Although this sushi restaurant has been open in Citystars mall for several years now, it opened its second branch in Cairo on the Nile City Towers first floor this year. Still very much a mall eatery, Wabi Sabi boasts an eclectic mix of food court cuisine and Asian flare with an enthusiastic dash of contemporary art-chic

The chain calls itself 'sushi couture' and offers a menu strictly of Japanese seafood fare. The restaurant’s decor is a confusing blend of modern art, nature installations with a copious mix of sheet metal walls, dark wood lattice and carved wooden table pieces.

Formerly occupied by coffee chain Cilantro, the dining space was clearly never designed to house a cosy, casual-chic Far Eastern restaurant; and the result is slightly unsettling. Four or five tables are placed in the open mall hallway, equipped with high-back chairs on one side and backless benches on another. Tables are each decorated with three wooden Ukrainian-patterned eggs that nest in oblong carved trays.

The interior of the restaurant is small, and made even smaller by the fact that a larger-than-life wooden tree made of pieces of plywood is planted in the restaurant’s centre. The tree is flanked by a warped wall of silver sheet metal on one side, and a plaque on the other, where silver foil is folded into shapes of birds; adding to the place crowded, mixed styles.

Service here is prompt and friendly, and we had not problem attracting the waiter’s attention to request more rice or inquire whether the kitchen served seaweed salad– sadly, they don’t. We were delighted by the fragrant and pungent miso soup’s broth, its firm silken tofu and plentiful seaweed strands.

The menu is extensive, advertising everything including nigiri, sashimi and ura maki, with several house variations on the classic such as the naked maki, which excludes a nori skin; or the sashimi special that sears the fish instead of serving raw slices; in addition to an elaborate list of house special rolls.

Our tuna sashimi (50LE for eight pieces) tasted delightfully fresh, although the cuts were clumsy. Instead of delicate slices, we were served uneven slabs that were difficult to separate into bites. The shrimp black sesame roll (42LE) was a lightly fried, crispy compilation that had us quite pleased. We sampled the pan-seared salmon with black sesame (59LE) from the sashimi special section. The slices of salmon meat arrived ever-so-lightly touched in the pan on the surface and sprinkled with black sesame seeds. The dish left us bemused: while the salmon was fresh and tasty, we had anticipated a deeper braze in the pan, and would have appreciated a golden edge or a touch of crispiness to make the dish more exciting.

Portions are not small, and the prices are decidedly mid-range for sushi restaurants in Cairo. We would return for a quick, informal bite of some fresh seafood, and perhaps for another look at the decor just for fun.