The Burning Giraffe: A Spur-of-the-Moment Lunch
I always take forever before I go to a new restaurant of my own volition, and for good reason. The Burning Giraffe was no exception. Here’s why:
1) The restaurants that I review within a month or so of their opening get the customary “First Taste” text preceding the title, and
2) I don’t like excuses.
The Burning Giraffe, Lahore’s resident Cheetos sliders specialist, escapes the wrath of my labels. Pity, it probably would have raised the bar for the segment. This is the long-story-long of how I grabbed lunch with a friend at The Burning Giraffe.
In a Nutshell:
- Daring menus get the brownie points
- Natural light, there’s no substitute
- It’s where the cool kids eat
- Anything beef and you’re golden
- Messy eaters beware
- Get a window-side table
We need to establish the setting here to make the story proper long:
It was suntime around 3PM on a sunny Sunday in Defence. I was on my way to Verdance Cafe, to try out ‘a new place’ with a friend. Stumbling upon a birthday party at this new establishment, we found ourselves rather out of place. As the couply things around us doubled up and Nikki Minaj’s frankly abhorrent voice shifted gears one too many times, we had a hard time concentrating on the menu. We talked about other restaurants, and before I knew it I was being grilled for not having tried The Burning Giraffe yet. The situation presented itself to us on a silver platter and we didn’t need a second invitation to leave. Not a single tear was shed that day.
Anyway, within 20 minutes of saying bye bye to Verdance Cafe, we walked into The Burning Giraffe. The Burning Giraffe, if you didn’t know, is Yasser ‘Yan’ Noon’s new venture. A graduate of SCAFA’s Culinary Diploma program, Noon set out to create a Dali -themed restaurant less than a year ago. People thought he was mad; who would understand surrealism, here of all places? Believe it or not, it was nigh impossible to get a table there for weeks, or so I’m told.
Hype aside, I was here now, and found myself with mixed first impressions. Maybe it’s just me, or maybe it’s them (it’s definitely them), but the restaurant seemed far too narrow. Yet it was spacious because of the natural light filtering in through long windows at the front. The decor was rustic, with hues of blue, and I was reminded of trunk shows and garage sales of my freshman days in college. In a good way, I swear. Casual yet thoughtful, The Burning Giraffe seemed to have its shit in order. We sat down and had a look at the menu.
The menu at The Burning Giraffe was a double-sided and laminated card. It was unique, insofar as it was curated to stand out in the pissing contest that is Mall One. The bao buns were out of stock, and there were no specials on the menu, much to my friend’s disappointment. As a first timer, I was happy with the assortment of world food on display. Korean, Japanese, American, Italian, all made cameos here.
A few things that caught my eye: Loaded Pizza Fries, Buffalo Mozzarella and Pesto Salad, Roast Beef Wasabi Sandwich, Buttermilk Fried Chicken Burger, Crispy Beef with Taro, the Pesto and Artichoke Pizza, and the Pecan Brownie with Ice Cream.
Not wanting to be restricted by recommendations or crowd pleasers, I went ahead and ordered on a whim. The final order placed consisted of Korean Crispy Wings, Beef Tataki, and a Fried Calamari Street Food Style for starters. This was followed up by two mains: a Beef Donburi bowl for the resident critic, and a Truffled Mac & Cheese for my homeboy. Still water and iced lattes to top it off, we felt good about our decision to abandon Verdance Cafe.
Before I bore you with a review of the food, I will clarify here that the plentiful natural light is to be credited for the superior quality of the pictures at The Burning Giraffe. Very Instagrammable, very chic. That’s not to say that the plating and appearance of the order was lacking in any way, but natural light just makes it easier for people like us to do justice to food photography.
First up, Korean Crispy Wings. Crispy, slightly tangy, slightly sweet, this was my favorite appetizer. Orange-golden and garnished in green, it was a feast for the eyes before it was a feast for the tongue. Beyond the crispy exterior were tender morsels of chickens barely held together by bone. I don’t usually like fried wings, and prefer their smoked cousins, but these bad boys were an exception to my rule. Would order again.
Next up, the Beef Tataki and Fried Calamari. The beef looked browner than I had anticipated, perhaps from being cured in the citrus too long, but I found myself having seconds and thirds. I’ve definitely had much better tataki in Lahore, but I wouldn’t complain too much, this was still good. Just not great.
The calamari was reminiscent of the seafood medley they once served at Lahore Social, after the Tragic Menu Overhaul of 2011. I remember it being sweet and tomatoey. But The Burning Giraffe made something that was once new to Lahore sing like a canary. Also, it looked beautiful in person. Though it was not batter-fried or crusted in any way, it was soft with a bite, and we scarfed this one down noisily. So far, the wings and the calamari were repeat orders for me. 2 out of 3 from a random selection to begin with is pretty darn good if you ask me.
The Beef Donburi bowl at The Burning Giraffe was so cute I could have cried. But I didn’t because I’m a big boy. It was begging to be photographed, so naturally I obliged. I’m a big fan of donburi bowls. In fact, they’re in the same league as bibimbap for me. And rightly so, there’s a lot of the ingredient that overlap here: rice, fried egg, pickled vegetables, protein. This bowl had garlic rice topped with a fried egg, pickled carrots and green peppers, and charred beef slivers garnished with what looked like watercress, and sesame seeds of course. It was excellent, beyond just plain recommendable. The sweetness of the beef, the starchiness of the rice, the garlic seeping into every bite, the pickled contrast to offset the sweetness, just wow.
A bit of feedback though: 1) the fried egg was way overdone. The yolk was completely solid and because the beef on top of it was still steaming hot. Something’s gotta give. 2) The bowl, though deep, was tiny. So everytime I dug in with a fork, rice would spill out. It was a balancing act, really. It looks good but was hard to eat. My advice: chopsticks.
The Truffled Mac & Cheese unfortunately looked a bit sad, and had far too much milk/cream in the mixture. And so, it was watery. The truffle flavor was definitely there, and cut through the cheesiness, but for me this was more of a side than an entree. If I had an option to add this as a side to my burger, I would definitely order it. Still not bad at all, because the quality of ingredients was all there, unlike my head on Sunday mornings. I would have to have very, very specific cravings to order this again.
The water was ice cold, just as requested, and the iced lattes were slightly above average. But I’m not really a lattes guy, so don’t take my word for it and try it for yourself.
Service was prompt, courteous, and accommodating. The restaurant was spotless, with good, wholesome vibes. The music was chill, the crowd was mad decent, and the food took the cake and ate it too.
As I walked out, I found myself wondering why I hadn’t been here before. And because I’m not even close to being done with the rest of the menu, The Burning Giraffe has got itself its latest repeat customer.
The Burning Giraffe, Mall 94, +92324 2093037