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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.
There is nothing more disappointing than when a positive first impression later being falsified by the reality of a venue. Leila, a Lebanese eatery with plenty of branches in Cairo and one in Alexandria to boast, sure seemed like the perfect choice for a quick bite in the busy shopping complex, but unfortunately did not manage to live up to expectations.
Located right by the fountain, in a prime location, Leila offers both outdoor and indoor seating. Whereas the indoor seating area is quite cosy, the outdoor area seemed more tempting, given the unusually refreshing spring breeze. Upon being seated, our menus found their way to our table.
Leila’s menu offers a comprehensive array of Lebanese delicacies, including the 'Metabbal Debs El Remmen' (27LE), ich comprises of eggplants smothered in pomegranate molasses, an assortment of Kofta dishes (77LE), as well as mixed grill options (99LE-149LE), Lahm Baajine (42LE), an assortment of Lebanese pastries (55 LE), as well as some grilled chicken based dishes and authentic Lebanese desserts.
Feeling a bit adventurous, we went for two Lebanese pizzas (55LE each), not exactly knowing what to expect. For some pre-food refreshments, we went for mint green tea as well as Vanilla-Coconut and Peach flavoured shishas (40LE each).
The process of ordering, which included us having to go through a few waiters, was hectic. Our table was peculiarly not assigned a single waiter, and so whereas one would be taking our food orders, another would be taking our drink orders.
Arriving a good fifteen minutes after ordering, the shishas were initially light yet flavourful, but then no proper coal maintenance made the experience shortlived. The pizzas, which arrived ten minutes after the shishas, were surprising to say the least and looked nowhere near traditional. Presented on ceramic platters atop a metal stand, the pizzas were slightly cold and boasted uncooked pieces of homemade mozzarella cheese, topped with Rocca leaves and tomato slices atop a thin pastry.
Whereas the pastry tasted more like that of Manakeesh rather than pizza, the mozzarella cheese was quite delicious, yet the overall taste of the dish as a whole was quite disappointing.
The mint green tea seemed to have been completely forgotten, despite us asking for it twice, yet finally made a surprise appearance towards the end of our meal. To wrap up, Leila was a confusing mixture of a great location, with spot on ambiance, but dissapointing service.