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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.
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.