Update: Although I have not been able to visit Zaika’s iftar buffet, rumour has it that there is quite the line up almost every night at maghrib. Give it a try and let me know.
My mom’s butcher recommended this new halal buffet that has opened behind Sunridge Mall, and although I don’t believe buffets really bring out a chef’s best, I decided to try this one out.
Rumour has it that he prepares his buffets to cater for his patrons. The lunchtime buffet is supposedly less authentic as they are more frequented by the non-ethnic crowd and the dinner buffet is made for the Pakistani customers. My family and I walked in for dinner.
The light waft of cooking spices stirred the appetite and drab decor made this place seem like the real deal. The tables were a bit too close together and not very conducive to buffet movement especially for the multi-platers. Beware there are no labels at the dinner buffet, so either you must like surprises or know your stuff!
The variety of dishes on offer was not extensive but neither was it inadequate. If anything, this a true DIY buffet – even the cutlery and napkins had to be picked up from the food line.
The salads were simple – chopped cabbage, sliced cucumber and tomato with dressing on the side and a rather tired looking pasta salad which I chose to skip (to leave room for the more appetizing dishes on offer). The chutneys (pickled mango’s , peppers, etc) though, were colourful and inviting. They were also refreshing and tasty and an excellent accompaniment to the main dishes.
The biryani house makes a very tasty mutton biryani (the only one on offer that evening). The saffron infused spiced rice with tender pieces of meat (usually goat or lamb) was delightful. The meat was very tender and almost sweet on the tongue and the spice level (read hotness) was just perfect. Add to it the raita (spicy yoghurt side) and you get that extra kick for those who need it, enough to excite the taste buds but retain all the flavour.
Next I sampled what I can best describe as a pulled/shredded beef mix which was amazing. It was so so good! Every bite released sweet/salty, spiced beef juices into the mouth and frankly you could keep on eating and eating this dish. The Karahi Chicken (chicken cooked with tomatoes and spices) that followed was moist, flavourful and fragrant. It went really well with the naan although the naan bread was slightly dry and just a tad on the thin side.
The aloo keema (potato and ground beef curry) and the aloo (potato curry) were very good – almost homemade good. The classic pakistani dish, nihari (slow cooked beef curry), was also available, though the tenderness of meat on offer was inconsistent and some pieces tended to be on the tough side while others were the usual almost falling apart tenderness expected of nihari. I also felt it was not as spicy as an authentic nihari should be.
The biggest surprises were the chinese dishes on offer in the buffet. The chicken fried rice was very good and had an indian twist to it with the introduction of saffron into the mix. The sweet and sour chicken on the other hand is not very chinese and is just ok to be fair.
Papadams were also on offer but the highlight was the dessert. The Kheer (rice pudding), lightly dusted with cardamom powder and covered in slivers of almonds and pistachios, was heavenly. The sweetness over powered the spicy sensations that lingered on the palate and calmed the mouth. The meal definitely ended on a high note.
Lassis were on offer and the mango lassi was preferred over the sweet plain lasso by most at the table. My sisters found the food a bit too spicy, but mostly I felt the spice levels added to the authenticity of the cuisine.
Biryani House lives up to its name and makes killer biryani and does very well with other pakistani specialties. Authenticity is maintained throughout the entire experience, a knowledge of Urdu will result in faster service and thus far it is a cash only establishment. Enjoy!
Zaika Biryani House – Bay 15 -3220 5th Ave NE – 1-403-457-2525. Map it.