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Dokki, Cairo, Egypt.
Bob Sushi: Small Sushi Hideout in Dokki
Sushi, we have always been told, is an acquired taste; it isn’t for everyone. Cairenes lap it up like it’s air, though. There is an abundance of venues catering for this most holy of obsessions, and Bob Sushi makes a darn good effort in distinguishing itself.
The Dokki branch of Bob Sushi is no bigger than a medium-sized bathroom, and hosts just two tables. As inconvenient as it may seem, the spot is quiet, comfortable and hidden behind a shroud of trees. The staff of four is welcoming, the lighting is sleepy, and you’ll be completely oblivious to the usually busy Galaa Square, which El Sad El Aly Street breaks off from.
The menu opens with a range of soups, including the miso soup (12LE), which tastes authentic, and the hot and sour soup with chicken (16LE), which was as hot and sour as it was delicious. There are salads also available, with the tataki salmon or tuna coming recommended by staff as a light starter with soy sauce, pickled ginger, lemon and cucumber. For an appetiser with a little more substance, spring rolls (20LE to 25LE), fried squid (25LE), chicken skewers (20LE) and tempura shrimps (45LE) are also offered; though you may want to leave more space in your stomach for the headlining sushi.
With the sushi itself, you can either order specific rolls, or just leave it in the hands of the staff with a combination platter. Sushi connoisseurs should expect to pay 7LE to 12LE per piece on the nigri menu, while six-piece sashimi and maki roll orders range between 12LE to 35LE. The ‘Bob Rolls’ section of the menu covers more Western-style sushi, including the Philadelphia roll, the spider roll (salmon, tempura shrimp, and avocado), and the awesome-sounding konafa tempura roll.
The general quality is of the sushi is decent. The rice is light, and the vegetables taste fresh, but some of the fish does not. Of course, no sushi is complete without the condiments, and plenty of soy sauce, wasabi and pickled ginger is available at demand.
There is also a separate mains section in the menu that offers, among other things, tempura shrimps (55LE), teriyaki beef or chicken (40LE) and a beef, chicken, salmon, or shrimp teppenyaki (50LE to 59LE). A range of rice and noodles are available to accompany those dishes at 7LE to 35LE. You’ll need to go elsewhere for dessert, and the staff is happy to pop to the shop next door and buy you a soft drink worth 2.50LE and charge you 6LE for it.
There are few places to hide in Cairo, and the sleepy seclusion of Bob Sushi is a rare find. Had it not been for Mohamed, Mohamed, Mohamed and Ahmed serving, and MBC4 on the TV, this reviewer might have got lost in the hypnotic trance of mixing the wasabi into the soy sauce, and would have forgotten that Cairo surrounds this small pocket of sushi refuge.
Izakaya has officially ruined sushi for us. Having tried their delicious, palate-confusing, tantalising Peruvian-Japanese dishes – especially their maki rolls – we’ve concluded that we’ve been living a lie our whole lives and all other sushi we’ve ever had pales in comparison.
Located in Sheikh Zayed on the ground floor of Gezira Plaza Mall, next to Arkan Mall – which means no private parking and lots of kids sitting on cars outside – Izakaya is an upscale dining venue offering exquisite Japanese-Peruvian fusion food. With the concept being a huge hit in New York, London and Dubai, the brand’s owners made the brave endeavour to try it out on Cairene diners – and judging by the crowded restaurant, it looks like it’s been a success.
Dim lighting and jungle wallpaper mixed with hanging sheets of metal and wood is obviously the designers’ take on Peruvian, and it works well, save for the lighting, which was so dim we were all squinting and pulling out our mobile phones to read the menus.
We started by ordering the tiraditos, which is Peruvian-influenced sashimi seared in lime with flavours. The miso (80LE) was basically salmon sashimi with miso, lemon and onions, while the nitai (130LE) had a more interesting and challenging combination of tuna, chili and coconut milk. The classic, which is apparently one of their biggest hits, consisted of seabass, leche de tigre and passionfruit, but it paled in comparison to our orders of maki, which arrived before the tiraditos and ruined the rest of the meal.
One bite of the ceviche maki roll (95LE) sent this reviewer into a state of shock and euphoria for its genius mix of seabass, quinoa, prawns, avocado and leche de tigre. The flavouring and spices were so subtle that we couldn’t figure out what was going on in our mouths, but we couldn’t talk either. Everyone at the table agreed; this was the best maki we’d ever eaten.
Our dinner party also sampled the karage roll (100LE): crab, calamari, avocado and fried quinoa, and the soy edamame (35LE) to munch on in-between meals.
The biggest mistake was ordering mains: we were already quite stuffed after the starters, and the large portions of our main courses left us gasping for breath and our palates confused after too much butter. The salmon teriyaki (140LE) was a pleasant and safe dish although a little too sweet and heavy on the teriyaki, served in two bite sized halves of one salmon steak with some asparagus and mashed potatoes.
The Batayaki (185LE) was a rich, sweet-scented seafood mixed plate of fish, shrimp and what tasted like scallops served with mushrooms and onions butter, possibly white wine, coriander and parsley. It would have been a pleasant meal on its own if we hadn’t had those life-changing maki rolls.
We’d heard about Izakaya’s cocktails and even though we’d been warned the meal would add up to a hefty price, we still went for the Berry Berry (125LE), a cocktail of two different types of berries, gin, elderflower and lots of fizz and ice, while the Black Mamba (125LE) was a fantastic pick-me-up of coffee with rum and lemon. Barely able to digest our food, the table ordered a slice of lemongrass cheese (55LE) to share, though we honestly didn’t taste any lemongrass; more like passionfruit or mango.
For a table of five, we paid 2600LE, including 13% taxes and service of over 500LE. Despite the hefty price, we’d love to come back if only for the maki menu alone. In terms of a dining experience, we were a bit confused by Izakaya’s dress code of casual evening, only to find diners in jeans and sneakers. And the music was unbearably loud: there seems to be a trend in upscale restaurants these days where they crank up the volume at 10PM, turning the venue into a nightclub; except no one’s dancing, and no one’s talking either. We’d recommend Izakaya for a special date or occasion, and it’s definitely worth trying if you’re an experimental eater up for a tantalising, taste buds-gone-wild experience.