Kareem’s

Outside, it’s pouring. The way it always does in Pune. The way I like it. Only, when I was younger (and I mean every single year until now, starting from the time that I was about sixteen), I’ve found somebody or the other to buy me a coffee on evenings like these.

But when I go to coffee shops, these days… especially the Barista on Law College Road, I’m more traumatized than pleased. All I see is a bunch of nineteen year olds, texting away on fancy phones, dressed like wannabe hippies, smoking like it’s the coolest thing to do and tlking lyk dis. Yeah, even when they talk. It’s crass. It’s loud. It’s fairly pointless. I feel old. I feel out of place. This was not how Pune was a few years ago. Or at least, the people I hung out with when I was nineteen weren’t anything like this. Ok, confession time: I’ve done it too. All of it. I did things because I wanted to know what it was like to do them. And then, I made conscious decisions whether I need to make those a part of my life or not. Or to what extent I need to make them a part of my life. Sigh! I sound SO OLD!!! And pseudo-mature. And c’mon!!! I never dressed like a freak show!!!

But then again, some things about Pune are still awesome. And some things about Pune, that have come up while I was away, are even fabulous. Take Kareem’s, for instance.

Kareem’s (HQ)
2424, Kumar Pevelion,
East Street,
Pune

I’ve been here three weeks now. And I’d eaten at Kareem’s twice in my first week. And another three times in my second week here. It’s good, masaledar, Punjabbi-type ka khana. Roti-shotti. Naan-shaan. Chicken-vicken. Mutton-shutton. No, I can go on if you’d like me to. Really.

Now, if I remember right, Kareem’s was (probably still is!) a place in Mumbai that served great kebabs and kathi rolls. I’m not a Mumbai person, but I’ve had my share of Bombay trips and yummy food. I LOVE that my parent’s adore food the way I do. Errr… I adore food the way my parents do, genetically speaking. Anyway, the point here is that I think it was Carter Road. I could be wrong. And in Pune, for as long as I can remember, there used to be a place called Olympia that served fabulous kathi rolls. Around the time I was leaving, in 2008, Olympia seemed to be undergoing major changes – management, decor, all that. Come 2011, they’re Kareem’s. And they’re not the only Kareem’s in town. Apparently, there are four in the city now.

See!!! They still have the old name too!!! Yay!!! šŸ˜€

Since we live really close to F.C. Road, my parents usually order in from the Kareem’s there. And that first week, both times, I ate there. The following week, I ordered in. It’s not a very fancy place and the service is just about ok. So yes, ordering in might just work better than eating there.

Kareem’s
Nirankar Apartment,
Opp. Police Grounds,
F.C. Road,
Pune

My mum had been pretty keen on tasting some Mediterranean food because I used to eat Mediterranean almost once every week, in NC. And she was curious. Kareem’s has a Lebanese Dip Platter, which I ordered very bravely that evening. It was quite a disaster. But trust me, everything else was fantastic. Besides, they specialize in Mughlai and North Indian cuisine. Lebanese isn’t their forte. So, that’s alright. No?

The Lebanese Dip Platter came with hummus, baba ghanoush (read: baingan ka bharta, it was a mild orange even!), tahini (read: sesame seed paste, uber bitter) , garlic cream (read: mayonnaise) pickled cucumbers and pita. So that’s a no-no, if you’re eating there.

The Lebanese Dip Platter

That first time, it was just mum and me and we’re suckers for all things unreasonably spicy. So we ordered the Murg Ishtew. It was some crazily spiced chicken. Whole spices, onions, ginger and garlic, red chillies – all coming together to make a perfect curry. Really, the only other time I’ve enjoyed something that hot without having regrets for what might follow the next morning, is the time when I cooked the Railway Mutton Curry. Definitely a must-have, if you’re the kind who’s willing to put your taste buds through some delectable torture.

Mum and the Murg Ishtew

My second time there, it was dad, mum and me. And a whole lot of kebabs. I remember the Tandoori chicken. And Galouti Kebab. These guys serve some really good Tandoori Chicken. I hadn’t eaten Tandoori Chicken in a long long time and this was juicy, yet charred – just the way I like it.

