taste of my mum’s cooking which means that the gulab jamun were soft and fluffy from the inside and was the perfect balance of sweet and spicy. The kulfi was creamy but light, and had added pistachio in it for a good crunch and texture.
While these were just a few of the dishes we tried, the entire menu was well thought out and beautifully prepared. Whether you’re Pakistani like myself, or just someone who wants to extend their palate, there is something for everyone at Lal Qila. Even my mum who is the toughest critic loved every dish that she tried. All of this was complemented by beverages such as mango lassi, a yogurt drink that is made with a blend of mangoes.
Lal Qila is Pakistani food with a twist. It contains the authentic flavours but the dish is a fusion of different styles and techniques. The colourful presentation and the generosity from the staff all equate to a wonderful experience that is a must try.
Overall the food in Lal Qila was decadent at its finest and brought back a lot of memories of eating mum’s cooking and eating on the streets of Pakistan. If you are looking for authentic Pakistani cuisine, then Lal Qila is the place for you.
30 Lime Street, Darling Harbour (King Street Wharf), Sydney NSW
Also at 351-353 Cleveland Street, Surry Hills, Sydney NSW
Phone: 1300 525 745
I Ate My Way Through dined as guests of Lal Qila