Such has been the boom in Dhaka's eateries that no one really expects anything special when a new kid on the block comes along. Many may have rolled their eyes when in January, BBQ opened an outlet in Gulshan. Many may not have known that it is a popular South Korean franchise, and certainly few would have known the scale of ambition of this brand or the excellence of their fare.
But seven months on, BBQ has garnered a pretty sizeable following. Sizeable enough for Star Lifestyle to pay a visit, with taste buds at the ready, to check this apparent heavyweight.
In the current climate, with the rapid mushrooming of eateries mentioned, service is often the difference maker from one restaurant to the next. Dhaka diners will know that as a country we are neither the friendliest nor the most helpful when it comes to service in restaurants. But it must be reported that BBQ is one of the few joints that buck the trend.
And here, BBQ's ambition plays a part. According to training manager Rashedul Alam, who has undergone courses in South Korea in service training and has trained the service staff here to be at their best with customers, BBQ is a brand that plans to challenge fast food giants like McDonald's by the year 2020 by opening 50,000 restaurants worldwide. When there is such a long-term and ambitious vision -- especially as the fare on offer here is a world removed from the fast food excesses of McDonald's – one can expect the service to be of world standard.
And happily, it is. The service staff is always helpful and ready with a smile. We asked two different staff members the ins and outs of the dishes they were selling and they were ready with an answer and, as importantly, a smile. Once the food -- more on that later -- arrives they discreetly check up on the diners, asking them whether everything is to their satisfaction. While there may be a fear that, like others before them, the service will deteriorate once the novelty has worn off, it seems unlikely as they are a worldwide franchise seemingly commited to excellence.
The ambience of BBQ falls somewhere between a fine dining restaurant and a fast food joint. During daytime, the large windows permit enough light to illuminate the interior in a soothing, blue glow.
The music, an aspect of ambience that many restaurants fail to grasp, thankfully matches the chilled out decor of the place. When we visited, Bob Marley's Buffalo Soldiers album was playing in the background. Nothing says chilled out quite like the Rasta legend from Jamaica.
They take their ambience seriously, to the extent that bone plates are replaced by open jars in which you can drop your bones, etc. in order to eliminate the eyesore of half eaten bones lying for all to see on the table.
This really is all that matters and the tone of this review so far has either prepared you for more of the same or has you expecting a twist. If the latter is what you are expecting then get a copy of The Usual Suspects, because what's on the plate is uniformly excellent. The name BBQ suggests a plethora of grilled items and while there is certainly that, there is also much, much more. First and foremost however, mention should be made of the health value of their food. All their grilled items are prepared with refined olive oil which is made especially for BBQ. The rest are prepared using high-quality virgin olive oil. But enough of the boring but essential health information; just know that this is the place to go if you want mouth-watering food without the guilt.
Their menu is extensive, so we focused on a few items that we heard rave reviews about. First, and it could easily have been the last -- the Pane Mushroom Soup. It is nothing short of genius. The creamiest of mushroom soups it is, but what steals the show is that it is served inside a hollowed-out bun. Scraping the sides of the edible bowl and having the thick, delicious soup with shavings of fluffy, cream-soaked bread is just bliss. Forget everything else; this item is a game changer.
Then there is the combination pizza -- with mixed vegetables, beef and beef pepperoni. It may just be the best pizza out there. More than the toppings, the true test of a pizza is in the crust, and a lot of places in Dhaka have been failing in that regard, with crusts becoming too doughy and not retaining that mixture of crispiness and tenderness. BBQ knocks it out of the park in this respect.
The menu has over 50 items taking in such diverse items like fried chicken, grilled chicken, chicken platters, pizzas, pastas, salads, rice and soups. The grilled chicken items –Korean Charbroiled, Jamaican Grill and Original Barbecue with their olive oil goodness are must-trys if you want to sample the essence of BBQ.
Value for money
This is where we run into a bit of a snag. The prices are high-end, and you would expect that because of the high quality of food served here. But this means that for many, like students or young professionals, BBQ will not be a regular haunt. An average meal will cost you around Tk.1000, and that is not counting desserts. But they seem to be coping fine; their regulars consist of the high income group and diplomats in the area, not least South Koreans. It may however be more of an issue when, according to their Dhaka vision, they open up to 20 branches across the city by 2020.
All in all, it is very difficult to find fault with this restaurant, which is somewhat disappointing for a reviewer. But that disappointment has been more than cancelled out by the lingering taste of that mushroom soup and that pizza. We highly recommend you give it a shot.
BBQ is located at 175/A, Gulshan Avenue, Gulshan-2. They plan to open another branch in Dhanmondi by February 2015.
Our rating: 4.5/5