Monday, September 10, 2012

Restaurant Review: Biryani of the Seas

Recently, Biryani of the Seas – or BOTS – has made quite a buzz in the Karachi food scene.  The eatery is attracting positive to enthusiastic reviews not only from metropolitan magazines but also from young bloggers. A couple of friends also visited and recommended that.

So this weekend we (wife and self with kids) decided to give it a long due try, and here goes our review:

Outright Disappointment – BOTS KECHS

Out of their two outlets, we selected the one located clumsily in KECHS – near Baloch Colony flyover – partly  because of its proximity to the city center and mainly because one of the reviews which mentioned better dining facilities there.

The eatery was not easy to find while the dining hall was also not upto the mark. However, these were not the main reasons for our displeasure.

Firstly, it was the unavailability of menu items, except for biryani and karhai. Upon inquiry, the waiter informed us that ‘Ustaad’ (chef) had not arrived yet! Interestingly, I called this specific branch before leaving home and the guy gave me the assurance that they serve the full BOTS carte!

The second shock was in the making. After we settled down in one of the weird cabins, the place plunged into darkness.  Again upon inquiry, we realized that there was no adequate backup for power supply!

Life is about Second Chances – BOTS Clifton

Electricity outage gave us a good chance to cancel the order and we did exactly that but decided to give their other outlet a try. Why not?

Location: Unlike the KECHS one, we found the Clifton branch easily, which is located besides PSO House near Clifton Bridge.

Ambiance:  The place looked clean overall, staff uniformed and mannered, environment lively and fresh, but still the ambiance was not as good as one would aspire for.

In front of the eatery, white plastic chairs and tables were set in abundance while one of the waiters informed us that the hall inside has “AC and HiFi (for Wifi, I guess)”. But we chose to sit outside more so because of the post drizzling breeze. The setup reminded Urooba of the evening we spent around a Tahrir Sqaure cafĂ© last year in Cairo!

Order - Cluttered Menu: One of the busy looking waiters gave us the brochure-cum-menu which listed quite a few dozen options, ranging from desi varieties like biryani and karhai to Chinese and Thai food, Chicken Role, South Indian Dosa, to even Goan fish curry. Spoiled for choices, we sought for waiter’s help, who was as clueless as were we. So we tried our luck; ordered Prawn Biryani (single), Dhaka Fried Fish (250 grams), and Masla Dosa initially and Chicken Garlic Mayo Role and French Fries later on (wifey, you know!).

Food Quality and Taste: All the items we ordered were fresh, perfectly cooked, and quite tasty. The biryani had a lot of prawns in it, however, rice had a generic overwhelming spicy taste – maybe they use the same curry for all biryani varieties!

Dhaka Fried Fish was awesome and so was the Masala Dosa. Fish was fried with a crispy batter and served with the South Indian style Chatni (sauce) of two varieties. Appetizing and refreshing! Masala Dosa was also cooked with perfection and served with the traditional Chatni.

Urooba got the spice bug so she ordered Chicken Role for herself and French Fries for Misha; both were a good value for money and complemented the seafood well. Taking clue from other tables, we also ordered a couple of Limca as a surprise drink and the experiment did not go wrong.

Service: Service was satisfactory although the waiters were on the run and looked somewhat bamboozled to cater their customers. As mentioned above, the guy serving us looked a bit surprised when we sought his opinion – appeared that they were not trained for that.

Prices: We paid ~Rs. 700 for all of the above which was not very expensive given the quality of food and the taste. However, the price structure on the menu was a bit complex and barred us from ordering at our will. Single serving of Chicken Manchurian was quoted for ~500 excluding fried rice which cost 200-300; too costly in my opinion unless it serves more than one person. 

We also gave tip to the hardworking waiter whose facial reactions hinted that he did not expect that from all his customers – a bit surprising to us.


At the end of the day it was a good experience overall so we would recommend Biryani of the Seas to locals who would like to have fresh and tasty seafood and to travelers also who are searching for authentic local food in a local way.

BOTS also maintain an active FB page which has got some yummy photos also:

Next Time

Now I am planning to have fish fillets – after reading positive reviews – and the Goan Fish Curry – for a change. Fried finger fish (Dhaka), Masala Dosa, and Limca would definitely find their place on table as well.

Driving Directions

While mentioning KECHS branch is completely futile, reaching the Clifton one was comparatively easier; we took Shahrah-e-Faisal through Baloch Colony flyover and continued to Clifton Bridge, then took the first left after descending from the bridge, before Teen Talwar. BOTS was visibly located on the left hand side on a wide alley besides the PSO building.

