When you’re a frequent flyer on food groups you tend to keep a tap on the restaurant pulse of your city, and if 3 to 5 people in Islamabad are raving about a place then that’s a huge number (pun intended, Islamabadis!). On a date night with my husband Shahab, we chose to try the food at the much-talked-about Social Cafe in Sector F-10.
Inviting messages welcome you as you make your way up the small space to the first floor of the building where Social Cafe is located. We first sat inside the cozy cafe but for the love of fresh air eventually decided to find a spot on their rooftop! Social has a great rooftop, and it was no surprise to find it jam packed! Yes, jam packed on a weekday.
We tried to be a bit tricky with our menu selection so we could really taste the true flavor and test the chefs. We ordered Tomato Soup, Vegetable Clear Soup and moved to appetizers. Here, the one that really struck us was the Spinach and Salmon Roll! I then went ahead and ordered the Bang Bang Chicken and Shrimps with Mango Salsa, while Shahab decided to try the Korean Beef Bowl.
The tomato soup was spot on, matching it’s description perfectly. A lot of restaurants say they have fancy roasted tomato soups, but that’s rarely ever the case. It was here, though! Shahab loved his vegetable soup, which was light, fragrant and with chunky vegetables.
Next up, we were served the spinach and salmon roll. We were blown away by the tenderness of fish and the contrasting crispy coating, served in a tangy and fiery Thai sauce. This is one of the best appetizers served in Islamabad! Different, yet flavorful. We were super impressed with the delicacy of the dish and we had to know the guy behind the show!
We asked Yasir Nazir to join us and tell us about his story as a food entrepreneur. Yasir started his culinary journey with a bakery called ‘Toasted’, situated out of a petrol pump convenience store in Islamabad. They certainly make one of the best croissants in the capital. Starting a cafe was a huge jump for him, and he we think he has done justice to his idea.
The main courses were served and the chat around our love for food continued. We talked about what we do, why we do it, and had a great meal; nothing like true foodies having a conversation!
My chicken and shrimp was served with mango salsa and black beans. Yasir warned me about the spice level, but I wasn’t worried because that’s exactly what I wanted to eat! The high spice level was balanced out well with the black beans and mango salsa. Though thinking about the dish later, I wonder if an experiment with grilled shrimps was in order, as that would truly balance out the spice level.
Shahab’s Korean beef bowl was perfectly served, and he was one happy guy by the end and plans on coming again soon! What we loved about the dishes was that they didn’t have a single flat flavor in them. Most times you get bored eating a dish by the end, but these had a depth to flavor and were a treat for the palate!
As the stories of travel and food continued, we talked about our inspirations and how food entrepreneurship really is a hard job and takes a toll on your work-life balance. We also talked about steaks and how Yasir especially brought a sous vide machine to ensure the perfect temperature of the steaks served at Social Cafe. We had a good laugh on the dilemma of sizzler dishes in Pakistan, and how it ruins the temperature of the steaks.
As the dinner ended, I told Yasir we wanted to taste the macarons his restaurant has been experimenting making. The team here was still experimenting with the perfect recipe, and the chef has been at it for over a month to get the perfect crunch on top. Having recently tasted the macarons from Laudree in Paris, we were amazed by this creation and wanted to find something closer. We were very disappointed to taste the macarons at Mocca coffee, which were just sugary and flavorless! However, the trial macarons at Social Cafe were on point! We tried coffee, chocolate and vanilla. We loved them from the first bite and it was a great ending to a super meal.
In our part of the world, they say food cooked by the hands of mothers and grandmothers is perfect. Well, I realized that one reason for this is that they have mastered their recipes with years of practice. I always tell myself that if you have to master a recipe, try it over and over until it is perfect!
This same spirit was seen in Yasir, and we felt you could taste it in the food that is served at Social. He has repeatedly tested, tasted, and perfected each recipe. His passion for food has made for a great addition to Islamabad’s eatery scene! This is the only way to success and his passion for perfection will take him far as a food entrepreneur!