Just when you thought Dhaka's dine out craze might be slowing down, along come Forest Lounge, the newest venture from two friends.
Open since the autumn, this crowd pleasing addition to Dhanmondi is bound to be popular. When I finally made it there, the charming restaurant was almost full.
Forest Lounge is a retreat of a space that instantly works its charm on you, from the interior to uncommon warmth and hospitality of its staff. The owners chose the name to experience a retreat from maddening crowd of the city and a fresh vibe with authenticity.
Set at Dhanmondi 10A, Forest Lounge is a sprawling restaurant with an Arabian and Indian menu. The compact interior is pretty, decked with cosy tables, twinkling patios and outdoor BBQ area and terrace with sophisticated distinctions wood panels and calming colour. An open kitchen tucked into a corner pocket.
"There's a struggle to find a restaurant in good quality dining experience in Dhanmondi, we tried to introduce something different from our local restaurants. The aim is to feed guests with elegant food like abroad", said experienced general manager V. Polash Fokir, who oversees everything.
"Among our Bangladeshi chefs, we also have two Egyptian chefs to stimulate a foodie's appetite. We split the main restaurant into two sections such as 'Terrace1' and 'Terrace2' along with indoor restaurant, where customers can enjoy live BBQ and table BBQ.
Now we have buffet on Fridays only. We will introduce exclusive candle light dinner for couples. The entire restaurant can be reserved for large private events of up to 300 guests," he added.
Me and my companion chose our table on the terrace. Dining in the terrace is unique experience. A terrace boasting stunning views of the city, I am drooling as much over the interiors as I was over the main course.
We started with Fattoush, the Arabian salad with cucumber, tomato, capsicum, onion, lettuce and fried bread mixed with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and dashes of salt and pepper. Followed by a plate of glistening BBQ wings with beautifully arranged onion salad and a sauté of carrots and green vegetables. It was intensely good and comforting.
Moving onto mains, I opted for the Mashwi Musakkal Sahan, mixed kebab platter served delicately upon a pristine white plate. You can choose this signature dish between bread or rice and salad and you get neatly organized varieties of kebabs to work your way through.
We tried Shish Tawook, a popular Lebanese chicken kebab, tender juicy chicken marinated in yogurt, lemon and spices and served with rice or bread.
Fasulia bean laham, the classic Lebanese stew is slow cooked lamb with green beans and served with a good portion of saffron rice -it's a swarm of flavours and textures.
The best is the tandoori pashawar, finely marinated tandoori chicken. Pair it with masala kulcha. It's abundance of soft, delicious warmth quickly disappeared in my mouth.
My companion tried for a fish-led feast, choosing the samak hara, fish filler which served with saffron rice and salad. Followed by the mashwi gambari. It is grilled prawn along with fragrant delicately steamed and piping hot saffron rice and salsa.
After nearly finishing the main course, an arduous yet delicious task-a crisp, vermicelli on top kunafa is expertly rolled out onto our table for the final, tempting dish. The thick slice of sweet vermicelli custard wrapped in pastry and finished with light whipped cream. Gajar ka halwa, the Indian as well as Bangladeshi halwa is simply divine, made of carrots, ghee, milk and sugar.
However, the Ommali is undeniably tasty Egyptian bread pudding topped with nuts. It's gorgeously gooey, dripping with every savoured bite. The pillowy filo pastry combined with condensed milk and rose water, are wickedly soft, a dessert lover's indulgence, but not overpowering.
For traditionalists, there's fruit juice, a good companion to main meal. For more adventurous, Arabian delight is a must try.
To finish, the kulfi malai, creamy Indian ice-cream, made with milk, sugar and flavoured with cardamom and nuts. I can't help but snare a bite of kulfi, sweet tooth satisfied.
The food in Forest Lounge is good- but it is the service here that captures both my attention and imagination. Even the Egyptian chef comes out to greet us mid service stopping into our table for a quick chat about the restaurant. He told us passionately about the menu and he's even gave us three types of desserts.
The writer is a Sub Editor of The Asian Age
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