LaSani was suggested by none other than a reader of this column, Mr Waseem Mohammad wrote to us to tell us about of the oldest Pakistani-Indian restaurants in Jeddah, and one that he dines at frequently. After a pleasant visit to Lahore Garden the previous week, the thought of more Pakistani cuisine was not unwelcome.
Jeddah is a small place, but the more cuisines I get into, the more surprised I am by how many restaurants there actually are that I havent tried. Too easy is it to fall in to the trap of dining at only the places you know, but sometimes its refreshing to explore and venture further afield.
I didnt have to go far for La Sani, centrally located, its relatively easy to find, set in a private building with its own gardens, the venue is thus ideal for large parties and events. With little to go on, our expectations were that it would be something similar to Lahore, another low budget eatery. However, as soon as we stepped inside LaSani, we realised we might have jumped to conclusions.
The interior is a bit of an oddity, our early arrival after Maghrib meant there were few if any other diners in the large space that makes up the dining room. At the centre of this impressive space stands a lone (and green) bamboo clad pillar which appears to hold up the ceiling as if it were a large circus tent. Dark wooden beams run from this centre point to the edges of the room. Each beam is illuminated at intervals by hanging copper lanterns which emit an eerie glow with their flickering red (and faux) candle bulbs.
Fine chairs and neatly laid tables were a far cry from the low budget eateries we had frequented over the last few weeks, as were the waiters who stood to attention in their penguin like out fits and trim bow ties.
The head waiter met us at the door, and proceeded to offer us free reign over where we wanted to sit. Finding our way to the table, we sat down to wait for our menus. As Mr Waseem had already recommended a rather extensive list of dishes to try, we thought we would make life easy, and so we went on to order exactly what he had suggested in his email.
These were BBQ Reshmi Kebab, Mutton Chop, Prawn masala, LaSani Mutton, and the LaSani chicken special. We also chose to try some of the Garlic and butter Naan and on Mr Waseems recommendation we tried the fresh Lime Juice to drink, and some Sweet Lassis. Before leaving, the waiter stopped to ask us how spicy we would like the food (we said medium), nice to see they accommodate all palettes.
Not long after taking the order, another waiter returned with poppadums, and two different types of chutney. Raita, and a sweet pickle chutney made up of apricots and watermelon seeds. Both were good, and complemented the crunchy poppadums well.
The only thing we found odd about LaSani was the lack of any background music, the awkward silence meant we heard every footstep, whisper and bang from the kitchen, along with the conversation of the only other dining party in the restaurant.
Not a huge complaint, but one that can be easily addressed. What was more shocking was the moment a member of staff decided to light up a cigarette whilst sitting at the receptionists desk, and proceeded to have a long conversation by phone with what must have been on of his pals. Had there been some background music, we would have been spared at least the sound of this, alas we were not.
It wasnt long before the naan arrived, and soon after this the main courses followed in foil covered terracotta bowls. We proceeded to help ourselves, trying the reshmi kebab first. A bright yellowish boneless chicken kebab that was surprisingly moist at its centre, tasty but nothing extraordinary.
More satisfying was the Lasani Chicken special, bursting with freshness, an intense green and creamy sauce made from coriander, mint and green chili, it provided the perfect taste to the chicken, although quite peppery it was not spicy, and as such all those who tried it seemed to enjoy it.
We also tried the Prawn Masala, small prawns cooked in a buttery sauce that was a little too rich and oily for our liking. The Lasani Mutton was better, a bright red gravy, with chunks of soft and tender lamb that was literally falling off the bone, almost melt in the mouth, simply delicious.
As for the Lassi, this was better than the one we had tried at Lahore Garden, smaller in size, but many times more satisfying. The waiter even made the effort of checking how spicy or sweet we liked our Lassi, a nice detail which we havent seen elsewhere.
When it came to the desserts, we decided to try Waseems recommendation, the Shahi Tukra (sweetened toast bread), along with all other desserts on the menu! Trying the Gulab Jamun, Gajar (carrot) Halwa, and Rasmalay (creamy balls of ‘paneer’ – cottage cheese soaked in clotted cream).Of these the chilled and soggy Shahi Tukra was the clear winner, the Gulab Jamun too rich in contrast, and the Carrot Halwa strangely oily. The Rasmalay was sharp and creamy, but not particularly special.
All in all the food at LaSani is good, thanks to some great recommendations we had a very enjoyable meal, whichh set us back just under 240 SAR, and we probably ordered more than necessary. We will be sure to drop back again, and who knows with a little background music and attention to detail, we can see LaSani becoming a regular haunt of ours.La Sani,
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