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Maadi, Cairo, Egypt.
Sakura Sushi: A Slice of Japan in Cairo
Sushi is still all the rage in Cairo and it doesn't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, but with Makani and Mori Sushi dominating the market, it pays to shake things up once in awhile. Enter Sakura Sushi, a hidden treasure tucked away not far from Ethos Café in Maadi.
While a sushi outing to Sakura holds none of the glamour of a night out at Mori Sushi, the food’s quality makes up for the underwhelming atmosphere. Sakura Sushi has the atmosphere of a true family-style Japanese restaurant: while the decor is kitschy, service is impeccable and the staff are knowledgeable about menu options and helpful in providing suggestions.
To start off, try a traditional miso soup (10LE) or go off the beaten track with a Japanese-style seafood soup full of crab, shrimp and salmon (20LE). Salad options are much better than the usual selection at sushi joints, with interesting offerings like the wastachi, which is made from dried fish, spinach and soy sauce (10LE).
As for Japanese appetisers, we like the classic yassai tempura, which consists of vegetables fried in a light Japanese batter and served with a flavourful dipping sauce (25LE) and the tori karage, a scrumptious fried chicken concoction with ginger and soy sauce (30LE). There is also a noodle menu with basic ramen and soba options priced at between 10LE and 50LE.
Non-sushi main course options provide something above and beyond typical Japanese menus in Cairo. The salmon teriyaki (60LE) is a well-executed classic at Sakura, made with the freshest salmon and glorious homemade teriyaki sauce. We also like the shouga yaki, a delicious beef dish with ginger and soy (55LE). Order rice with these main dishes– Sakura does justice to this Japanese staple in a way rarely found in Cairo; so take advantage.
Sushi options are divided into per-piece selections which range in price from 7LE to 15LE and include standard selections of shrimp, eel and salmon. The per-piece special sushi options include interesting offerings such as salmon and tuna slices marinated in ginger soy and wasabi.
Sashimi is a great value at Sakura, at 40LE to 65LE for 10 pieces. Maki rolls come in 6 pieces and are priced at 15LE to 40LE. The 8-piece California rolls are a great choice. Priced between 25LE to 50LE, there are unique fillings like tuna, onions and spicy sauce with caviar. A variety of hand rolls and special combo plates are also available.
With a menu like this, taking a break from your typical sushi joint is more of a culinary adventure than a risk: next time the sushi craving hits; head to Sakura Sushi for unique and delicious Japanese dining.
While sushi is popular as any cuisine on the Cairo restaurant scene, Kai Running Sushi has added a long-due dimension to the Japanese delicacy in Egypt’s capital – conveyor-belt sushi.
Located in the Mosaique Dining Zone on the fourth floor of Heliopolis mall, Citystars, Kai Running Sushi takes a side corner of tables surrounding the conveyor belt, with an exposed kitchen where you can see the chef in action. For those unfamiliar with the concept, the kitchen produces a steady stream of dishes, which emerge to diners along the conveyor beltl from there, ou pick and choose what you want as it appears to you. Traditionally, these set-ups employ a colour-coding system, where each dish’s prices indicated by the colour of the plate, but Kai offers all you can eat for 150LE++. There have been attempts to introduce the concept in Cairo before, but it’s often been abandoned before it’s even started.
After our waiter served us our pickled ginger, wasabi and soy sauce plates, we started digging in with the shrimp konafa, which came in the form of a well-wrapped shrimp paste made into a ball with konafa spiralling all around it. Although the taste of the konafa dominated the shrimp, the moist filling after breaking through the konafa shell made for a delicious combination. There was a similar imbalance with the Philadelphia Roll; it was as good as any we’ve tried, but needed more cream cheese filling.
There were similar issues with the nigiri; trying both the shrimp and salmon, there was far too much rice, marking another balance problem in the ingredients.
One of the problems with conveyor-belt sushi is picking a dish, only to realise that it’s been on the belt for some time – something we experience with the fried salmon rolls, which were cold. You can, however, make requests to the chef which we did and quickly received fresh salmon rolls, whose crispy shell and inner combo of salmon and avocado were excellent.
But if we had to name our favourite for the day, it would be the Spider Roll, which was by far the best thing that came along on the belt. Presentation-wise, you couldn’t help but notice it slide by and the use of diced salmon cubes and mushrooms, stood out as the best executed pieces of our meal.
The overall experience at Kai is, without doubt, a novel one. As the only operating independent conveyor-belt sushi restaurant in Cairo, it has the potential to be a player on the scene. But when it comes to the sushi itself, its inconsistency – possibly a by-product of its concept – will keep it lower down in the pecking order for now.