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iso great food in Dhaka, Bangladesh

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Am writing for a friend who's in Bangladesh doing a documentary. Anyone have any recs for good/interesting/flavorful options? He's an amazing amateur chef, and I feel badly that he's eating mediocre food in the school cafeteria near where he's filming...
Thanks in advance,

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  1. The two best independent restaurants I've eaten in Dhaka (and a fave amongst the locals there) are:

    1. Kasturi, 8 Purana Paltan, Bijoynagar, Dhaka. Tel: 9569942, 9564396

    2. Dhansiri. Plot 32/A, Road 45, Gulshan 2, Dhaka. Tel: 9882125, 8825050

    It's been a couple of years since I've been there - so your friend should call ahead & check. Both restaurants offered very good Bengali curries & seafood. Mildly-spiced & fried fish like rui (carp), rup chanda (pomfret) & ilish (hilsa/herring) are also very good!

    Most of the good restaurants in Dhaka are concentrated in the diplomatic/expat enclave at Gulshan/Banani.

    1. Bukhara Restaurant
      18th Floor,
      Iqbal Center,
      Kemal Ataturk Avenue, Banani.

      This is my favorite restaurant in Dhaka; it's got great Indian food and a beautiful location. The two the other poster listed are good as well. It is not hard to get decent Bengali food here, the
      issue is really that aside from that, the rest of the food is mediocre at best. His other option is befriending locals (or expats with good cooks) and getting invited home for dinner. The best meals I have had here have all been eaten in private homes.

      Most expats spend a lot of time eating at the private clubs, partially because they are the only places that can serve liquor, and the food is decent, although not great.

      1. Missed this thread entirely until I saw today's activity, hopefully recommendations are still of some use to your friend... Kasturi and Bukhara are both solid recommendations, (haven't tried Dhansiri), and, sadly Lulubelle is spot on about food quality for most of the other restaurants here.

        I just wanted to add a mention for Samdado, (House 27, Road 35, Gulshan 2), which does a generally decent job of its Japanese/Korean menu. It wouldn't make my list back home where I'm spoiled for really good Japanese, (I miss you Vancouver), but is a pleasant break from the other options in this city and has the added benefit of being one of the few places outside of the expat clubs and luxury hotels where you can enjoy a drink with dinner.

        And thinking of luxury hotels, the Westin opened on Gulshan Ave. last summer and has a small cafe in the lobby that sells good bread (at high prices), also a nice treat if your friend is getting tired of the sugar-laden white loaves that abound here.

        2 Replies
        1. re: J_Queck

          The Westin and the Radisson both do poolside BBQs that are pretty good. The bakery at the Radisson is pretty good as well,

          Samdado was exactly the restaurant I was thinking about when i said the food was mediocre at best. While a few items are pretty good, the noodles for example, most of the food is below the level of grocery store sushi in the States. The OP asked for "great" food, which is just about impossible in Dhaka. You can tell when people have been here too long, because they begin to refer to really bad restaurants (Spaghetti Jazz) as being "great". Samdado is far above Spaghetti jazz, but it would certainly never stay in business in a city where it weren't the only option.

          1. re: J_Queck

            Have you tried Jharna Grill at Pan Pacific Sonargaon? I had a grilled fish there which was very good - Ichimoti Pangash. Yep, it made such an impression on me, I still remembered the name of the dish!

          2. Thought of one more place...

            There is an Australian expat named Barry Ison who runs a guest house in Dhaka. It's located at Road 79, House 19 in Gulshan, and the food is amazing. He also has a small showroom of textiles, jewelry, baskets etc that he imports from Nepal, Thailand, etc. It's open for lunch every day, and you can make special arrangements for dinner. Barry is a total original and knows everything about Bangladesh and Dhaka. I HIGHLY recommend an afternoon or evening at his place.

            6 Replies
            1. re: lulubelle

              Thanks for this tip on the guest house, I wasn't familiar with it but I'll definitely check it out over the next few days.

              Regarding your other post above, I'm definitely becoming guilty of equating 'less bad than the other options' with 'great', or even 'good'...As noted, it wouldn't make my list back home, and you're right, would have a hard time staying in business.

              Anyways, thanks again for the tip.

