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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.
Almost a year ago, Cairo 360 reviewed Lebanese restaurant, Taboon; a review that raised every question there is to be raised when it comes to assessing a restaurant and found it lacking.
Since then, however, the Zamalek restaurant has been through a major transformation that claimed to have tackled the previous review’s many issues. Naturally, a revisit was in order.
Relocated to Abul Feda Street, the new Taboon – described as an urban Lebanese kitchen – boasts a more cheerful setting with sunflower yellow walls with a number of turquoise shelves, scattered framed mirrors and a wide LCD mounted across them. The indoor tables are made of light wood, while the outdoor tables are black. with both areas populated with orange and black metal chairs.
The menu has a wide selection of items to choose from. There are several breakfast options such as hummus and yoghurt fattah (22LE), fava and falafel (35 LE) and eggs (35 LE). Other than that, the rest of the items are exactly what you’d expect; cold mezzes (10L–25LE), hot mezzes (8LE–30LE), salads (25LE–35 LE) and, of course, grill items.
Unfortunately, there were several items unavailable at the time of our visit, including desserts and shawerma. With other options plentiful, however, we opted for fatayer bel jebneh (20LE) as a starter; white cheese rolled in sambousak pastry. Though the dough was light and crispy, the cheese filling was devoid of any seasoning, while the sharp taste of black seeds didn't add much as they were only present on both ends of each roll.
For the main courses, we opted for sish tawook and Kofta orfaly (55LE each). Each meal is served with Basmati rice, batatah harra (spicy baked potato cubes), pickles and Lebanese bread. The shish tawook was cooked to perfection; the chicken pieces were juicy, flavoursome and sufficiently soaked in the well-balanced marinade of olive oil and lemon juice.
Unfortunately, the other main course was the exact opposite; said to be grilled with a special mix of green pepper and onion, the kofta barely had any flavour thanks, once again, to an almost complete lack of seasoning. It’s a shame, because it was cooked very well.
Of the included sides, the spicy baked potato cubes were a success; soft and tender beneath the crispy crust, the cubes were well-seasoned and subtly spicy without being too hot. The Basmati rice didn’t fare as well, however; it was bland, tasteless and under-cooked.
Though there was plenty to be displeased about, Taboon has improved in terms of service and hygiene; yet with small mistakes ruining the dishes, there’s little to make the restaurant stand out amongst the increasing number of Lebanese eateries in Cairo.