Call me old-fashioned, but I am rather unconvinced when it comes to dining out for sehri. For me, it is a meal to be dealt with swiftly and without much fuss at home, with half-closed sleepy eyes and in pyjamas. But it seems for the rest of Dhaka, it is a different story.
What was still an emerging trend just around a decade ago, is now a full-blown affair: people going out for sehri with gusto and restaurants all over Dhaka offering delicious treats.
Finally succumbing to peer-pressure, I decided to try it out, embarking on a nocturnal journey through Dhaka -- to understand what the hype is all about and on a hunt for the best places offering sehri.
MAKING SENSE OF NAZIRA BAZAR
Old town’s Nazira Bazar is a prime hub for sehri, drawing crowds not just from the surrounding neighbourhoods but from all over the city. Post-midnight, the air becomes thick with festivity -- with the smell of kebab, biriyani and chaap.
As late as say, 2am, massive pots of biriyani entice the passers-by, egg parathas are tirelessly cooked on enormous tawa, and even barbershops are crowded with their clients!
“From Bismillah Kabab Ghar to Hajir Biriyani to the lesser known eateries, Nazira Bazar is a haven for Puran Dhaka delicacies,” said Tariq Ahsan, a university student who lives in Uttara. “Driving to Nazira Bazar once or twice in Ramadan has become a sort of tradition for me and my friends. Moreover, prices are cheap; just Tk 300 can be more than enough for one person.”
Nazira Bazar doesn’t sleep: a lot of the eateries remain open till very late throughout the year, not just during Ramadan.
Some shops, like the iconic Beauty Lacchi -- famous for its lassi and lemonade -- generally shuts down around 1am. During the month of Ramadan, it remains open for sehri.
And then there is the popular Pannu Khan Tea Store. Their tea is a decent treat, until you request for some “extra malai” -- that’s when it transforms into something magical.
And finally to wrap up the gastronomical journey, one can indulge in “mishti paan” from a couple of street-side stalls which boldly make various concoctions with a staggering number of ingredients -- giving you a burst of flavours in the mouth.
BREAKING FREE AT CHEF’S TABLE
Away from the hustle and bustle of old town is Chef’s Table, a food court in Dhanmondi.
Food courts of course have the advantage of offering a diverse range of cuisines, providing you many options to choose from, and Chef’s Table seems to have set a new standard in Dhaka’s food scene.
“Generally, food courts are made up of random or relatively less familiar brands of eateries -- providing moderate or, at best, decent food in terms of taste,” Nahida, who lives nearby and often drops by at the food court, pointed out.
“However, Chef’s Table is an exception in this regard, as you will find names which are very popular and have their own independent outlets elsewhere in the city.”
From Italian to Thai, and from salads to crepes, one gets myriad options under one roof -- many of which are being offered by reputable brands -- at reasonable prices.
During sehri time, Chef’s Table is a lively place: cheers and laughter and people all dressed up, taking selfies at three in the morning (while I missed the comfort of my pyjamas).
DIGGING INTO PREMIUM SWEETS’ BUFFET
The one thing I must admit I loved was the nice drive we enjoyed in the wee hours. It took us just 10 minutes to arrive at Premium Sweets in Gulshan-2 circle from Dhanmondi.
The buffet at Premium Sweets is an amazing treat. Amid the many delicacies on the buffet table, two items that stand out and have become a hit are their kala bhuna and khichuri.
“What I love about Premium Sweets’ buffet is that they do not try to do everything! I find it better for a restaurant to have some focus and maintain quality instead of boasting about some crazy number of items mindlessly put together on the buffet table,” Tania Wadud shared her experience at the restaurant. “Sehri with the price tag of Tk 1,495++ is not a bad deal at Premium Sweets.”
Good food, good times and the charm of a lesser seen Dhaka -- these make so many of us go nocturnal. And as the last minute for sehri was speeding away with people saying goodbye while drinking the last sip of water, sleep and weariness were finally setting in.
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