              1. re: lulubelle

                greetings ,
                enjoying your ideas on good food joints. other great places are 1.Sajna ( north indian meals) at Raod 11, Banani, 2. Casablanca on Gulshan Avenue ( between i & II), 3. Casa Greek & 4. Bamboo Shoot on Gulshan Avenue above Agora and many more. But for more details call me on +8801912000210 JK

                1. re: lulubelle

                  hey!! have just moved to dhaka and am looking for some places to visit, can you give me some information about this guesthouse, does it still exist, i see thepost is quite old.. thanks

                  1. re: lulubelle

                    Hi there, noticed your post on Barry Ison. I lived in Banani like 15 years ago with my family in my early teens. We knew a Barry Ison, Aussie, who lived in Gulshan and when I saw this I wondered if it was him. He was doing crafts even back then, so think it has to be him. I would love to come back to Bangladesh with my family and work. It is tough to get work? I think Barry originally went to Bangladesh as a Baptist Missionary or his parents were or something like that. Any info on anything going over there would be great.

                    1. re: Elissao

                      It is indeed the same Barry Ison. I think he just opened a second guest house and restaurant, but I am not exactly sure where it is located. He had long been a proponent of local crafts and culture, and has done a lot of work to promote them and the local people.

                      As for getting work here, it really depends on what you do and who you work for. Everyone I know who is an expat works for some sort of Western organization.

                  2. Nice to have this advice... I am moving to Dhaka for two years this July and was about to write in asking about food there, but someone beat me to it! The guesthouse sounds right up my alley...

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: katie570

                      Be sure to join whichever club you are connected to. The clubs have reciprocal arrangements, so that an American Club member can eat at the BHC or Aussie vlub as well as the ARA. (American Recreational Association)

                      Also, if you are connected to the embassy and can join the Comm, you should do so. It's the only place to get a lot of convenience products, and American foods. As good as my cook is, there are times when I really just want a can of chicken noodle soup and a bagel with cream cheese.

                      Just curious, why are you moving to Dhaka?

                      1. re: lulubelle

                        I'm going to be with the embassy. You? Thanks for the tips!

                        1. re: katie570

                          Ah, pretty much you're Embassy, NGO or a teacher if you're in Dhaka. I'm a teacher.

                          There are all kinds of interesting things to do here, and depending on what you're into, I'm sure I'll see you around.

                    2. Original Bangladeshi food is an interesting mix of local flavors (rice, daal, river fish and veggies, eaten daily by locals ) and the meat-heavy muslim influence (biriyani, haleem and kababs). Of course you have your usual array of chinese and thai which have been around for a long time.

                      For fiery street side style kababs, ask your friend to try 'Star Kabab.' They have various locations, including the original one in old Dhaka. The ones in Dhanmondi (on Rd. 2 and also on Sat Masjid Road, opposite Abahoni field) would be easy to access. Their chicken jhal fry, chicken tikka are awesome. When I took my american friends home, they would take a rickshaw and go to star kabab every day, without speaking a word in bangla. i get homesick (have been living abroad for many years now) whenever I think of star kabab...:(

                      For good indian, Sajna (already mentioned) and Santoor (on Mirpur Road, intersection of Dhanmondi old Rd. 32) are good. I understand there are many other options available, especially, lined up along kamal ataturk ave.

                      Streetside delicacies like chotpoti and phuchka also should not be missed. I would not recommend having them just from anywhere though, as it would lead to immediate diarrhoea. However, a place called 'Dhaba' (two locations, one on Banani Rd. 4 and another inside Rifles Square mall), has sanitized but still very tasty versions. Whenever I've made chotpoti at home here, my american friends have swooned, but my version is nowhere near the original!

                      For authentic biriyani, Fakhruddin baburchi (means chef in bangla) is the best. Think he has an outlet on Sat Masjid Road. Legendary is also Haji's biriyani, a lighter style biriyani, but available in this alley in old dhaka, and is hard to get to.

                      Sorry I can't provide exact street addresses, but most of these places are very well known to foodie locals, and usually have listings in local guide books.

                      Chow on!

