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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.
One cuisine we can never say no to is the Lebanese. Somehow it manages to be both light yet decadent enough to satisfy any of our cravings for hearty food. Tamara, one of Cairo’s newer yet already widely coveted Lebanese eateries recently opened its doors in New Cairo and we couldn’t wait to grab a bite.
Offering a rather small indoor seating area, which was packed to its brim at the time of our visit, alongside a breezier outdoor seating area, Tamara overlooks Cairo Festival City Mall’s infamous dancing fountain. The whole feel of the place is modern-Arabian, with vibrant chandeliers and furnishing. Our waiter seated us outdoors on colourful, yet uncomfortable metal chairs.
Strangely enough, no menus were set on the table until we asked for them from one of the constantly busy waiters. Tamara offers all kinds of Lebanese delicacies, from delicious-sounding Thyme Manakish (30 LE), luscious Shawermas (40-60 LE), to numerous Grill options, Freek dishes (20-35 LE) and Fettahs (55-80 LE). Their dessert section, however, lured our sweet tooth and we hurriedly glanced through it before settling for their signature Ghazal Beirut (45 LE) and the Yoghurt Ice Cream with Berries and Cashews (30 LE).
Our dessert arrived quite instantly, within a few countable minutes, and we must say that its presentation was totally on point. The Ghazal Beirut came in the form of 2 scoops of Mastic ice cream topped with Mastic-flavoured cotton candy and sprinkled with crushed pistachios. Our first bite confirmed that it tasted even better than it looked, albeit being a tad too sweet. The Yoghurt Ice Cream, consisting of 3 scoops, on the other hand, was less spectacular and noticeably lacking in cashews. It was, nevertheless, quite fresh-tasting.
The evident problem, however, was the un-orderly service; we had to ask for the check twice before it arrived quite a while later.
To wrap up, we loved Tamara’s creative take on the mainstream oriental design; the interior design of the place is simply gorgeous. Also, Ghazal Beirut may as well be the most creative dessert we’ve had in a while. We think, however, that a bit of tweaking in the service departments will definitely go a long way.