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Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Mori Sushi: The Little Black Dress of Sushi
My favourite place to go for raw fish, the small corridor just off Zamalek's corniche is styled in modern contemporary fashion with a chic black interior, leather chairs, glass tables, wire-framed mirrors and sweeping Japanese characters on the walls and ceiling to accent the theme. Ordering from the cool orange plexiglass spiral-bound menu makes my mouth water with its tasty sushi dishes artfully photographed for display.
What really caught my eye was the chef's creativity, assembling sushi pieces I hadn't seen before, and though he gets a little carried away with the cream cheese, some of the flavour combinations are spectacular, like the crisp of shrimp and avocado roll, coated in sweet rice crisps and drizzled with syrupy teriyaki style sauce. Even the classic maki are fresh and simple, showcasing quality ingredients and expertise.
There are, however, some experiments to avoid testing, like the ura roll called the pink panther, featuring a minced crab paste that looks like someone's already got to it before you did.
Thankfully their desserts are on point and I sometimes visit just to treat myself to their Swiss chocolate fondant with real vanilla bean ice cream. It rivals Café Tabasco's melty chocolate soufflé, and in my opinion, wins. Their fruit cocktails are also interesting but cost as much as a small meal elsewhere.
Unfortunately, Mori isn't cheap and a satisfying meal requires that you drop 150-200LE at least, which doesn't seem a problem for UGG clad international school birthday parties blasting Imogen Heap – I thought The OC was cancelled. It does however satisfy my sushi fix, which is the only thing I really miss about home, the servers are extra polite, and even Sequoia has deemed them worthy of their menu.
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.