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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.
After its smashing success on the North coast, Café Blanc wasted no time in opening in Cairo and, not unlike its Sahel branch, the restaurant-cafe takes up an outdoor seating area at Cairo Festival City mall that provides a pleasant an inviting dining experience.
The decor of the venue uses bright vivid colours and comfy, chic seating options make it perfect for a laid back afternoon lunch. The indoor area is even louder, with it's trademark sky blue colour dominating a space that includes some attractive arched ceilings.
We took some time to go through the extensive menu, which included a range of traditional Lebanese dishes with modern twists, from which we chose the Raheb Salad (20LE) and some Tabbouleh (25LE) to start. From the Hot Mezza section, we opted for the Makanek in Pomegranate Molasses Sauce (40LE), Chicken Liver (35LE), Ras Asfour (38LE) and Cheese Rolls (30LE). Since the manakeesh are made right before our eyes in a live cooking station, we had to give them a try so we ordered the Akkawi Chili Man’oushe (35LE). For the mains we had the Kofta Platter (70LE) and Fattet Shawarma (55LE).
Shortly our salad arrived accompanied by a basket of steaming warm bread. The Tabouleh was light and zesty while the Raheb Salad was even more impressive with mashed grilled eggplants, diced tomatoes, peppers and onions, marinated with lemon and olive oil.
The hit appetisers quickly followed; the Makanek and Chicken Liver were both smothered in flavoursome, sweet molasses sauce that truly rang in our tastebuds. The Ras Asfour, small thin slices of beef in gravy sauce, came in a rather small portion, but was nonetheless cooked and seasoned well. However, it was the cheese rolls that stole the show, coming piping hot and filled generously.
The friendly waiter then brought in the rest of our dishes promptly. The Kofta platter featured three skewers of Lamb kofta grilled to perfection with a side of delicious wedges and tehina dip. The Man’oushe was authentically Lebanes and stuffed generously with salty Akkawi cheese; needless to say it vanished in a couple of minutes. The Fattah, unfortunately, didn’t fare as well; it was lukewarm, the yoghurt seemed diluted and runny, while there was a strange lack of rice.
From the diverse desserts menu, we opted for Jabal Lebnen (38LE) and the trio pudding (30LE) – the latter of which was recommended by the waiter. Jabal Lebnen is a traditional Lebanese dessert featuring a simple but vibrant combination of flavours; Halawa, pistachios and delicious Mastic Ice cream. The trio pudding was light and sweet, consisting of three servings of rice pudding, muhallabieh and meghleh; a cinnamon and spice-infused pudding.
While many restaurants in the capital claim to serve truly authentic Lebanese dishes, only few actually do and Café Blanc has proved to be among them. The service was impeccable and the friendly waiters made sure to attend to our every need. All in all, we had a rather enjoyable experience despite the fact that some dishes were considered to be over-priced compared to the portions served.