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Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Chez Marius: New Seafood Restaurant in Zamalek
The Blue Nile boat in Zamalek is home to several restaurants like Asia Bar, El Morocco, Lessa Faker and the Moon Deck. The latest aboard the ship is Chez Marius, a seafood restaurant located on the upper level where Royal Grill used to be. Chez Marius claims that they serve seafood dishes that have never been served before in Egypt. One look at the menu however, immediately proved that we’d had these dishes before.
The restaurant is fairly small compared to the other venues aboard. There are between 10 to 15 tables and a cooking station where a chef prepares the food. Outside in the hallway, the catch of the day is displayed on ice, and you can pick your preference there. At the time of our visit, sea bass, groper and tub gurnard were available. At the time of our visit, a kilo of sea bass cost 200LE. Instead of fish you can also opt for a kilo of jumbo shrimp for 300LE or a kilo of medium shrimp for 220LE. The seafood can be prepared in many different ways such as salt-encrusted, steamed, grilled, fried, singary, radda or Lebanese style. We opted for the grilled sea bass, which was grilled with lemon, oil, parsley and garlic. Besides the fish, we decided to try the Paella (79LE) too.
The preparation of the fish took ages and since we were very hungry, we decided to order a portion of tehina (21LE) on the side. The tehina was a bit too sour for our liking and the portion was relatively small. Our main courses finally arrived after approximately 45 minutes to an hour. Though we ordered one kilo of sea bass, most of it seemed to have disappeared while cleaning the fish. What we were left with were two filets, both around 200 gram. The fish was seasoned nicely and grilled well but it wasn’t particularly special or delicious.
We didn’t receive any side dishes with the fish. The paella had brown rice instead of yellow saffron rice and was very loose in structure. Obviously, the wrong kind of rice was used. It was served with crab, which was impossible to eat because the necessary cutlery wasn’t provided, and clams, small shrimp and calamari. Overall, the paella didn’t taste as real paella should and the seafood portions were paltry.
The staff was very nice and our drinks were delivered fast. It was just the food that we had to wait so long for. If Chez Marius would alter their kitchen, the restaurant would definitely be worth the price you have to pay since the service is good and the view is unbeatable. Unfortunately, the quality of food is not as high as it should be.
If you’re familiar with the Egyptian dining scene, you’ll know that sustainability is not really our strong point – quality is hit and miss, and sometimes even restaurants that have solid reputations and have been around for ages can disappoint. Case in point: if you’re a regular Gouna dinner, you may find yourself disappointed with what’s offered these days. However, we were pleasantly surprised – and relieved – to discover that the Smokery at El Gouna Yacht Club lives up to its billing.
Located towards the far end of Abu Tig Marina (on the opposite side of the new Marina to Mori Sushi, et al), the Smokery is situated right next to the marina’s lighthouse, so of course we chose to sit outdoors and admire the view despite the sweltering August heat. Craving something cold and salty, we completely bypassed their mise-en-bouche selection (35LE to 250LE) of cheese bites and fried seafood nibbles, and we went straight for their Salmon Fiesta; a selection of salmon bites including chunks of raw salmon steak, smoked salmon wraps and salmon sushi wrapped in seaweed. By the time we’d finished this generous dish and the tasty smoked fish dip they’d brought along with breadsticks, we all stared at each other in dismay. We were full. And we hadn’t even got to the main course yet.
Ignoring our stomachs and better judgement, we continued forth, and not ones to break with tradition, we ordered more salmon mains: the grilled salmon steak served with veggie nicoise and basil (around 140LE), the salmon carpaccio (85LE) and, for a change, the shrimp tempura. By this point, we were honestly frothing at the mouth from overeating, but you could hardly blame us: the salmon was so delicious and astoundingly fresh, we realised that all the other salmons we’d ever had now paled in comparison. If anything, we found that we could happily eat the Smokery salmon raw or smoked, with barely any garnish or side dishes necessarily.
Not ones to give up easily or wisely, we ordered the chocolate soufflé for dessert, which we spooned – groaning at the effort – into our tired mouths. Despite the suffocating heat, the hot chocolate was a welcome change to the salmon, although the portion could have been better. Yes, despite eating ourselves sick, the chocolate could have been bigger.
With impeccable, attentive service and a lovely outdoor setting, the Smokery makes for a quiet, classy dining destination in Gouna when you don’t want to have the DJ music and Friday night festival bands hammering into your ears. For four appetisers, two mains, one dessert and two glasses of wine, the bill totalled around 900LE; not exactly cheap but nonetheless a quality and refreshing dining experience in Gouna.