Monday, May 9, 2016

Review: Cilantro

A Rather International Menu

Inside Cilantro Dhanmondi

Cilantro has been on my Wishlist for the longest time. When they first opened, friends started posting photos of a uniquely decorated restaurant serving beautifully plated "Western" food. I was intrigued - mostly by how nice the dishes looked to be perfectly honest, while remaining hopeful that they also tasted good. Foreign food is still quite hit-and-miss in Dhaka, whether we're talking about a casual eatery or a high-end hotel restaurant. My friend's nudged my expectations downwards though, as apparently the venue was more about the look rather than the food. And while they were right, what I ate at Cilantro was nothing to scoff at, and I am glad I visited.

The Spaniard: marinated fish, battered prawn, cucumber salad
and seafood paella

The interior is an eclectic affair of exposed brick, glass bottles and a central skylight in an otherwise dimly lit space. Seating is varied between normal tables and a few lower tables, where you can take off your shoes and sit cross-legged. The restaurant's Facebook page claims it is a Latin American and Mediterranean affair, but the menu when we visited was far more international. It was also long and confusingly divided up, but I assumed that tapas were snacks or starters, and anything else was a main. They also had a specials board, and we skimmed over that before ordering two mains and two drinks. As with any restaurant attempting to cover too many bases, their dishes turned out to be inspired by their regions of origin rather than authentic offerings. This was fine with me, as everything we were served still tasted good. 

Open beef enchilada

My friend ordered the Spaniard from their specials, which was a plate of battered prawns, marinated fish, cucumber salad and paella. I'v never had anything of the sort in Spain, and there was definitely no paella on the plate. However, there was a rather nice seafood and rice concoction, and both the prawns and fish were deliciously spiced. The portion was a bit small, and their slice of fish especially should have been bigger. My order of beef enchilada, served open in layers on my plate, was more reasonably portioned. It came with generous amounts of meat and cheese. The inclusion of so much cheese was the biggest surprise - restaurants in Bangladesh are usually very stingy with this ingredient! 

Raw tamarind on the left, pink lemonade on the right

We washed our food down with a couple of mocktails - a raw tamarind drink for me and a pink lemonade for my friend. Both were nice, though I'd say my tamarind drink won out, probably due to the fresh, local ingredients. Both were very expensive though, and with drinks priced up to TK 200, this where Cilantro overcharges the most. Elsewhere prices are a bit better, with tapas from TK 200 to TK 600, and mains from TK 400 to over TK 1000 for steaks. We paid around TK 1500 for two mains and two drinks, and this felt like quite a lot for the amount of food we had. Had I not had plans to meet others for coffee later, I would have ordered more. I can easily see myself paying TK 1000 per head here for a full meal, even without opting for the expensive items on the menu. Service was a bit too chilled-out (read: slow) at the start, though staff were friendly and food did arrive quite quickly once ordered. This is definitely a place I'd go back to if in Dhaka, but it won't stop from looking for greener pastures elsewhere. 

Food: 7/10
Service: 6.5/10
Atmosphere: 8/10
Value: 7/10

Final Score: 7/10

Contact Information
A: 49 Satmasjid Road, Dhaka 1209, Bangladesh
T: +880 1766 449912

NB. The final score, while influenced by the sub-scores, is a qualitative reflection of my overall impression of the establishment.

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