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Islamic Cairo, Cairo, Egypt.
Taj Al Sultan: Flavours of Arabia & India in Islamic Cairo
Khan El Khalili is known mostly for its alleyway market, old houses and interesting cultural events. Though it does have several restaurants, most of the venues serve primarily small dishes such as kabab sandwiches or kofta plates. This reviewer recently discovered Taj El Sultan, a restaurant promising Indian-Egyptian cuisine, whatever that might be. We wouldn’t call it a hidden gem, since the three-level restaurant is not exactly obscure; nevertheless you could easily miss it. The entrance is located between a souvenir shop and an ATM machine. If you come from the direction of El Hussein Square, you will find yourself walking directly towards it. Otherwise ask for the ATM since it is the only one in this area.
Don’t let the tacky Merry Christmas greeting on the entrance’s wall put you off. Apart from that, the restaurant’s interior is terrific. Enormous lamps hang from the ceilings and light up the staircases. The first floor is decorated in wooden arabesque, enormous high ceilings and wonderful lamps. The second floor is divided into niches underneath dome-shaped ceilings. The interior is decorated in colourful Egyptian fabrics, and all the couches and seats are filled with comfortable cushions. The best part is probably the roof terrace, where low tables and sofas are accentuated by the cutest little lights.
The menu at Taj El Sultan is extensive with Egyptian meals as well as Indian meals. Unfortunately, like most restaurants in this area, Taj El Sultan is suffering from the lack of tourists. We decided to try out their Indian food but unfortunately most items were not available at the time of our visit. In the end it took us over one hour to order because the waiter had to walk back and forth to the kitchen below to ask if the meal we had requested was available.
In the end we settled for shahi korma (70LE) and murg pastoom (70LE). The shahi korma was creamy and the touch of coriander absolutely made the dish, although it was less spicy than we’d expected of an Indian dish. The murg pastoom came in a creamy tomato-based gravy and was a bit spicy. The chicken tasted juicy as well although the pieces were a bit too big. With the curries we sampled several naan breads. Apart from the plain naan, we also sampled the garlic naan and the butter naan, which lived up to its name by being deliciously drenched in butter. The garlic naan had just enough garlic to taste but not enough to dominate the rest of the food.
Taj El Sultan is definitely one of the best restaurants in Khan Khalili, but we found it quite a shame that half of the menu wasn’t available. Although the staff was really friendly, they had no knowledge of the Indian menu whatsoever. However, Taj El Sultan is worth a visit just for the wonderful interior and the Indian food, if available, is really good.