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Maadi, Cairo, Egypt.
Nile Bukhara: Dine like Indian Royalty
The menu, printed on double sided wooden tablets, always reminds me of the Stone Age as I scrutinise selections of biryani, chapati, tandoori and various rhotis and naan, inevitably ordering the Bukkhara Butter Chicken, a time honoured personal favourite. The tender chicken in a rich tomato-based sauce arrives in a cast copper bowl, and is best when paired with either rice or naan.
Sensitive-tongued diners beware: Bukhara is one of the few restaurants around that actually means “spicy” when it says it, so choose your level of flavours wisely. Instead of the usual bread before meals, diners are served chutney and flaky popadoms, along with potent pickled onion. Again, spice and flavours abound here, and the vivid magenta onion and green chutney make the sombre hues of the restaurant all the more apparent.
A compliment to the restaurant: this is a place where I hardly recall the waiter, being so engrossed in the food, which always seems to arrive on time (poof!). My preoccupation with the napkins might contribute to overlooking the staff, as the chequered clothes unfold into bibs, which I suggest you don if you are as enthusiastic (or clumsy) around curry as I am.
While I am adamant about the Butter Chicken being the best pick of the menu, there is little I would write out. The biryani rice is flavourful, with a complex mix of sweet and citrus spices. Vegetarian options are plentiful, the Aloo Ghobi and Palak Paneer giving a well rounded taste of Northern Indian cuisine. The naan could be more generous and dessert is not the restaurant’s forte, but the main dishes make up for that shortcoming.
Bukhara's prices aren't too shabby, and it is possible to eat yourself into a stupor for near 75LE to 100LE.
From Moroccan cuisine specialist, La Palmeraie, and iconic Oriental grill, El Kebabgy, to Le Deck’s Two Michelin star chef-crafted menu, any new restaurant opening at Sofitel Cairo El Gezirah has a lot to live up to. With new Indian restaurant, Manipuri, however, let’s just say that it might be even better than its neighbours.
As soon as we stepped inside Manipuri, we found ourselves in a huge, symmetrical, low-ceiling waiting area with LED lights on the floor leading us to a spacious lobby-like interior of the restaurant. From the table topped with an Indian statue surrounded by jars of legumes, to the humongous sweeping staricase, we felt like we were about to attend Aladdin and Jasmine’s wedding. Divided into two floors, the top floor is dedicated to the bar – which opens at 9PM - while the dining area is on the ground floor, with seats placed exclusively next to the curtained wall which overlooks a great view of the Nile.
While checking out the menu, we were welcomed with a very light and refreshing Mango Yogurt drink infused with a hint of pomegranate syrup, as well as a bowl of nacho-shaped Papadums with sides of exquisite apple chutney and pickled lemon. The complimentary items left us even more excited for what was to come.
With a huge variety on the menu, we felt a bit overwhelmed and lost, before eventually opting for Murg Kadhai (120LE) and Jhagi Lamb Chops (160LE) as our mains.
Boasting boneless chicken swimming in tomato gravy infused with sautéed onions and red, yellow and green bell pepper, the Murg Kadhai was a flawless dish. The chicken was very tender, the tomato gravy was seasoned to perfection and had a fantastic thick consistency which coated the chicken perfectly, while the spiciness of the dish was balanced by the sweetness of the bell peppers and onions.
The Jhagi lamb chops, meanwhile, had a delicious marinade which consists of ginger and coriander, and was served with splashes of three different sauces: coriander, mango ginger and a sauce that was very similar to sweet tamarind chutney. Despite that the lamb being a bit tough, it was bursting with flavours which were further complimented by the coriander sauce, while the mango ginger and the tamarind chutney-like sauce added sweetness to the dish.
We also ordered a side Garlic Naan (15LE) and of Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani (120LE) to share, because, well, what’s an Indian dinner without biryani and naan bread?
The light and fluffy basmati rice was infused with saffron and other aromatic spices and mixed with big chunks of tender boneless chicken, nuts, fine julienne cuts of ginger and a side of spicy tomato gravy and yogurt sauce. We expected the Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani to be a side for our mains, but it could easily be a main on its own, but we enjoyed the extra flavours from perfect match of the spicy tomato gravy and the yogurt sauce.
Meanwhile, the garlic naan came in four pieces of buttery slices with a delicate garlic flavour, perfectly crispy edges and that chewy texture you look for in naan bread.
We finished our meal with Hot Gulab Jamun (50LE) for dessert. This classic south Asian dessert is served in an ice cream glass cup filled with saffron syrup, two sweet milk dumplings, a scoop of vanilla ice cream and walnuts. Overall, the sweetness of the dessert was spot-on; the dumplings had that cake-like texture, the walnuts added an occasional crunch and the saffron syrup gave the dessert a terrific aroma.
This was one of the few times were we upset that the meal had ended. Manipuri certainly impressed with its to-die-for flavours, unique and quiet ambiance, crowd-pleasing dishes and excellent value for money. Considering we paid a total of 590LE for all of the above, not only is this one of the best Indian restaurants in Cairo, but it’s also one of the cheapest at a top hotel.