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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.
Lebanese restaurants in Cairo are common, to say the least, but few truly elevate the cuisine. Located on El Thawra Street in Heliopolis, Tanoura struck us as being both aesthetically interesting and colourful, drawing us in with bright oranges, Mediterranean yellows and reds. The ground floor is only partially covered, creating an outside-in feel, complete with flower beds and a central palm tree. Continuing its cheerful theme indoors, the restaurant spreads over two more floors.
Named after a Lebanese dance, it seemed only appropriate that Oriental music served as the backdrop to our dining experience, whilst antique, reclaimed shisha pipes are used as light fixtures and are incorporated into the interesting screen designs.
We were promptly shown to our seats before the waiter discreetly told us that the minimum charge is 75LE; a minimum easy to surpass with their wide selection of tempting Lebanese dishes. All the typical hot and cold appetisers are available, along with salads, arayes, mana'eesh, fattah and grills. If Lebanese doesn’t take your fancy, there’s also a selection of soups and pastas to choose from.
Tanoura also offer a good variation of drinks; we ordered a lemon juice (18LE) and a watermelon smoothie (25LE), both which arrived swiftly. The lemon juice was a refreshing bitter-sweet concoction whilst the watermelon – now in season – was a deliciously fresh, icy slushy.
We requested one chicken fattah (45LE), an onion soup (20LE), hommos (20LE) and cheese sambousak (24LE). We didn’t have to wait long, and in true Lebanese style, everything was served together. A basket of cold, soft baladi bread was delivered as an accompaniment to the creamy, well-seasoned hommos. The cheese sambousak resembled four, generously sized spring rolls, deep fried to a golden brown. Unfortunately – due to the bed of lettuce they were presented on – the underside turned soggy fairly quickly. The onion soup was rich and flavourful, complete with a considerable amount of onion pieces swimming in it. Of all the dishes, however, our chicken fattah exceeded expectations; it was a creamy mixture of large, quality chicken chunks amongst crispy bread and soft white rice. The portion was so large that we struggled to finish it along with our starters.
Rather than choosing one of their Oriental desserts, we chose to wash our meal down with an apple shisha (18LE) which was as expected; fruity, flavourful and smooth.
The colourful décor, chilled-out atmosphere and contemporary setting of Tanoura modernises traditional Lebanese recipes, and is proving to be a popular place for both young and more mature clientele.