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Maadi, Cairo, Egypt.
Nile Bukhara: Vegetarian Fetar Alternative in Maadi
The favoured destination for authentic North Indian cuisine offers set menus that make the perfect alternative to a typical fetar meal. We chose the vegetarian tour for two (139LE) and picked a few plates from the non-vegetarian set menu to sample.
Courses at Nile Bukhara begin with an amuse bouche to open the senses. Ours kicked off with a bite: a plate of pickled onions paired with a fresh mint vinaigrette. As soon as we were pickled out, a medley of colourful curries covered our table including vegetarian classics like aloo mutter (potato and peas), dal (lentils), and palak paneer (spinach and fresh cheese).
Aloo mutter stirs in cubed potatoes and peas in a hearty tomato stew more savoury than sweet, while the dal curry, a lentil-based hotpot, left our bellies warm and filled. The palak paneer, however, fell short of our expectations. Flavourful, the blended spinach reduction was on par with palaks from the Subcontinent, but the sliced paneer held a rubbery texture. The perfect paneer is pan-fried often to a golden hue and maintains a creamy centre.
To soak up the curry, an assortment of carbs—papadum, pullao, samosas, and naan—is within hands-reach. Thin, spicy papadum crisps can be an oily disappointment, but Bukhara’s is dry, as it should be, and when broken over the fluffy rice grains of Indian basmati pullao and peas, is a crunchy, appetising topping.
Bukhara’s vegetable samosas are pyramid pockets that point to the heavens. The popular street food and tiffin (a light lunch in India) are a fried pastry packed with a batter of pre-cooked potatoes, peas, and spices, but would be better served with a sauce or mango chutney. Take caution; devour slowly. The stuffing is usually piping hot.
From the tandoori kitchen, in plain view from our seats, New Delhi native Chef Rana dishes out the baked and barbecued delicacies from the cylindrical, clay oven representative of South Asia. Rana stretches naan dough to an oblong shape, presses the round against the walls of the tandoori oven until flaky, and brushes the flat bread with melted butter. With a slightly sweet end, the Indian staple mops up our plates.
Omnivores dining-in may want to order a side or two. We recommend the kebab platter (61LE) or murgh makhani (55LE). The platter features tandoori specialties like malai kofte (minced chicken rolled and baked), chicken tikka (barbecued chicken), and reshmi kebab (a succulent pieces of skewered chicken). The murgh makhani cooks morsels of chicken until tender in a thick, tomato gravy.
For dessert, we opted for the gulab jamun, a warm fried ball soaked in a rose-water syrup. One or two of these delectable treats is more than enough for a saccharin high for two.
The heat at Bukhara is noticeably tempered for local taste buds. Setting-wise, the wooden fixtures, dimmed lighting, and anodyne tunes are out-dated but cozy.
Into the last week of Ramadan fetars, spice it up a bit and go Indian at the twenty-year-old Nile Bukhara, where friendly servers have yet to be jaded and where we’re never too old for the well-needed bib.
From Moroccan cuisine specialist, La Palmeraie, and iconic Oriental grill, El Kebabgy, to Le Deck’s Two Michelin star chef-crafted menu, any new restaurant opening at Sofitel Cairo El Gezirah has a lot to live up to. With new Indian restaurant, Manipuri, however, let’s just say that it might be even better than its neighbours.
As soon as we stepped inside Manipuri, we found ourselves in a huge, symmetrical, low-ceiling waiting area with LED lights on the floor leading us to a spacious lobby-like interior of the restaurant. From the table topped with an Indian statue surrounded by jars of legumes, to the humongous sweeping staricase, we felt like we were about to attend Aladdin and Jasmine’s wedding. Divided into two floors, the top floor is dedicated to the bar – which opens at 9PM - while the dining area is on the ground floor, with seats placed exclusively next to the curtained wall which overlooks a great view of the Nile.
While checking out the menu, we were welcomed with a very light and refreshing Mango Yogurt drink infused with a hint of pomegranate syrup, as well as a bowl of nacho-shaped Papadums with sides of exquisite apple chutney and pickled lemon. The complimentary items left us even more excited for what was to come.
With a huge variety on the menu, we felt a bit overwhelmed and lost, before eventually opting for Murg Kadhai (120LE) and Jhagi Lamb Chops (160LE) as our mains.
Boasting boneless chicken swimming in tomato gravy infused with sautéed onions and red, yellow and green bell pepper, the Murg Kadhai was a flawless dish. The chicken was very tender, the tomato gravy was seasoned to perfection and had a fantastic thick consistency which coated the chicken perfectly, while the spiciness of the dish was balanced by the sweetness of the bell peppers and onions.
The Jhagi lamb chops, meanwhile, had a delicious marinade which consists of ginger and coriander, and was served with splashes of three different sauces: coriander, mango ginger and a sauce that was very similar to sweet tamarind chutney. Despite that the lamb being a bit tough, it was bursting with flavours which were further complimented by the coriander sauce, while the mango ginger and the tamarind chutney-like sauce added sweetness to the dish.
We also ordered a side Garlic Naan (15LE) and of Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani (120LE) to share, because, well, what’s an Indian dinner without biryani and naan bread?
The light and fluffy basmati rice was infused with saffron and other aromatic spices and mixed with big chunks of tender boneless chicken, nuts, fine julienne cuts of ginger and a side of spicy tomato gravy and yogurt sauce. We expected the Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani to be a side for our mains, but it could easily be a main on its own, but we enjoyed the extra flavours from perfect match of the spicy tomato gravy and the yogurt sauce.
Meanwhile, the garlic naan came in four pieces of buttery slices with a delicate garlic flavour, perfectly crispy edges and that chewy texture you look for in naan bread.
We finished our meal with Hot Gulab Jamun (50LE) for dessert. This classic south Asian dessert is served in an ice cream glass cup filled with saffron syrup, two sweet milk dumplings, a scoop of vanilla ice cream and walnuts. Overall, the sweetness of the dessert was spot-on; the dumplings had that cake-like texture, the walnuts added an occasional crunch and the saffron syrup gave the dessert a terrific aroma.
This was one of the few times were we upset that the meal had ended. Manipuri certainly impressed with its to-die-for flavours, unique and quiet ambiance, crowd-pleasing dishes and excellent value for money. Considering we paid a total of 590LE for all of the above, not only is this one of the best Indian restaurants in Cairo, but it’s also one of the cheapest at a top hotel.