It's 3 AM. You're crashing at your best friend's place, catching the late-night football game. Your favourite team comes out on top, and you're on cloud nine. But now, it's time to fill up that grumbling belly.
Instead of the usual delivery place, you and your crew decide to venture out and search for something different. So, where to, you ask?
On a recent night, a friend and I went out to explore the late-night offerings across the city, from Uttara to Old Dhaka. Here, we present four late-night joints to satisfy those inevitable midnight munchies.
During the day, Dhaka is a melting pot of flavours, ranging from the chaotic alleys of Old Dhaka to the upscale neighbourhoods of Gulshan and Banani. However, as the clock strikes midnight, most food establishments close their doors. Even well-known chains like Burger King call it a night at 2 o'clock.
We took a quick drive from the south end of the city to the north, thanks to the elevated expressway, it became easy to move around from one point to the other. Though it's an exciting city that never sleeps, finding a restaurant without a fixed destination can be quite a daunting task.
So, let us guide you through our late-night food adventures in the city.
Bismillah Hotel and Restaurant, Uttara
As we were driving around from one sector to another, we stumbled upon Bismillah, nestled in Sector 13. By the looks of it, we weren't the only midnight food enthusiasts; the place was teeming with people. Cars and bikes lined up at the front of the place and people in loose fits and slippers gathered to curb their late-night hunger pangs.
While the restaurant offers a diverse menu featuring traditional Bangladeshi dishes like various types of bhorta, tehari, and kacchi, it's the Kala Bhuna that draws night owls to their tables. From night guards to police officers and even families with kids, you can see all sorts of people here.
"I often come here with my friends late at night to savour their Kala Bhuna. It's well-cooked and because it's cooked in an earth oven it has a distinct homely flavour," shared Shamim Ahmed during a candid chat over Kala Bhuna and naan.
We also indulged in their renowned "Kala Bhuna" and paired it with "Chaler Ruti" - a comforting meal.
The generous portion of Kala Bhuna was flavourful, albeit a bit chewy for my taste. The spice level was just right for my not-so-spicy palate. And they cook it for hours in low heat that prevents it from drying up or burning.
"We cook around 80 kg of beef every night for Kala Bhuna, and we sell around 50-60 kg only during the nighttime," the chef Mohammad Hashem mentioned as we peeked into his earth oven.
Terra Bistro, Banani
If you're looking for a decadent dining experience while watching a match on TV, Terra Bistro is an upscale 24-hour restaurant of choice. They offer a specific night menu from 11 pm to 6 am, featuring options like the 'Garlic Herb Veggie Sandwich' at Tk400, all the way to the 'T-Bone Steak' at Tk2600. Their most popular nighttime dishes include 'Fish and Chips' and the 'Mixed Grilled Platter'.
Since it was late at night and less crowded, our order, the mixed grilled platter, was swiftly prepared. The platter, presented by a well-trained server, features three main proteins: king prawn, chicken, and beef.
The large and succulent prawn was seasoned and grilled to perfection. The chicken breast pieces were marinated in a flavourful sauce or spice blend and grilled to tender, juicy perfection. The marinated beef slice was grilled to just the right level of doneness.
These proteins were served alongside rice and fresh vegetables, including cauliflower, corn, and yardlong beans, slightly grilled to complement the platter's flavour. A ketchup dipping sauce accompanied the plate.
The platter packs a punch with its diverse array of flavours and textures, which explains its popularity among the restaurant's patrons.
Hotel D Taj, Moghbazar
From Banani, we made our way to the very well-known Hotel D Taj in Moghbazar. This 24-hour traditional restaurant is famous for its Khichuri. We had eaten wisely at previous restaurants so that we could save some room for this Khichuri experience.
Similar to our initial destinations, the Taj was bustling with people from various regions, primarily gathered for a taste of their cherished Khichuri.
I can vividly remember the night Argentina clinched the World Cup; I visited this place with friends for a serving of Khichuri, only to discover it packed to capacity. I can't claim their food presentation or service is extraordinary, but the traditional Khichuri continues to entice visitors. They offer both beef and chicken Khichuri, and we chose the Chicken variant.
Even at 4 in the morning, the Chicken Khichuri was freshly prepared. The fusion of tender chicken pieces and expertly spiced lentils is on point.
The seasonings were perfectly balanced, never overpowering, allowing the inherent qualities of the ingredients to shine. Furthermore, the chicken was impeccably cooked and seamlessly blended with the Khichuri, resulting in a delightful taste experience.
Moreover, the portion size was generous, ensuring that a single diner could leave the restaurant completely satisfied. Given our consistent indulgence and yet another place to explore, we decided to share one plate and pack the other for a takeaway treat.
Hanif Biryani, Nazirabazar
Old Dhaka's Nazirabazar is a safe bet for late-night cravings. Even if you have been there numerous times, you'll keep returning to this perpetually awake place.
As we stepped into Nazirabazar, the late hour didn't seem to matter. This area never loses its vibrancy. From the enticing sizzle of kebabs on skewers to the rising steam from hot "Kacchi" dishes, the alleyways are an open invitation for food enthusiasts. You have a wide range of choices, from chicken kebabs to beef chaps, from lassis to fire paan – you name it. Craving a cup of tea? Even the tongs remain open until all hours.
Our choice for the night was Hanif Biriyani, where one big dekchi of biriyani just came in, carefully carried by two people. While Hanif offers only one item, you can complement your Biriyani with a serving of Borhani, another traditional Old Dhaka drink.
Like most eateries in this area, the seating space is limited, and the considerable number of visitors can make securing a seat a bit of a struggle.
The beef could be cooked a bit more. But I can't complain given the number of people waiting for food. We found the taste of the biryani to be "okay" but the proportion of the serving fell short of the price.
From the bustling streets of Old Dhaka to the modern eateries of Gulshan, the city's nocturnal food scene demonstrates that when it comes to satisfying those midnight cravings, Dhaka consistently delivers. So, as the clock strikes midnight, and your taste buds beckon, embark on a gastronomic journey where the night is young, and the flavours are limitless