It is a Wednesday evening, just around 6, and Asad Khan–kinetic force in the open kitchen of Kabab factory, one of Gulshan's upcoming restaurants of the moment–is displaying his usual verve. It's the opening night of the second branch–prompted by the success of their Uttara location–and he is anticipating a crowd of 300.
His boss, the managing director of the restaurant, Fahmida Shabnam Chaity, is at the centre of attention. She is overseeing the dinner that will host ambassadors, business moguls and celebrities. The TV crew and journalists all want a minute with her.
Any chef worth his toque wants to serve great food. It's even more so for Asad who grew up frequenting the road side Kabab and Biriyani stalls in Peshawar, Pakistan. He knows them both like Baryshnikov knows ballet. They are good–finger licking good.
The 350-seat-restaurant has a multipronged approach to food offering a full menu of Thai cuisine and seafood that boasts the surprisingly fresh Garupa and snow fish imported from Bangkok. But for a Kabab lover they may not spur the same Pavlovian reflex as juicy Seekh or Boti Kabab.
Asad is fully aware of that. “I want to give them something they haven't experienced before.”
And Fahmida has branched out beyond the kitchen collaborating with MOVENPICK, the Swiss ice cream giant, and is opening a high end chocolate corner next month. She has plenty of space–about 7500 square feet spread over three floors including the rooftop. “We import spices from India, Pakistan and Dubai. The goats are from Kushtia. And we have Kong and Wit; both from Thailand in charge of the Thai and sea food. I want to make it a brand known for its quality.”
That's a quandary that any successful entrepreneur faces as a business grows. “That's exactly why I am going to be here every evening to supervise the entire operation.”
She seems obsessed with details. For chairs, she helped choose maroon leather that accents the ambiance and is comfortable. The lounges for group dining are modern and private. The silverware is neither too heavy nor too light whether you are digging deep into a plateful of Mutton Boti, Hyderabadi Biriyani, or a steamed snow fish.
No background music to distract you while you devour the mutton ribs, Beef Bihari or the deep fried Garupa in hot and sour sauce–their gastronomic equivalent of hit singles that are jammed with flavour.
Fahmida has hired a full-time hygiene manager to ensure the highest level of cleanliness. To entertain the children, she has built a children's corner. There are six restrooms in total; no one has to wait in line.
She never seems to stand still. One moment she is talking to a TV crew at the open space in front of the house where fresh meat and fish are on display. “You walk in, choose your meat or fish, tell the server how you want it cooked and it will be served within 20-30 minutes.” The next moment she is back in the kitchen, reminding servers to “activate,” or engage with customers.
The staff already knows that–they got a solid orientation from MVM Rao, MOVENPICK's South Asia Consultant, who is a friend of her father Md Abul Kalam, a well known businessman and CEO of Chaity Group.
Hers is a time-tested recipe for success. During the day she is the director of Chaity group, an export oriented Garment Company and two days a week she turns into a student studying MBA at a reputed business school. “I do a lot of promotion on social networking sites but I have found out word-of-mouth works the best.”
Restaurants pop up in every corner of the city every day. Most of them never jell. The reasons are obvious. “While on business trips with my father to places like New Delhi, Karachi, Bangkok or Dubai, I have the opportunity to eat at restaurants that offer great quality and service. I wanted to build something like that here.”
While many restaurants are going through a gastronomic revolution and cooking has become a performance art, the food here at Kabab Factory is mostly delicate and minimal. It is refined but full of pleasure. The flavors are clear and concentrated.
“We are working on opening up branches in Motijheel and Dhanmondi. But for us, prestige is more important than profit,” she avidly says.
House # 9A, Road # 53, Gulshan 2,
Hours: 12 pm-1 am, 7 days a week