A chef's table is commonly known as a dining area near or inside the kitchen, where diners view the chef in action.
Such an experience is usually reserved for special guests, and sometimes you may also get the chance to have conversations with the mastermind behind the table.
When United Group launched the country's most diverse food court in 2018, this was the theme behind it - where you can see how food is handled with love and care.
"Chef's Table started as a social commitment of the United Group aiming to address the gap of international standard food places with proper ambience, quality, and hygiene. We remain committed to that goal and experiment with new ideas to enhance the experience of our guests," said Murtoza Zaman, the Chief Executive Officer of Unimart Limited.
When you walk up the steps and enter the food court, you will be met with the aroma of food and the sight of cooks at work in each stall behind glass windows.
Behind the see-through partition, chefs slice away at produce over gleaming metal tabletops, with boxes of ingredients laid out in an orderly manner. Despite working in a kitchen, there is no sign of the heat of the pressure visible in the kitchens.
It is relatively rare to see what goes on behind the 'staff only' doors, where the cooks do their magic, especially in local restaurants where even high-end eateries can let you down with their hygiene standards. Chef's Table takes a step against the grain and unveils what goes on in the kitchen, as proof of their commitment towards high standards and hygiene.
"Customers should know what food is being prepared and how it is being prepared; that is why there is a glass partition. The customer can see everything in front of them," said Subhabrata Maitra, the Executive Chef of Chef's Table.
To ensure a truly authentic and diverse experience for visitors, Chef's Table goes through a rigorous process of onboarding food brands to the food court. Besides, the food served at the venue has to pass a quality audit.
"First, we check if the cuisine being offered by the restaurant is already available at Chef's Table. If it is a new cuisine, we bring it under review. We look into the menu and research how popular the items are in their own country and their availability in Bangladesh as well.
We also look into the food brand itself, which is a crucial part of the process. We have a professional executive chef who helps review the authenticity of the menu. Since our chef has global experience and a good understanding of worldwide cuisines, he verifies and rechecks the food," said HUM Mehedi Sajjad, the Head of Brand and Communication of Unimart Limited.
Bring the world to your plate
Chef's Table intentionally limits the number of restaurants available for each cuisine to ensure that there is a balance of cuisines, and to create a place that truly reflects diversity in food.
Asia is home to some of the world's richest and most delicious cuisines. Inside Chef's Table, you can take your taste buds on a tour from Lebanon to Sri Lanka, all the way to Japan.
However, in their endeavour to create a space with global cuisines, Chef's Table did not leave out Bangladesh from its flavour map.
Situated in a corner of the Gulshan branch sits the stall for Utshob, a traditional Bangladeshi restaurant. They take Bangladeshi cuisine up a notch by selling specialities of different districts, such as Chatgaiyan Mezbani Beef and Dinajpur's Khuder Bhaat.
When I tried Utshob for the first time at Chef's Table, it was raining on and off throughout the entire day. Such weather paired perfectly with the warm spices of their Achari Chicken Khichuri Bhoj Combo. The platter consisted of achari chicken khichuri, fried eggplant, fried egg, laban, salad, and chui pitha.
While browsing the endless selection of food from one stall to another, I met the humble and welcoming team of Arax, a Lebanese restaurant.
With their help, I discovered their Lebanese Chicken Over Rice, which consisted of a piece of chicken garnished with herbs, rice, french fries, and a colourful salad, topped with flatbread.
During my interaction with their chef, Siddique Ahmed, I learned much about his years of experience working with Middle Eastern cuisine and how his whole family was involved in the food industry in one way or the other.
While the tangy marinade of the chicken was what made the platter stand out, my brief conversation with their team made it memorable.
When asked about his experience working in an open kitchen, Ahmed commented, "In normal restaurants, you usually just see waiters, staff, and the menu. Since this is an open kitchen, we can build relationships with the customers and thus, serve them better."
Authentic Mexican food options in Dhaka are sparse, though available. It is one of the cuisines that are easy to find shortcuts around using local food, heavily altering its taste.
My first experience with authentic Mexican food in Bangladesh was at Dos Locos Mexican Grill. One of their best dishes is their Enchiladas, which are served with rice and a side of refried beans and salsa. The enchilada itself has an amazing balance of acidity and heat that keeps you coming back for more.
On the other hand, if you are health conscious or have dietary restrictions, Chef's Table has its salad bar Greens and Seeds, just for you.
You do not have to resort to any restaurant's default salads, which might be high in sugar and carbs despite their name. At Greens and Seeds, you can build your salad bowl with fresh and vibrant vegetables, noodles, choices of protein, and more.
Convenience is key
The larger the group, the longer the disagreements over where to eat. One person wants Indian, the other wants the Mediterranean, while the quiet person in the group sacrifices their desire to ensure the hangout happens.
"Chef's Table is always an easy place to meet up with people. Their branches are in convenient locations and there are more than enough cuisine options for everyone," commented a customer.
Chef's Table, no matter the branch, is always situated in a huge space, accommodating endless options of restaurants. The Gulshan and Dhanmondi branches are spread over 248 sq. ft. and Chef's Table Courtside has a size of 160 sq. ft and 320 sq. ft. So, however diverse the taste buds are, there is something for everyone in the group.
Alternatively, if you are trying to squeeze in a fulfilling meal with colleagues during break time, Chef's Table is a great place to go. At the corner of each table, you will find a QR code that leads you to the quickest-prepared meals in the food court.
More than just food
Chef's Table serves you more than just food. They have curated each of their branches to accommodate family bonding. Parents in particular are always in the search of things for their children to do.
Whether it is to keep children preoccupied for a few minutes or just to find fun activities for them, Chef's Table has created Play Town for kids.
The area has everything from arcade games and slides, to virtual reality. You will also find a mini merry-go-round and claw machines; it truly is no less than a day at a carnival. In their Dhanmondi branch, in particular, the food court dedicated a huge space just for Play Town.
If you want to hang out with your friends, do not fret. Chef's Table brings you cool experiences to try out. Compete against your group in a match of laser tag at Laserwars in the same food court. Using their oculus headset, you can also get competitive in solo games at the VR booth.
For those interested in getting crafty, Chef's Table has Claystation at both their Gulshan and Courtside branches, where you can make clay figures.
All in all, Chef's Table is diverse not just food-wise, but in terms of the experience as well. The next time you are planning an outing, you can visit their Gulshan or Dhanmondi branch, or for the outdoor experience, go for Chef's Table Courtside.
Chef's Table Gulshan
Location: Gulshan 2
Chef's Table Dhanmondi
Location: Dhanmondi 8/A
Chef's Table Courtside
United City, Madani Avenue
Chef's Table is also planning new branches for the near future such as one in Sylhet, along with a Unimart outlet and another branch at Centre Point at Airport Road. Furthermore, you can also look forward to their upcoming Gulshan 1 branch that plans to bring a whole new experience to the Chef's Table brand.