Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Roving Gourmand: Khas Food House: It's Not What You Think

By Chanda Shahani

They say that former University of the Philippines (U.P.) President Francisco “Dodong” Nemenzo liked to come here when he was U.P. President. Maybe its because Kha's Food House is the kind of Middle Eastern restaurant that would appeal to many avowed Marxists: its facade is low key, unpretentious, concealing more than it reveals. You would hardly know it was there, sort of like a cadre blending into the Philippine countryside. This small restaurant has an al fresco-style tent-like structure hanging over several tables and chairs. Located at the U.P. Arcade, and right beside the University Swimming Pool; it's one of U.P. Diliman's undiscovered secrets that mostly U.P. students and foreign students from the nearby International Center know about and patronize on a regular basis.

I've known about this place ever since 1999-2001, when I was enrolled at U.P. Diliman's MBA programme (although I actually finished at AIM with a master's in entrepreneurship - but that's a long story which I might post one day here). My MBA classmates and I would troop over to this place right after morning classes, and we were never disappointed.

One of our favourite dishes, which I ordered again on March 3, for lunch and for old time's sake; after attending a press briefing held at the College of Social Work and Community Development on the ongoing U.P. crisis (Please see Diliman Diary, March 3, 2010) was their famous “It's Not What You Think,” which also included one cup of rice (PhP 85.00). This dish is a notorious concoction invented by the rsetaurant's founder, Mr. Tony Raza, a former U.P. graduate student who is from Pakistan, and who used to live in International Center.

The menu describes “It's Not What You Think” as “Raza's Courtesy, Surprise!!!” “It can never be the same, indeed that's not want you think.” Translation: if you like to play a kind of Russian roullete with your food, then try “It's Not What You Think.” For depending on the availability of meat for that particular day, its key ingredients could either be beef, chicken or ox brain – yup you got it right – ox brain. And the entire very friendly staff and smiling cook are under instructions not to tell you – what the ingredients are. This is a dish that's only for risk takers!

My “It's Not What You Think,” promptly delivered to my table with an accompanying banana shake (PhP 60.00) did not disappoint (see picture). Like U.P. politics, it was a deliciously complicated mixture. The dish was flavourful and spicy, without being overhwelming. The dish was characterized by the softness of the stewed potatoes, carrots,and chick peas which were liberally ladled with thick yellow curry sauce and a sprinkling of lemon grass. Shreds of chicken and ox brain – yup – ox brain – were mingled in the small bowl and were a real tummy filler. The rice was slightly moist, and a real accompaniment to the “It's Not What You Think.”

I fell hard for the banana shake, which helped remove the spicy taste from my taste buds. It was thick and cool with a banana and vanilla flavoured mixture. With the sun beating down outside at a mercurial 36 degrees Celcius, the suspended ice crystals in the shake helped add a cooling sensation. I could almost imagine I was in some desert oasis in the middle of the U.P. Diliman campus.

Most food served at Khas Food House earns high points. There are a couple blemishes, such as maybe paying a little bit of attention to more aesthetics, but nothing that calls for harsh judgment. Especially recommended for their Appetizers are their Vegetable Samosa, which is a triangular shaped savoury filled with vegetables (PhP 85.00) and their Gurka Kebab (PhP 80.00) which is finely minced chicken with green pepper and onions. For the main course I strongly recommend the Beef, Chicken or Vegetable Biryani which is a complete meal with very generous servings of Biryani style beef, chicken or vegetable which is cooked with spices in sauce, and accompanied by long, aromatic Indian Basmati rice. On your next lunch break or between-class breather, forego the usual take-out food and troop over to Khas for a slice of the Middle East in U.P. Diliman.

Khas Food House
U.P. Arcade
Laurel Avenue corner Apacible Street
Beside the University Swimming Pool and
in front of the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice
U.P. Diliman, Quezon City
Contact: Mr. Tony Reza
Telephone: 494-6703 or (0918) 916-0488

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