The first time I’d eaten Galouti Kebab was when I was a lot younger at a restaurant in the city. And I can be absolutely sure that Galouti kebabs are served with khasta roti. The kebabs are essentially, finely minced lamb mixed with ground spices and raw papaya (it’s the best kind of meat tenderizer around, trust me!), patted into little cakes and shallow fried. And khasta roti is flaky bread made using milk and ghee, unlike the usual oil and water that one might use for regular chapatis. There’s a mild crunch in these rotis along with this amazing soft texture and a hint of sweetness, owing to the milk. It pairs amazingly well with the kebabs because the kebabs are rich in spice. The kebabs are served with a green chutney, I’m assuming coriander and mint. And everything put together, is an Awadhi heaven! So, here’s what I wanted to say. That it’s been a few years I’ve had galouti kebab served that way. Strange.

Ordering in was fun. One time, it was Afghani Lasooni Paneer for the grandmum and Murg Matka for myself. The next time, it was Murg Kalimiri and Murg Makrana Kalmi. To go with cocktails that my dad was dishing out. Shaking out. Heh. And the last time was Murg Pankhudi Kebab and Murg lazeez Handi.

The Afghani Lasooni Paneer is paneer marinated in cream and garlic and cooked on a grill. Beautifully flavoured, yet only mildly spiced. A complete win in the granny-department. The Murg Kalimiri is a peppery chicken tikka marinated in a cream-based sauce, and very true to it’s name. The Makrana Kalmi is a lot like Tandoori Chicken. Or more like leg pieces marinated in gravy masala and grilled to perfection. The Pankhudi Kebab, again, a very old recipe. Chicken wings marinated in a red masala. Grilled. Tender. And served with a green chutney. The Murg Matka and the Murg Lazeez Handi were fairly similar but with very distinct spice levels. To say that I could almost be sure the same ingredients went in, only in different proportions. That’s a good thing, if you ask me. You don’t need to say “Bhaiyya, zyada teekha banana.” Just order the right curry. I doubt if the matka curry (the less spicy one) is served in an earthen pit though.

Of the five times I eaten from/at Kareem’s dessert was ordered once. The Malai Phirni. Passable. My mum makes delicious phirni. And I’ve never had better phirni in Pune that at The Kebab Factory (Bombay Brasserie). Too bad it shut down a few years ago. So yes, stick to Kareem’s for what they’re good at. North Indian. It’s TOTALLY worth the money you’re spending.

Rs 500/- to Rs 600/-
on an average
for a meal for two.

Home delivery, within a given radiius

Obviously, I’m guessing the kathi roll here is pretty fantastic, it’s just that I’ve been hungrier than just a kathi roll. So yes, when it’s raining again some time this week, and if I’m already out, I’ll hop into Kareem’s for a kathi roll. That should be pretty fucking awesome, methinks.

Oh, if you’re in Pune, the other place that you MUST… ABSOLUTELY MUST eat a kathi roll at is Kapila. It’s on your way to Boat Club Road, just a little ahead of Ruby Hall.

Also, much as this post is painfully long, there’s one last thing I’d like to say. With restaurants in India serving Indian food, there’s this thing, where the waiter brings the food to your table and serves it to you. That ruins the opportunity to take pictures. Yes, of course I can ask him to set it down so that I can help myself. But I always forget. So the few pictures I have are those I took off my mum’s phone. Sincere apologies.

Edit:
Saturday, June 11th, 2011
19:44
We’re ordering in from Kareem’s yet again.
Tandoori Chicken
Murg Kalimiri
Shammi Kebab
Murg Dum Biryani

Rs 850/-
for a sumptuous meal for three.

The roti’s were made by the domestic help. But if I were to order rotis (breads) there, it would possibly work out to a little under Rs 1000/-. Pretty reasonable, even then.

I’ll take pictures for sure. Expect another update in a couple of hours.

Edit:
Saturday, June 11th, 2011
21:28
Pictures!!!!

Neither mom, nor dad are fans of lamb. Turns out my mum has given it up altogether. News! But dad, he eats it if it’s in keema (minced) form. The Shammi Kebab was just that. It gave me some severe Galouti Kebab memories.

Shammi Kebab

The Tandoori Chicken… Haven’t I spoken about that already? Just one word: perfect.

Tandoori Chicken

When Dum Biryani is all basmati and just mildly flavoured… that’s when it’s best. And that’s exactly how the biryani tonight was.

Chicken Dum Biryani

I LOVE the food at Kareem’s. Period.

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