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Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt.
Tamara Lebanese Bistro: New Citystars Restaurant Opens in Time for Ramadan
Tamara in Citystars serves traditional Lebanese food with a modern flair. Brought to you by the same people behind Mori Sushi, this time they're looking to entice Cairo with an authentic taste of Lebanon. Located just across the VIP cinema on the ground floor, it caused quite a stir in the weeks leading up to its opening.
In a mostly white-washed interior, colourful oriental patterns and arabesque decorations accent the space, while the staff are clad in a galabeya-like uniforms of pink and grey. Tamara has multi-level seating areas to separate the smoking area from the non-smoking one. The restaurant also serves shisha (25LE) and with sufficient ventilation, the smoke won’t irritate you.
With Lebanese chefs, we were eager to begin ordering. The maqanek (Lebanese sausages) with potatoes and pomegranate dip (40LE) was heavenly; the sausages were delicious and perfectly spiced. The dish came with thin, fried potatoes and was soaked in the rich wine-red coloured dip that was sweet and distinctly sour; a perfect combination and a must try.
The potato soufflé with minced meat (35LE) seemed to have come right out of the oven to our table. The mashed potatoes were soft and creamy but could have used an extra pinch of salt. The lower layer of minced meat was well-cooked and flavourful.
Other appetizers include hummus (20LE-45LE), vine leaves (25LE) and kabbe nayee – or kobeiba (40LE). In addition, they have Lebanese pastries, such as chicken and shrimp roqaq (39LE and 45LE), fiteer with spinach (30LE), manakeesh (25LE) and meat in pastry (35LE).
For a main course, we ordered the baby chicken messahab (70LE); half a grilled chicken with thyme and mixed with potatoes. Fresh tomatoes and mint leaves gave it an extra special touch. The whole plate was covered with thin Lebanese bread freshly baked in front of us in their open kitchen.
Out of several shawerma options we tried the chicken shawerma plate (50LE). The shawerma came in a generous amount, wrapped in delicious Lebanese bread. With garlic sauce (tomeya) on the bread, the chicken was mixed with tomatoes, tasty herbs and topped with mint leaves. They also offer meat shawerma plate (55LE) and mini shawerma sandwiches (chicken 35LE and meat 45LE)
There are also fattah plates such as chicken fattah (45LE), lamb fillet fattah (55LE), and fattah with hummus and pine nuts (55LE).
We ordered konafa with cheese (35LE) for dessert, which was served quickly and initially given to us on the house. However when the order didn’t turn up correct, the waiter quickly apologized and soon after brought us the right one, only this time we were charged for it. The konafa came topped with a thick layer of cheese and was covered in syrup mixed with nuts and Lebanese mazaher. To guarantee the full experience, have a bite with all ingredients together.
We washed it all down the lemon with mint (30LE) that is blended milk, lemon, mint syrup, and little mint chunks. It was refreshing and one of the best lemon drinks we’ve had.
Despite the fact that our table
was a bit too small to handle all the dishes we ordered,
Tamara succeeded in tempting us to return – especially with the month of Ramadan upon us.
When it comes to fine-dining in Cairo, the capital’s hotels are largely a safe bet – none more so than Fairmont Heliopolis & Towers, which is home to a remarkable 17 restaurants, cafes and bars. There’s plenty of choice, but from the small courtyard pool, to the open oven with freshly baked bread, to the Islamic chandelier design, our visit to Lebanese restaurant, Al Dabké, was a delightful dining experience from start to finish.
Warmly welcomed by the cheerful and attentive staff, we were handed the menus and found a variety of mouth-watering choices that covered everything from from soups and mezzas,to fattah, savoury pastries and grilled dishes. Eventually, we went for the Fattoush salad (50LE), Chicken Fattah (155LE) and Lebanese Kofta (170LE).
Drizzled with ground sumac, the Fattoush salad – also known as the Lebanese summer salad – was the perfect mix of sweet and sour. The pomegranate molasses skilfully mingled with the well-seasoned and spiced vegetables, leaving an overwhelmingly savoury and tingly aftertaste.
Sprinkled with pine nuts, the chicken fattah was comprised of large pieces of moist and tender to the taste poached shredded chicken smothered in a zesty chickpeas and yoghurt sauce. The only misstep to this big-portioned dish was the plain pita bread served instead of the roasted bread promised by the menu.
Served as four large pieces of lamb-minced meat with a side of Tahini dip, the Lebanese kofta was succulent, tender and delicious, with well-cooked minced meat rice and tasty grilled vegetables as side dishes.
Torn between some typical Lebanese delicacies for dessert, including traditional Lebanese pastry (55LE), Mastic ice cream (45LE), katayef keshta (45LE) and kunafa othmanlia (60LE), we ended our meal with the latter – a classic in the Lebanese kitchen.
Warm out of the oven and garnished with small pieces of chopped pistachio, the kunafa was sweet and gooey, enveloping a chewy and slightly salty akawwi cheese which was saturated with tasty and sweet honey syrup – as the shimmer alone was tempting enough.
No quintessential Oriental evening would be complete without shisha and we pushed own our delicious meal with a blueberry-flavoured and gum-flavoured shishas (45LE each) which were promptly tended to and marked a perfect ending to an experience we left with few qualms.
Despite being busy on at the time of our visit, Al Dabké hit all the right notes in bringing a high-end finish to Levantine cuisine and transpired to be more than befitting of the five-star billing of Fairmont Heliopolis.