The corner: Samar Husain

The delightful owner of Kublai’s Kitchen gives us a tour of her brand new restaurant

Maha Rizvi April 23, 2017

The delightful owner of Kublai’s Kitchen gives us a tour of her brand new restaurant. Join us as we discover Islamabad’s hottest new eatery!

As soon as we enter Kublai’s Kitchen, Islamabad’s trendiest new spot, we instantly feel refreshed by the tranquil lighting, the earthy décor and the pristine area. Though it is located in the centre of the city, the soothing ambience of the restaurant makes this spot feel like an oasis — away from the hustle and bustle. Lanterns in shades of green, orange and yellow are clustered on the ceiling. Lightwood chairs and tables with emerald green jute accents fill the space, while brick pillars add warmth to the space. We spot silmarillion-green French doors, which furthermore adds vivaciousness to the area.

The glass doors on the front entrance feature enormous chopsticks and a Mongol shield. Quirky details such as this, makes us think of the restaurant’s innovative owner, who welcomes us and ushers us in, showing us around her favourite new corner — a space which is a first for Pakistan in terms of concept and design.

Intrigued by the creativity and design of the area, we jump right into our questions, eager to find out more about the execution of this corner! “My partners and I had a very clear idea of what we wanted, and asked the very professional team at M&K Construction to take the lead. Muzafar and Arsalan were our designers and we were all instantly on the same page. Our food at Kublai’s Kitchen is natural, organic yet simple and we wanted to reflect that in the design. You can see a lot of bamboo, natural rope, jute and lots of green — these elements reflect our ideology very well,” she claims.

We notice the cash counter made completely out of bamboo and are taken by the authentic Mongolian details translated in a contemporary way at the restaurant. Even the crockery at Kublai’s Kitchen is made of clay and adds to the natural theme at the eatery.

We then glance over to see the interactive kitchen space that takes up a significant portion of the cosy restaurant. “Having a visually open kitchen was something we were determined to do, despite the many challenges. Our kitchen is 100 per cent open; notice how you can see through the window, all the way till the back? Customers can see their food being prepared, and enjoy the flames and flying veggies over the wok. As a brand, we aim to be transparent about our food quality, preparation methods and hygiene, and the open design facilitates this. Our main philosophy is that you, the customer, have complete control of the kitchen,” states Husain.

Speaking of her most favourite design element, Husain directs our attention to the large comic wall in the outside seating area of the restaurant. “Our graphic designer is Numair Abbas of Numairical Studios, who is also a dear friend. He has designed all our graphic elements, including our mascot, menu and this comic story wall. We wanted to illustrate the story of Mongolian cuisine and how Kublai’s Kitchen came to be, and in keeping with the fun, casual vibe we have here, we decided to do that in comic form. The comic tells the story of Mongol camps, where the warriors would slice up their hunt of the day and cook the meat over open flames on their upturned shields. This goes into the story of our inspiration to start the restaurant,” she narrates.

We take a walk outside to get a closer look at the outdoor seating area. As we glance at the beautiful reflection of the vibrant lanterns on the large glass windows, our hostess talks to us about the challenges she faced in setting up this area. “We knew we had to develop the outdoor seating but we didn’t budget for it and we had an entire wall of AC’s that we had to hide. Initially we wanted a tall bamboo wall to hide this eyesore but that was quite expensive, so as a quick and easy alternative, I called my florist across the street and asked him to cover it with a wall of fresh greens. We did this as a low cost, temporary solution, intending to eventually replace this with the bamboo wall. But our customers have been enjoying this impromptu garden look so much that we have decided to keep it permanently,” she recalls laughingly.

In closing, we ask our gracious host what inspired her to open Kublai’s Kitchen, to which she answers: “I have always loved the whole experience of food and started to cook in college. I never thought I would turn this hobby into a business, but my partners gave me that confidence and it just worked out perfectly. Having the right team to work with makes all the difference,” she smiles.

We walk out of Kublai’s Kitchen feeling enriched, by the invigorating ambience of the restaurant and the charming spirit of our host.


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