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The Tap East: Set-Menu Fetar at New Cairo's Most Popular New Venue
Ramadan often sees many nightlife spots to go on hiatus; but some venues offer their own rendition of the Ramadan spirit, one of which is the Tap East, which offers sohour on every night as well as fetar during the weekends.
Located in New Cairo's inside Stella di Mare Compound, the Tap East's vibrant and casual atmosphere is intact, with only subtle touches of traditional Ramadan aesthetic, though outdoor area, with its wooden benches, dim lit red parasols and its own dedicated bar, is much more suited to ht Ramadan evenings.
For fetar, the Tap East offers a set menu (220LE per person) with a variety drinks, soups, salads to main dishes and desserts.
We started things off with tamr hendy and sobia which were sweet and immediately quenched our thirst as we broke our fast, before diving into the Creamy Chicken Mushroom soup and Moroccan Harira soups. The creamy chicken mushroom soup was much thicker than one would expect, but was equally as smooth and well-seasoned and made all the better thanks to generous small cubes of chicken.
Essentially a stew, comprised of meat, lentils, chickpeas, carrot cubes and noodles, the Harira had an over powering acidic taste, which overshadowed everything else, while the pieces of meat were overcooked and uncomfortably chewy.
There were no such problems with the fattoush and taboula, though. Topped with pineapple pieces and pomegranate, the taboula boasted a well-rounded, taste with the pineapple giving a sweet kick to the slight sourness of the pomegranate, while the fattoush was fresh, with a pomegranate dip also giving it a kick. All in all, we loved how everything was fresh and colourful.
Moving onto the hot appetisers, the mozzarella-stuffed kobeibah was delicious; with a crunchy outer shell, a soft tender meat inside and a gooey cheese core, it was the highlight of the whole meal. The cheese sambousak was just as satisfying, it too boasting a pleasing crunch and a great balance of flavours with the perfect mix between cheese and pastrami inside which we couldn't get enough of.
Coming in large white plates, the Almond Chicken main came as two pieces of grilled chicken breasts alongside basmati rice and servings of mushroom sauce and sundried tomatoes mixed with cream sauce.
Unfortunately, the chicken was a little bland in flavour and was a little undercooked – it had pinkish hue inside. In addition, there were no almonds or almond-infused elements to speak of, not even in the generic sauce.
Our second main fared better, meanwhile. Coming as three beef cutlets served with basmati rice, the Fillet Trio came with two sauces; mushroom sauce and a mustard and brown sauce mix. Cooked medium well, the three cutlets had a great aroma and were quite tender and juicy.
After finishing our meal, we were ready for our desserts which came in the form of Mango Mehalabeya and Om Ali with dried berries.
Topped with mangos, the mehalabeya was absolutely delicious with a smooth and sweet texture which worked really well with the mangos. With a great baked top and a smooth texture, meanwhile, the Om Ali had a sweet taste only we felt it could've used a little more milk.
On its opening, it was said that the Tap East was putting more of a focus on the dining aspect than its sister venue in Maadi – and it's proved to be true. Unfortunately, with the restaurant-come-bar's fetar foods, it was all a bit hit-and-miss. The appetisers and salads were outstanding, but the main dishes didn't quite satisfy as much, suggesting that, with live entertainment thrown in the mix, sohour is a better option.
When Zamalek institution, La Bodega, closed down at the beginning of 2014, it left a hole in many a heart. While a beachside iteration has since popped up on the North Coast during Sahel Season, its closure has certainly left a gap that not even its replacement, the phenomenal U Bistro, has been able to quite replace in the same way.
But remnants still remain in the form of sister venue, Aperitivo, located on the same floor of the same building. It’s by no means similar in appearance or, one could argue, atmosphere, but La Bodega regulars have adopted it as a replacement and the spirit is very much cut from the same cloth. For those not familiar with Aperitivo, the bar and restaurant maintains a classic element in its décor and design (think wood and glass cabinets displaying various piece of crockery and ornaments) while also using various more modern pieces (the chandeliers are very cool).
Divided into two sections – the bar and the restaurant proper – there isn’t a lot that will jump out at you in its appearance; but that’s the best way to be for a venue of this standing – demure and unpretentious.
There’s been something of a revolution happening at Aperitivo as of late, including the launch of a new menu; one that walks the line between high-end culinary delicacy and the kind of wholesomeness you get with bistro food.
The concise but varied menu covers soups, salads, meat and poultry dishes, as well as pastas and seafood, which is where we began our evening.
We rarely give up the opportunity to try a dish with scallops in it – not only because it’s a rare commodity in Cairo, but because it’s also often mishandled, which felt like the case with Aperitivo’s seared scallop starter (155LE). While it was a creative and enticing dish, the scallops were slightly overcooked, the accompanying black truffle was too little, though the spiced apple puree that also accompanies the dish gave a pleasant sweetness to every bite despite tasting more like a beetroot puree. Meanwhile, four sticks of asparagus were cooked and seasoned perfectly, while a faint balsamic reduction did little to elevate the rest of the ingredients.
Among the menu’s salads, we were seduced by the camembert salad, which brought together generous chunks of deep-fried camembert cheese together with mixed greens, roasted pears, sundried tomatoes and walnuts. The greens were fresh, the sundried tomatoes added a sweet acidity to thick, pungent cheese and the walnuts gave the whole dish an earthy touch. However, the pears were undetectable, which is a real shame as it could have been the ingredient that brought everything together.
While various mains are included in the new menu, we decided to test the kitchen’s mettle with meats. Despite being served with far too much uncooked fat, a medium-cooked sirloin steak (150LE) was full of flavour and served in a very big portion, alongside some perfectly made oven baked vegetables. Our second dish, the roast veal fillet, was also of a noticeably good quality and served in a large portion, though it was unevenly cooked, meaning some pieces were a little tough and others had a perfect pink interior.
Unfortunately, there was not much else to talk about with the mains, despite the menu promising more; the veal dish, for example, should come with roast pumpkin ad soft polenta, but both were missing from the plate, as was the roasted garlic on the steak dish.
This, actually, defined our meal; what we were served was well-made, but with so much missing from both mains – as well as the missing pear from the salad – severely dwindling what promised to be a fine evening of fine dining. Would we go again? Absolutely – the new menu reads fantastically; but maybe the kitchen needs a little more time to perfect it.