Sign in using your account with
Dokki, Cairo, Egypt.
Asia Boutique: Asian Dining at the Safir Hotel in Dokki
When one hears the mention of a hotel restaurant in Cairo, images of quality, perfection, and impeccable service come to mind; along with fantasies of sumptuous food and good music in. Unfortunately though, Asia Boutique in Dokki fails to meet these expectations.
An outlet of the Safir Hotel, the restaurant is located right behind a centrepiece where two musicians – one a pianist and the other a trumpeter – are set up.
Once inside the restaurant, our first impression was of how disorganised the space is. There are two bars, on each side of the restaurant, with no one standing behind either of them. Don’t be surprised if you feel somewhat deserted, because the restaurant was almost entirely empty during our visit. The lighting was quite bright, which made us wonder if we came before they had time to prepare.
The atmosphere at Asia Boutique was not the most relaxing with distracting music playing in the background. Moreover, the fact that the tranquil music being played outside was still audible makes you feel that you are in a somehow bipolar setting.
Despite all that, Asia Boutique serves delicious Thai, Japanese, and Chinese dishes. We ordered Tom Kha Khai soup (35LE), vegetable spring rolls (32LE), Thai fried noodles with chicken, vegetables and egg (48LE), sweet and sour chicken with basmati rice (65LE), and for dessert, banana pie with caramel and lemon sauces (40LE).
The Tom Kha Khai soup had chicken and coconut milk; it was delicious, tasting like a traditional chicken soup. Although it had many ingredients in it they were all balanced perfectly. Even its thick consistency was right – not too creamy and too watery. The vegetable spring rolls came in threes and were served with hot sauce and endive lettuce- the ideal way to enjoy them.
Moving on to our main courses, the Thai fried noodles with chicken were not as good as the sweet and sour chicken. They came with quite a bit of sesame added, which had a strong flavour and made the dish taste dry. The second item fared better where the combination of fruit and vegetables was perfect.
We opted for the banana pie with caramel and lemon sauces; however, it wasn’t what we thought it would be. What we had in mind was a cold banana with caramel and lemon toppings. Instead, we were served a fried banana with no sauce but a scoop of ice cream that had coconut and nuts added to it. Nonetheless, it was pleasingly sweet; the combination of cold ice cream and hot banana was delightful.
Asia Boutique may have failed to meet our expectations as a restaurant in a big hotel but it still satisfied our appetites with delicious and meticulously cooked food.
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.