7 Best Restaurants in Dhaka

Vegetarian bulgogi at Dae Jang Geum. It is made from yellow beans.
Vegetarian bulgogi at Goong. It is made from yellow beans.

***Updated October 27, 2013*** I’ve tried over 100 restaurants in Dhaka. These are the seven that I keep returning to. I have now made a map of them so that you can find them. Read my reviews of the others here: roundup part one, part two, part three, part four, and part five. Or, read about where I find the restaurants to try. In very clear order, here are the seven best:

1. The best restaurant — Goong, the Castle, road 50, house 12, Gulshan (look for the wooden gate. Previously called Dae Jang Geum until another restaurant named Dae Jang Geum moved in on the same street. Also, not to be confused with the Dae Jang Geum in the mall downtown). Korean palace food. Best sashimi in the country. If you want raw fish, get it here. Great vegetarian options as well (vegetarian bulgogi called Kong Bulgogi is Chef Kim’s bean product which almost tastes better than meat). If you want to eat at the best restaurant in Bangladesh (even if you don’t like Korean food), then this is the place for you.

2. BBQ Tonite, Dhanmondi: Meat on stick. Delicious outdoor atmosphere and smoky grilled meat. Some of the meat dishes like “reshmi chicken” are incredibly spicy even to a Bangladeshi. The “Kandahari chicken” is not spicy. Great freshly made flat breads of which the “rumali” roti or “handkerchief” bread is my favorite for it’s thin stretchy warmth.

3. Bamboo Shoot, Gulshan Avenue, Gulshan: Chinese. Special Chinese only (written in Chinese) menu on weekends. Take someone Chinese and insist on seeing it. This place also does authentic hotpot (boiling pot of soup in which you must cook your own food) and it may be the only place in the country.

4. Roll Express, Gulshan: Flat bread sandwiches. Dhosa. Fuchka/Phoughka. It’s a popular brunch place although they do not serve American style brunch. This is a good place to take new visitors or newbies to this part of the world. There is a nice courtyard as well. They do have fresh juice and other menu items but I tend to stick to the “reshmi chicken roll,” “paper butter dhosa,” and “fuchka” as these are good introductions to the food of South Asia and Bangladesh.

5. Spaghetti Jazz, Gulshan Circle, Gulshan: Italian. Only some of the food is good but try it out. Very dark interior lit with candles so it could be considered romantic except that you’ll usually run into other people you know there.

6. Spitfire (and Saltz above it is a seafood place), Gulshan Avenue, Gulshan: Continental. Fresh rolls. But service is excruciatingly slow.

7. Istanbul, road 118, Gulshan: Turkish food. Fresh cheese and freshly baked bread. Weekend buffet for 1,000 taka. But apparently dropping in quality.

A large crepe called a dhosa.
A large crepe called a dhosa.

Plus, one coffee shop: Northend Coffee Roasters. This place is better than most coffee shops in the U.S. It is run by an expat couple. For those who like a “do-gooder” feel, this place also does philanthropic/development work in their staff development style, and goods sold (khanta blankets are made of old sharees by women as a form of income). Or just come for the cinnamon rolls and atmosphere.

There are some others that are okay like Diner 360 and Dhaba. Lastly, I have intentionally omitted Le Souffle/Wasabi at the Bellagio because their food is sometimes good and sometimes bad. I cannot recommend a place that is unreliable. Also, the Prego at the Westin Hotel is not good enough for the price.

Again, these recommended places are on my map. Enjoy!

Restaurants in Dhaka – Part Five

80 down… here are 61-80. Read roundup part one, part two, part three, and part four to read about the previous 60 eateries I’ve tried in Dhaka. Other than word of mouth (!), read about where I find the restaurants to try. I also scout for new places when I’m out and about and I welcome recommendations.

The lunch buffet at Istanbul is only 1000 taka.
The lunch buffet at Istanbul is only 1000 taka.

Orange and a Half cafe (7/13): New place! Cafe with coffee, shakes, desserts, and sandwiches. Located in Tejgaon, the industrial zone. The cafe is hip looking and located in the Shanta Western building. The owners want a “western” level place. Let’s see if they can reach it. For not, it’s coffee is okay, some of the sandwiches and cakes are okay… let’s see how they do once they have been open for a while. Their goal is to match Gloria Jean’s.

Ideas Manzil (11/13): International guest house with private set menus – Bangladeshi, Indian, Thai, European, and seafood. All the food was fresh. The antique shopping was also fun. Unique location much like a secret garden in Dhaka. You must contact them ahead of time to arrange the menu. Owned by an expat.

Mallika Snacks (8/13): Phoughka. It’s a local place and it’s more a snack place. Best phoughka in the Gulshan area. Very local place.

KFChicken (9/13) on Road 13: Batter fried chicken. The best fried chicken in Dhaka.

Sakura Golden Rice (5/13) near road 118: Chinese/Japanese/Bangladeshi. Reopened and still mediocre watered down food.

