Home to one of Dubai’s top-rated Biryanis, Pak Liyari is found in the unassuming neighborhood of Meena Bazaar in Bur Dubai. Although not much of a hidden gem to those familiar with Old Dubai, it is still a fascinating find for newer residents who seldom make it north of Downtown Dubai. (Of course, one could argue that Meena Bazaar and other old areas are downtown Dubai, but that’s a separate topic altogether.)
I’ve had their Biryani ordered at home a couple times in the last few years, but this was my first time accomplishing the seemingly impossible task of finding parking in Meena Bazaar, walking through narrow alleyways, and dining at the unpretentious Pak Liyari. Now here is a hole-in-the-wall that relies solely on great taste for business. Let me warn you though, this restaurant isn’t for the faint-hearted: everything on the table except for the salad and the roti was very spicy.
On entering, this restaurant reminded me of a busy Karachi eatery with the sound of rattling utensils and orders being yelled into the kitchen. We made our way up the steep stairs to the tables upstairs. To my surprise, the restaurant wasn’t as busy for dine-in at what I would call standard dinner time, but filled up gradually by 10 pm.
We ordered mainly from the barbecue section: chicken tikka, mutton boti, seekh kabab, mutton chops and a chicken biryani. The biryani was a much larger portion than we expected – easily good for 2 (or possibly 3) people. As usual, it was delicious – flavorful, spicy and with potato. Let’s be honest – it’s really hard to find great tasting biryani anywhere outside your (or someone else’s) mom’s kitchen. Pak Lyari’s biryani is reminiscent of that usually found at Karachi weddings, but less of a health hazard, if you know what I mean. We were served a modest plate of salad and some raita along with the mains. I thought the raita should’ve been slightly milder – I like my raita to balance out the spice levels, not add to it. I loved their tandoori roti – so crisp, fresh and hot. Their seekh kabab was flavorful and similar in taste to the Northwestern specialty Chapli kabab, but significantly spicier. I could only do a couple bites of the mutton boti, which although tender and tasty, was just too spicy and I just couldn’t go on.
Overall, Pak Lyari caters to the brave-hearted – it’s not a place for clean freaks or mild spice lovers. The service was mediocre – not any better or worse than that you’d expect from a far-from-glamorous place. Don’t miss out on one of the tastiest restaurant versions of Biryani, a classic in every Pakistani household. For everything else, be prepared to take your spice game up a notch.