View Larger Map

(For clarity, this review is unsolicited and unpaid for)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Advice: Clubbing Malaysia and Thailand with China

A traveler friend is planning to visit China and wanted to explore Malaysia and Thailand also in the same trip and contacted me for some suggestions.

Here goes his email message:

Assalam o Alaikum!
How are you?
I'm going to China next month Inshallah and want to include Thailand and Malaysia in my itinerary. I know you helped a guy prepare one for a similar tour. I want to travel by ferry as well. Some guys from Malaysia group advised me to take ferry from Malaysia to Thailand. I just need to know where do I book and shall I get my visa from Pakistan? Which airlines would be cheapest for travelling to these three countries. Is it possible that I go to Malaysia by by an airline then to Thailand by ferry and then to Shanghai by a different airline? Do airlines allow this?

Following is my response:

Walaikum Salam Sohial

I am fine, thank you. Here goes my two cents:

1. Visiting Malaysia and Thailand on the way to China:
Clubbing Malaysia and Thailand with China makes a lot of sense and can be done without spending significantly more than China-only trip.

2. Ticketing Tricks:
Based on my previous experiences and observations with other travelers, you have two options; Sri Lankan Airlines and Thai Airways as they both take a layover in Bangkok before continuing to China.

Ticketing systems of both the mentioned airlines allow you to opt for a long stopover in Bangkok against additionally fare, which should not exceed PKR 5,000 imo. During this stopover you can visit places in Thailand and Malaysia but you have to come back to Bangkok to catch your onward flight.

Effectively, it will be something like that:

To evaluate your airline options more precisely, you may use the Matrix Software before visiting your travel agent:

3. Traveling between Thailand and Malaysia and the Ferry Obsession:
As hinted above, your main ticket will only cover Thailand and China. For Malaysia and then back to Bangkok, you may need to arrange extra tickets. However, this is easy and cheap as there are a lot of budget airlines operating in South East Asia. Following website is very good for comparing routes, schedules, and fares :

Exploring is also worthwhile.

Once you choose one, the ticket can easily be booked through airline's website.

You can do one way of this trip through ferry but this would be very challenging. Although I have no personal experience of this journey but I am sure there is no regular ferry service between the major cities of the two countries so one has to changeover multiple times which requires extra days, traveling temperament, and good knowledge.

Googling led me to the following useful links:

Alternatively, I suggest you to take a ferry between Penang-Langkawi - or any other same-country islands. Imo, cross border ferries might also have immigration issues especially with the Pakistani passport.

4. Arranging Visas - Trickier than Traveling:
Out of the three Chines visa is the most difficult to get. But I am sure you must have already figured that out. And please do let me know, how you arranged one?

Malaysian visa is the simplest and can be arranged within 3-4 working days for PKR 1500-2000. Here is my experience of getting Malasyian Visa:

After Chinese visa, the biggest hurdle is arranging the Thai visa. Actually Thai visa is very easy to get usually, however, in your case you would require a double entry visa which is a bit more expensive and complex. First entry would be utilized when you land into Thailand the first time and the second entry would be required when you come back from Malaysia. This situation is arising because you will have two different tickets - one for China while the other for Malaysia. If these two tickets can be combined than a single entry visa would suffice, which is actually near impossible for reasons I will explain below.

For abundant clarity, I may not provide you with any help for arranging visas other than experience sharing. Your best bet would be the travel agent whom you will book your main ticket from.

Following order would be advisable for visas:
1. China - single entry
2. Malaysia - single entry
3. Thailand - double entry

Just to mention, one month is quite tight for arranging all these three visas. So better start now with a travel agent who is not only efficient but knows you well.

5. Alternate Route: Pakistan-Malaysia-Thailand-China-Pakistan
I note in your email that you are looking for a ticket which takes you to Malaysia first, from where you take ferry to Thailand, and continue to China. This would be an ideal scenario and would eliminate the need of Thai double entry visa. However, there are a couple of issues; first the ticket would be expensive, ~PKR 20,000 extra, and secondly you might need proof of onward journey at Malaysian entry point as mentioning the ferry thing would make you a definite target at immigration.

6. Case Study:
This is the complete details of the itinerary I developed for another traveler friend, which you can also use for reference:

So this is my input; I hope you will find that helpful and enabling. Please don't hesitate to revert back once you finalize the plan.

Btw, I would be putting the above on my blog so that other travelers may also take note of it.

Happy travels