Sign in using your account with
Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Nawab: Zamalek's Beloved Indian is Still the Best in Cairo
Even with an exterior appearance that looks more like a barbershop than a place of gastronomy, Zamalek’s premier Indian restaurant Nawab has always had a place in many a Cairene heart. As with many ethnic cuisines in this schizophrenically consistent city, purveyors of good, reasonably priced Indian food are few and far between. Nawab’s slight new look, kitchen and considerate staff make a good go of filling that most desperate of needs.
Although Nawab conveniently provides home delivery, the food never seems quite as good as when you occupy the restaurant itself. Why? No one knows. It can’t be the rather drab decor or the feeble attempt at infusing the place with an air of authenticity by playing Bollywood films and music videos. Whatever the reason, eating out is as much about the feeding all five senses anyway.
Dinner began with an order of vegetable sambousak (12LE). Presented with two saucers of dips, the two pieces of sambousak were bursting with well cooked vegetables, although they were a little cold. The yoghurt, cucumber and mint dip clashed with the vegetables, while the tamarind dip was sweet with a bitter kick; a perfect foil to the rich pastry of the sambousak.
Late in its arrival, the prawns pakora (27LE) fell short of the other appetiser. Though it was served sizzling hot, the deep-fried pieces lacked seasoning and weren’t as agreeable to the complement of the dips as the sambousak was.
Luckily though, the mains blew away any dissatisfaction. An extraordinarily creamy khoya mutter paneer (33LE) tasted great with both garlic butter naan bread (8LE) and jeera rice (17LE). Although the meat of the dish, so to speak, is the paneer cheese, it’s the incredible gravy that makes it one of the best Indian dishes on the menu. The plain tasting paneer, which falls somewhere between halloumi and cottage cheese, added little to the dish, whereas the cashews and peas added a texture to the gravy. It complimented the sharp cumin of the jeera rice and the crunchy flakes and soft centre of the naan bread perfectly.
As did the lamb kadai (60LE), which is one of the more expensive items on the menu. Although the decent-sized pieces of lamb ranged from slightly dry to melt-in-your-mouth tender, the crimson massala sauce gave the dish a spicy tang. It’s also one of the sexiest looking dishes you’ll ever see.
Stumbling out of Nawab with a full-belly-induced limp and a slight throb of spice on your tongue, the only regret is that this marvellous restaurant doesn’t serve alcohol. Because everyone knows that nothing goes better with a curry than an ice-cold beer.
As the summer heat takes its toll on us these days, our palate yearned for cuisine that is exotic and refreshing. Thus, when hush-hush news reached us of an Indian restaurant hidden in Rehab City, the thought of tangy spices and lassi sent us quickly over to Maharaja to satisfy our yearnings.
Located right next to Dominos Pizza, we admit the location wasn’t the easiest to find; however, once seated and eating, we quickly discovered that the restaurant could easily hold us as happy hostages.
We started off with a refreshing mango lassi (15LE) that was an ideal combination of mango and yogurt with hints of coconut flakes as well as pistachio.
As we waited for the food, we took the chance to study Maharaja’s atmosphere; the restaurant itself is spacious, with mahogany tables and colourful portraits of Siva’s life on the walls. Music came from a large flat-screen TV that played catchy Bollywood songs and videos – we were also rather taken with the coral clay cups and plates on which we dined.
What’s quite interesting is that Maharaja’s meticulously attentive waiters, personnel and the restaurant owner himself, all seemed to be Syrian.
We dug into our piping hot vegetable samosa, which we ate with mint sauce and a generous selection of bread: tikka naan, garlic naan and paneer naan (10LE each). The naan, particularly the garlic, was hands down some of the best we had in Cairo as it had the perfect balance of chewiness and crunchiness, and was perfect for unabashedly dipping into the sauces of our main dishes.
Said main courses consisted of murgh makhani (35LE) – a truly heavenly dish consisting of chicken served in a sauce of tomato purée, buttered spices and yogurt – as well as a tasty kalimirchi tikka dish (35LE).
Feeling random, we also decided to give the dal maharaja (30LE) a go and did not regret it in the least; the yellow lentils, cooked with garlic and ginger, were warm and delectable. On the side, we ordered plain biryani rice (20LE) and kashmiri pulao (35LE), which were both fragrant and light.
To end our flavoursome meal, we were offered delightful complimentary coconut ice-cream, which was presented in a miniature coconut shell with shavings of nuts on the side.
Overall, our dining experience at Maharaja left us extremely satisfied with the food, the quick attentive service and the ambiance. Furthermore, we ended up paying a mere 250LE for food that could’ve easily fed a party of four rather than just two. Scrumptious, affordable and efficient, Maharaja’s definitely not to be missed.