                      1. Now that I have been here a while, it's time to weigh in... a lot has been said on Bangla food. For other kinds, Santoor is a stand-out for Indian. I especially like their prawn malai curry. Sajna isn't bad either. Bamboo Shoot is impressively authentic Chinese--the Chinese Embassy people all hang out there, where they have tabs and sign for their food. I like Le Saigon for Vietnamese (though others have had less positive experiences). Ideas Manzil, the guesthouse/restaurant, is really great--great food, with an atmosphere unique in Dhaka. The hotel restaurants are all competent, if a bit dull. Long-term ex-pats might enjoy the overpriced but tasty sandwiches at Treats at the Westin, but for foodie tourists, they likely don't hold much appeal. Also, I am no Korean food expert, but there are many Korean restaurants serving the Korean ex-pat population that are all pretty tasty--I like Koreana the best, followed by Sura.

                        Restaurants that would not survive outside of Dhaka: Spitfire, Samdado (though I am glad to have it!), Casa Greek (oh my heavens, it's bad).

                        10 Replies
                        1. re: katie570

                          Oh good, I'm glad you found the guest house! He's been having some interesting music nights etc., there recently. He will also cater events in the home if you want to have a party but not cook.

                          I like Ararong (spelling?) for Korean, although Sura is right down the street from my house, so I tend to go there more often.

                          I'm glad to see someone agrees with me about Samdado--have you found Spaghetti Jazz yet? it's also terrible.

                          1. re: lulubelle

                            Oh yes, Spaghetti Jazz is so unacceptably bad. I really can't figure out why people eat there.

                            New find: AMAZINGLY authentic Japanese place in Uttara that just opened called Nagasaki. The sushi, while much better than Samdado, is not stellar, but all the other food was incredible. The fried miso taste eggplant was a standout.

                            1. re: katie570

                              what about Bella Italia, Gulshan 1? It's a small place opposite the Pizza Hut, but clean and had quick enough service for me not to complain. They consistently made decent thin crust pizza and flavourful bolognese sauce. The pasta was real, not noodles. :) I liked the eggplant pizza too. There were salads on the menu as well, which i didn't get to try. I haven't been home in a year, so i hope my post is still relevant and that Bella is still churning out good food.

                              Also props to El Toro for their excellent grilled meat tacos. Lonely Planet gave them a shout out a while ago and I'll add that it's hard to find such decent Mexican food made with fresh ingredients for under $5 anywhere.

                              1. re: TanQ10

                                Bella Italia has great pizza; we ordered it this weekend, but I've never had any of their other food. I'll have to branch out.

                                I went to El Toro once, had a horrible experience involving nachos and have not been back, but I will go and try the grilled meet tacos.

                                Thanks for the tips!

                                1. re: lulubelle

                                  By the way, you guys should try Pyongyang, the North Korean place next to Total Care in Banani. The waitresses are actually North Koreans!! They used to be in Kemal Ataturk ave then shut down for a while

                              2. re: katie570

                                I can't believe I am asking an expat for directions, but do you have the address and telephone number for Nagasaki? I've been hearing a lot about this place. Thanks.

                                1. re: MiranAli

                                  Sorry I'm, like, a year late in responding. But Nagasaki is House 13, Road 6, Sector 1, Uttara. +88 02 8922284. And it is still awesome.

                                  1. re: katie570

                                    hi Katie. Are you still in Dhaka ?

                                    1. re: shumon

                                      I left Dhaka in July. But before I left some new restaurants were opening up at the high end. My favorite was Izumi, which had amazingly good sushi (more amazing if you remember you're in Dhaka). The fish is flown in fresh from Bangkok, they have a Japanese chef, and the non-sushi food was really good too. Highly recommended. In Gulshan-1, the 8 was also aiming high--struck me as having a bit less substance, but the food was decent and the place is very attractive.

                                      Of course, I can get similar food back in the U.S. now--so what I miss is Fakhruddin's kachi biryani!

                            2. re: katie570

                              Sounds like you've got the place down pretty well, Katie. Didn't take you long. I'm American, working on a British project. I have been coming in and out regularly for two years and I've wound up taking most of my meals at the American Club, though I plan to try a reciprocal Tuesday at the German Club soon. I have avoided Spitfire ever since one of our team members became quite ill after eating there. But I have been impressed with Kings Kitchen on Gulshan 2 for Chinese. Check it out sometime. Also had some decent Chinese (off the menu, not the buffet) at Baton Rouge in the Pink City complex. The best bet by far, though, is a few days in Thailand!

                            3. 5 Delicious food in Dhaka you can't miss on your Bangladesh travel

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: rawhasan

                                What an absolutely marvellous list! Thanks!!