Sign in using your account with
Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Makino: Authentic Japanese Food in Zamalek
The Hilton Zamalek Residence on Mohamed Mazhar, like many other Zamalek hotels, is downplayed. Being in Zamalek. one would imagine that all these hotels on the island would be brimming with restaurants and bars - it’s a shame they don’t. But passing by the Hilton, we spotted a Japanese restaurant that piqued our interest so we decided to pop in.
Makino has only just opened and there is still a sense of incompleteness to the restaurant; the entrance, for example, is still from inside the hotel as opposed to on the street where the restaurant is located.
An indoor area has a low sushi bar to eat at as well as maple wood tables and chairs, and a pebbled floor covered in marble slabs laid out like stepping stones. The outdoor area is bordered in bamboo sticks with oriental-inspired lighting fixtures. Overall, the place is harmonious and relaxing.
Choosing to sit outside since the weather was nice, a Japanese hostess welcomed us with the menus and cold towels were brought to the table. Feeling slightly lost in the menu and unsure of what to order, we settled on a variety of dishes.
One of the few places in Cairo that serves edemame (38LE), we happily ordered ourselves a portion to start. A sushi platter (180LE) comes with a variety of sushi pieces that includes salmon, eel, calamari, tuna, white fish and even an egg one! The sushi wasn’t very vibrant in colour, included no cheese and none of them were fried - in other words it looked bland - which led us to assume that this is what real sushi looks like as opposed to the westernised version that we’re used to. They were smaller in size, which is a plus, but weren't as spectacular in look or in taste.
The Tempura Mori (70LE) isa selection of seafood and vegetable tempura which was good but there were more vegetables than seafood. The Niku Jaga (55LE) is a stew with beef, potatoes, onions and carrots that tasted quite average; the vegetable pieces were too large and the stew itself was too thin. The Salmon Shio Yaki (65LE) is a fillet cooked in salt and was served with cucumber and apricot on the side. The salmon was well cooked but had a very potent flavour and is really an acquired taste for seafood lovers.
Their dessert menu is still under development so we settled for the sesame ice-cream (20LE). A scoop of vanilla with crushed sesame seeds sprinkled on top, it was interesting and surprisingly good.
The service at Makino was reasonable; the waiters were attentive, pleasant and they seemed to be working hard to give their restaurant a good name. We also noticed the bar towards the back of the outdoor area being cleaned using hygienic gloves which is always a promising sign in a place that serves raw fish.
Chatting with a group of Japanese diners, we were told that Makino is as authentic as Japanese food gets and perhaps that would explain our initial apprehension to the menu choices. So if that’s what you’re looking for, according to our new Japanese pals, this is the place to go.
Although this sushi restaurant has been open in Citystars mall for several years now, it opened its second branch in Cairo on the Nile City Towers first floor this year. Still very much a mall eatery, Wabi Sabi boasts an eclectic mix of food court cuisine and Asian flare with an enthusiastic dash of contemporary art-chic
The chain calls itself 'sushi couture' and offers a menu strictly of Japanese seafood fare. The restaurant’s decor is a confusing blend of modern art, nature installations with a copious mix of sheet metal walls, dark wood lattice and carved wooden table pieces.
Formerly occupied by coffee chain Cilantro, the dining space was clearly never designed to house a cosy, casual-chic Far Eastern restaurant; and the result is slightly unsettling. Four or five tables are placed in the open mall hallway, equipped with high-back chairs on one side and backless benches on another. Tables are each decorated with three wooden Ukrainian-patterned eggs that nest in oblong carved trays.
The interior of the restaurant is small, and made even smaller by the fact that a larger-than-life wooden tree made of pieces of plywood is planted in the restaurant’s centre. The tree is flanked by a warped wall of silver sheet metal on one side, and a plaque on the other, where silver foil is folded into shapes of birds; adding to the place crowded, mixed styles.
Service here is prompt and friendly, and we had not problem attracting the waiter’s attention to request more rice or inquire whether the kitchen served seaweed salad– sadly, they don’t. We were delighted by the fragrant and pungent miso soup’s broth, its firm silken tofu and plentiful seaweed strands.
The menu is extensive, advertising everything including nigiri, sashimi and ura maki, with several house variations on the classic such as the naked maki, which excludes a nori skin; or the sashimi special that sears the fish instead of serving raw slices; in addition to an elaborate list of house special rolls.
Our tuna sashimi (50LE for eight pieces) tasted delightfully fresh, although the cuts were clumsy. Instead of delicate slices, we were served uneven slabs that were difficult to separate into bites. The shrimp black sesame roll (42LE) was a lightly fried, crispy compilation that had us quite pleased. We sampled the pan-seared salmon with black sesame (59LE) from the sashimi special section. The slices of salmon meat arrived ever-so-lightly touched in the pan on the surface and sprinkled with black sesame seeds. The dish left us bemused: while the salmon was fresh and tasty, we had anticipated a deeper braze in the pan, and would have appreciated a golden edge or a touch of crispiness to make the dish more exciting.
Portions are not small, and the prices are decidedly mid-range for sushi restaurants in Cairo. We would return for a quick, informal bite of some fresh seafood, and perhaps for another look at the decor just for fun.