Istanbul (12/13): Turkish. Road 118. You can’t even tell you’re in Dhaka. It’s a massive multi-world restaurant with wood fire oven, Las Vegas painted sky ceiling, and a two level castle for children. They have a creamery on location and sell fresh cheese and bread. Soon will have a level with hookah/nargile/water pipe.

Topkapi (6/13): Buffet. Mostly Bangladeshi and Thai food. The papaya salad was not bad and it was spicy!

Emerald Thai (8/13): Thai. Located in Uttara near the flagship Arong store but very hard to find… interior decor is elegant but the food is not Thai spicy. Made for the Bangladeshi palate.

New Cathay (10/13): Chinese. This new location in Banani, on Road 11, is modern looking but the food and the waiters are as good as they have been for 25 years.

Gloria Jean’s (7/13): Cafe with food. Nice enough atmosphere inside and a place to hang out and grab a light bite to eat. Wi-fi and perky staff seem to be some of the reasons there’s hype about this place. I’m not really into it but then I don’t need a cafe to work from.

Nagasaki (7/13): Japanese. This place is like stepping back in time 50 years… there are holes under the tables so that you sit Japanese style but don’t have to sit on the floor if you are out of practice. Soggy rice. Not fresh sashimi. Located out in Uttara.

Just Juice (4/13): Juice and sandwiches. Has a few seats out in front and is otherwise a very small shop.

Attin (9/13): Arabic. Located on Road 27 in Gulshan, this is a hipster sort of place with a rustic loft feel. The middle eastern appetizers are not bad and the waiters are talkative.

Cuppa Coffee Cafe (7/13): Continental/Bangla-Asian. Located with a great view of Gulshan II circle, the people watching is the best thing about this place. Usual hit or miss with dishes covered in mystery white “special sauce” or red ketchup chili.

Baristo (8/13) – Road 6, Banani: Cafe/Italian/Smokers Lounge/Lounge. Opened in February 2013. Have the coffee while sitting in a car… this is a large place suited for large groups. Will soon have hookah/nargile/water pipe.

American Burger (7/13) – Road 11, Banani: Burgers and fries. Okay fries. Burger was okay. Small, take out sort of place with three tables.

Rush Tex Mex (7/13) – Road 6, Banani: Burgers and fries. The advertised Mexican dishes were mysteriously not available… small place with two booths. Fries were okay.

Spicy Restaurant (4/13) on Kemal Attaturk: Opened March 15, 2013. Usual burgers, kababs, banglese (bangla/chinese) stuff. Also has Wifi, I think. Has four booths (or half of the table is booth and the other side is chairs) and a table for six.

Atrium (7/13): Chinesey Bangla food. Some Indian. The lunch buffet for under 600 taka is okay. The exterior Japanesey garden and tables could be nice if it weren’t right on one of the busiest roads in the area.

Quesadilla (5/13); The quesadilla was actually okay. Not greasy and edible. The “Mexican pizza” was like a basic frozen pizza with some charred crumbled beefish added plus a few loops of green pepper. The nachos were a plate of fried wonton skins covered in brown beans, cheese, and decorated with swirls of “mexican” sauce — a slightly sweet pink sauce. The garlic bread with melted cheese was so tasteless as to be useless.

Istanbul restaurant bakes their own bread including this round bread called a simit.
Istanbul restaurant bakes their own bread including this round bread called a simit.

I’m encouraged by the emergence of new places. I’ll blog another time about the best places where I go more than once. Go out and explore!

Turkish Bazaar in Dhaka

You never know what will happen at the bazaar.

Unexpected hand exfoliation and massage.

Sometimes something will happen and it will be hilariously unexpected. When I had finished my meal and Turkish coffee at the new Turkish Bazaar restaurant and shop, I did not expect the owner to say, “give me your hand” and then pour my warm coffee grounds on my palms before proceeding to massage and exfoliate my hands. Made me laugh out loud.

The front of the restaurant.

Dhaka becomes more cosmopolitan day by day. In June 2012, Turkish Bazaar opened up in Banani, on Road 10. They serve healthy food and it’s probably the best Turkish food in Dhaka. I will be back for the food but also for another Turkish coffee.

Spicy sweet red pepper salad.

A Turkish Village Breakfast

Pastry filled with spinach.

Near the famous Galeta Tower in Istanbul, you can go down a winding side street and find a village style breakfast feast. Sadly, I only have one photo of the food from that meal of fresh eggs fried with spices and unctious olive oil, fresh cheese, doughy breads, colorful chunky fruit compotes, sausages galore, honey, and so many other dishes that my food coma prevented me from recalling the dreams that I ate.

The backside of the cafe hides the quaintness inside.

Istanbul On My Mind

Still remembering the food, cafes, and views of Istanbul. How I long for the chewy sesame delight that is simit…

Simit is a bagel like bread… and yes, that is honey on the clotted cream…
Golden, crunchy, healthy, and one of 20 breakfast dishes…

Some day, I’ll be back in the city of Istanbulli hearts.

Down at the harbor, get a famous stuffed potato the size of your head!
Atmospheric anyone?
View from the Galeta tower.

Veggies to live for!