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Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt.
Massala at the Karvin Hotel: Finally, India comes to Heliopolis
As a district of Cairo, Heliopolis isn’t known for its wealth of decent dining options. To test out this theory yourself, ask a friend where you can get excellent Indian food in Heliopolis. Puzzled look? Check. Scornful laugh? Check. Recommendations for Indian restaurants not in Heliopolis? Check. Rejoice, Heliopolitans; you now have a reason to be proud.
Massala sits tucked away in a far corner of the Karvin Hotel lobby and has the atmosphere of a local restaurant in New Delhi. Salmon pink walls, decorated with tapestries and wood carvings of Indian deities and images contrast with tables topped with a metal sheet into which Indian designs are engraved. After being seated by the attentive wait staff, take a minute to appreciate the diverse menu. Caveat emptor: bring your friends and a healthy appetite.
Start off your gustatory journey with the garlic naan (8LE), prepared to order; and the mint sauce, tamarind sauce and mango chutney– the best mango chutney you’ll have here in Cairo. While you’re at it, grab a plate of potato samosas (13LE) too. This may seem like a lot of carbs to load up with for appetisers, but the portions are even-handed; plus you should be sharing anyway.
For the main course, continue your education with the chicken tikka, a demonstration on how it’s done right. The murgh makhani (46LE), aka butter chicken and a close relative of Chicken tikka masala, should not be missed. It arrives on the table, resplendent in a copper bowl, expecting your gratitude and thanks for the enjoyment that your taste buds are about to receive. Be forewarned: many menu offerings do not come with rice, but you’ll soon discover that it’s an excuse to try out another exquisite menu option: the biryani. If you’re coupling it with a meat main dish, then opt for the vegetable biryani. And remember to share; these portions tend to be on the larger end.
Finally, end with a refreshing mango lassi or the almost sickly sweet gulab jamun (13LE), which swims in a syrupy sugar and coconut milk mixture. If you don’t have room for dessert, then head up to the rooftop for tea and shisha, while you digest the food and marvel at the cost effectiveness of the meal.
Massala is not after your money; they're after your taste buds and the menu is priced accordingly. A meal for two will cost approximately 250LE excluding drinks, which are also available on the premises. Recently, they have begun offering home delivery, and are now linked on Otlob.com.
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.