Sign in using your account with
Ramleh, Alexandria, Egypt.
Samakmak: Fresh Alexandrian Seafood
As the nearest coast is at least an hour away, you never know what you’re going to get when it comes to seafood in Cairo. While Cairo has redeemed itself with a handful of reliable seafood dining options including the Fish Market and Gandofli, we all know that to find the freshest fish around, we must venture to Alexandria or Port Said.
One of Alexandria’s most popular seafood restaurants is Samakmak, which still has our mouths watering for its undeniable deliciousness. While Samakmak does have a branch in Cairo, there’s nothing like dining near the Mediterranean Sea. Take one look and you can’t deny that the fish before you is fresh out of the water.
Located in the Bahary area, Samakmak is a cosy little restaurant. With modern decor inside and patio seating available outside, opting for dining al-fresco made for a relaxing night of stuffing our faces full. At the time of this reviewer’s visit, the dim lighting, checked tablecloths and fresh flowers gracing the table provided a homey atmosphere.
While the wait staff promptly directed us to the ice box where you choose your own fish and preferred cooking style; there were no qualms with our indecisiveness. Patient and well-informed, the staff seemed to have all the answers to our queries.
For starters and served in a chilled bowl, our green salad came filled with enough fresh tomato, cucumber and onion to last throughout our entire course. Rice and pasta options are available on the menu as well, though we couldn’t finish the heaping portion of rice. Served on a large platter, the red rice was tasty and mixed with a range of herbs. Seeing as how bread is always a must for us, we received piping hot baladi bread with tehina that didn’t disappoint.
Onto more serious matters: it didn’t take long to receive our fresh catch. In total, our kilo of fish came served in sections. Firstly, we chewed down on a quarter-kilo each of red mullet and calamari. The red mullet was fried, providing a decent introduction into our other choices. On the other hand, the calamari was the best that we’ve had in the country. Lightly breaded and fried in fresh olive oil, the calamari was tender; while slices of fresh were squeezed to death over the calamari, giving it a punch of citrus.
Our sea bass was delectable and satisfying. Barely grilled and buttery soft, the fish came sliced down the centre and filled with lemon, garlic and a light cream as well as parsley. Cooked to perfection, if you held it up by the tail; the meat would literally crumble off. The sea bass is divine.
For 180LE including two cups of tea with fresh mint after dinner, we were aching for more and left talking about it for days.
If you’re familiar with the Egyptian dining scene, you’ll know that sustainability is not really our strong point – quality is hit and miss, and sometimes even restaurants that have solid reputations and have been around for ages can disappoint. Case in point: if you’re a regular Gouna dinner, you may find yourself disappointed with what’s offered these days. However, we were pleasantly surprised – and relieved – to discover that the Smokery at El Gouna Yacht Club lives up to its billing.
Located towards the far end of Abu Tig Marina (on the opposite side of the new Marina to Mori Sushi, et al), the Smokery is situated right next to the marina’s lighthouse, so of course we chose to sit outdoors and admire the view despite the sweltering August heat. Craving something cold and salty, we completely bypassed their mise-en-bouche selection (35LE to 250LE) of cheese bites and fried seafood nibbles, and we went straight for their Salmon Fiesta; a selection of salmon bites including chunks of raw salmon steak, smoked salmon wraps and salmon sushi wrapped in seaweed. By the time we’d finished this generous dish and the tasty smoked fish dip they’d brought along with breadsticks, we all stared at each other in dismay. We were full. And we hadn’t even got to the main course yet.
Ignoring our stomachs and better judgement, we continued forth, and not ones to break with tradition, we ordered more salmon mains: the grilled salmon steak served with veggie nicoise and basil (around 140LE), the salmon carpaccio (85LE) and, for a change, the shrimp tempura. By this point, we were honestly frothing at the mouth from overeating, but you could hardly blame us: the salmon was so delicious and astoundingly fresh, we realised that all the other salmons we’d ever had now paled in comparison. If anything, we found that we could happily eat the Smokery salmon raw or smoked, with barely any garnish or side dishes necessarily.
Not ones to give up easily or wisely, we ordered the chocolate soufflé for dessert, which we spooned – groaning at the effort – into our tired mouths. Despite the suffocating heat, the hot chocolate was a welcome change to the salmon, although the portion could have been better. Yes, despite eating ourselves sick, the chocolate could have been bigger.
With impeccable, attentive service and a lovely outdoor setting, the Smokery makes for a quiet, classy dining destination in Gouna when you don’t want to have the DJ music and Friday night festival bands hammering into your ears. For four appetisers, two mains, one dessert and two glasses of wine, the bill totalled around 900LE; not exactly cheap but nonetheless a quality and refreshing dining experience in Gouna.