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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.
As we all know, restaurants in Cairo tends to succumb to the latest fashionable food fads. Following trend, Saki Sushi Lounge in the Fairmont Heliopolis offers quality, authentic sushi; prepared by their very own Japanese chef.
Tucked away in a corner at the front of the lobby, the restaurant revolves around a small kiosk-looking kitchen, whilst the spacious seating area is surrounded by exotic greenery and soothing water features. Greeted by an Asian member of staff, we were seated swiftly and were not only offered their own menu, but for those not keen on sushi, menus from both the Pool Bar and Aqua E Luce. Unfortunately throughout the meal, we found the service to be continuously slow and often inattentive.
The drinks menu offered up an array of imaginatively named cocktails (90LE-105LE), flavourful tea fusions (30LE) and traditional, but incredibly expensive, sake (150LE-1760LE). Made with loose tea leaves, the green tea (30LE) was particularly pleasant.
As with most eateries in five star establishments, Saki charge slightly more than other sushi joints, with each special roll (35LE-130LE) only coming as six pieces; choices can become a little limited depending on appetite and budget.
The sushi options are widely varied, from simple nigiri (24LE-80LE/2 pieces) and sashimi (40LE-80LE/3 pieces) to more adventurous temaki (45LE-60LE) and special rolls (35LE-130LE). We noticed that the cheapest choices rarely contained any fish. Combination platters start at 150LE for a small platter of sashimi and nigiri, or 230LE for an assortment of sashimi, nigiri and maki rolls and work their way up to 325LE for the largest combination.
With little help from the waitress, we ordered two portions of ‘shake’ – or salmon – sashimi (50LE/each), one serving of Una Kiyu special roll (50LE) – a mixture of grilled eel, crunchy cucumber, avocado – and a Philadelphia roll (50LE) with smoked salmon, cucumber, cream cheese and dill. Despite taking a surprisingly long time to arrive, our selection was perfectly presented, along with a small mound of fresh salad, ginger slithers and wasabi.
Despite being a little on the small side, the salmon sashimi was both soft and flavourful. The fluffy, bite-sized rolls were excellent and brilliantly put together, with the different ingredients complimenting one another, without overbearing each other. The Una Kiyu pieces came with a rich, deliciously sweet sauce, similar to a plum sauce, whilst the unusual dill topping on the Philadelphia roll gave a delightfully light, fresh tasting finish.
For dessert, we were intrigued by the fruit and coconut sushi (45LE), but were disappointed to find this dish unavailable. Instead, we opted for the deep fired banana spring rolls (45LE) which were disappointingly small, lukewarm, and quite obviously pre-made rather than freshly fried. The saving grace of this dish had to be the generous scoop of vanilla ice cream and rich chocolate paste on the side.
Although the sushi itself was delicious, Saki Sushi Lounge does little to justify its high prices in a city where decent sushi is more than readily available.