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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.
Set back from the monstrously busy El Merghany Street, Wabi Sabi is a small restaurant known for its sushi. Decorated much the same as its sister restaurant in the Nile City Towers, it’s glass front shows off the contemporary décor; slate walls, bamboo placemats and wooden benches give the place an authentic, oriental feel.
Despite their Heliopolis branch looking the part, the seats transpired to be thoroughly uncomfortable and with no music and no other customers, the atmosphere was both unwelcoming and eerily quiet. On closer inspection, the glass front was in dire need of a clean whilst the wood-effect flooring was totally worn through in some parts. We assumed the lack of other customers would mean we’d get excellent service; however, we had to actively call the waiter over several times during our meal. We were hoping their claim of being 'sushi couture' would become evident through the food.
The menu offers a vast selection of sushi and sashimi, displaying the prices per piece, per 10 pieces and per eight pieces – although they will halve the amount should you not wish to order so many. Other than a couple of soups and salads, no other types of food are available. There is no fancy drinks menu, only standard sodas and water.
We settled on four pieces of ‘blue bay’ (22LE) which contained salmon, crab and avocado ura maki, topped with king kong sauce, and four ‘cheesy salmon’ (29LE) with salmon, shrimp tempura, Philadelphia and avocado special rolls, topped with smoked salmon and black sesame. We also went for four deep fried California rolls (24LE) – rolls filled with salmon, shrimp tempura, avocado and cream cheese – as well as five pieces of salmon sashimi (31LE). At the same time, out of their dessert menu – limited to three options – one of our party ordered chocolate fondant to arrive at the same time as the sushi.
The platter of sushi arrived quickly, neatly presented alongside a large mound of ginger and a small amount of wasabi. The salmon sashimi was the best of the bunch; thick, fresh, juicy and incredibly morish. The sushi itself wasn’t bad, but not overly commendable either, which is perhaps reflected in its mid-high price range. However, all the fish tasted fresh and was wrapped in sticky, fluffy rice. The ‘blue bay’s’ king kong sauce was a spicy pink sauce, overpowering the taste of the sushi itself, whilst the Philadelphia cheese in the ‘cheesy salmon’ special rolls was also fairly potent, again taking the attention away from the vegetable-fish mixture. Most disappointingly, the deep fried California roll was slightly soggy; far from the hot crispy treat we'd been expecting.
After we’d satisfied our sushi craving, we went on to enquire about the whereabouts of our chocolate fondant. Unfortunately, up until this point, the waiter had failed to mention that this dish was unavailable, which led us to bring the meal to an end more swiftly than we’d expected.
Wabi Sabi offers swift meals of average-at-best sushi in a setting with a lot of potential. We’d probably go there again, but only for their sashimi.