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Sequoia: Local Nile Lounge Continues to Generate a Buzz
The first Sequoia experience leaves a lasting impression: a white canvas tent covers the dining area during the colder months, giving one the impression of entering an exclusive, dreamlike domain as you walk onto the floating restaurant. In the summer heat the venue is open air, making daytime dining a sweltering, albeit scenic, affair. The white canvas lounge chairs and flowing robes of waiters add to the enchantment of what we shall term “the Sequoia effect.”
But where does the magic really come from? Certainly not the menu. While the assortment of oriental dishes are fair - from molokheya to fried liver sandwiches, to the more common shish tawouk and kofta - there is nothing truly remarkable about the cuisine. The beverage choices are standard, with classic sodas, fresh juice, and some beers and wines. A big selling point is the sushi, with the menu imported from local restaurant Mori Sushi, making for an expansive array of dishes to choose from. The sushi servers are generally much more efficient than the in-house waiters, who sometimes stumble over the menu even though it hasn’t changed in years.
There is of course some room for innovation. Instead of going with the usual apple or peach shisha, be adventurous and ask to hear the house specials; the blend of banana and vanilla flavoured tobacco can be a surprising treat. While that may be as exciting as the evening gets, most of us can expect to return, again and again.
Service can be frustratingly slow on weekends when tables are filled to over-flowing, and the food is sometimes less than spectacular. Sequoia is nonetheless undeniably a staple for informal gatherings, a fall-back venue for birthdays, or a solid choice for a casual date. Bottom line, when all else fails, Sequoia generally offers a safe and satisfactory solution to an informal evening out.
The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, and serves a special Saturday brunch menu. At the moment weekend-goers are charged a 100LE minimum, but by the time this review is published, it may well have increased; as any regular knows the minimum is constantly on the rise. Say what you will, Sequoia remains one of the top and most popular lounges in Cairo, and we all know we’ll be back for more.
Zamalek Nile-side restaurant, Sequoia, certainly needs no introduction as one of the more popular outing spots for Cairenes, during both Ramadan and the rest of the year. In need of some sohour, and a nice atmosphere to enjoy it in, we made our way to Aboul Feda Street in Zamalek.
Arriving earlier than most other patrons, we snagged a table overlooking the Nile, its breeze ensuring a fresh, cool evening.
Sohour at Sequoia is served a la carte and there is a minimum charge of 150LE per person. With menus ready at the tables, we proceeded to order a variety of dishes which included foul with taameya (30LE), hawawshi (50LE), hommos (26LE), vine leaves (37LE) and a yoghurt salad (22LE), fattoush salad (26LE) and sambousak with cheese (43LE).
First, though, we ordered fresh juice: one watermelon and one lemon with mint (both 27LE). The juice came in a little carafe, as per usual, and both were cold and pleasingly refreshing, while maintaining natural sweetness.
The food arrived promptly and at the same time. The foul with taameya was especially tasty, with a buttery, well-rounded flavour. The hawawshi, which was some of the best we’ve tried in Cairo, came with a side of equally delectable chunky fries. The hommos arrived in three blobs and was perfectly seasoned with just the right amount of kick. The sambousak was average with pastry that was slightly on the thick and soft side as opposed to light and crispy, while the meat-stuffed vine leaves were fresh and moist.
The least impressive part of the meal had to be the fattoush salad. While the ingredients themselves were fresh and robust with a wonderfully tart dressing, the crispy bits of bread were a bit stale in texture as well as taste.
For a sweet ending to our meal we chose one rice pudding with nuts (30LE) and a Ramadan standard: sahlab (30LE). The former was nice and creamy, but the sahlab was less impressive. Expecting the drink to come with a layer of nuts, coconut and raisins floating atop it, waiting to be mixed or eaten depending on the drinkers’ preference, this sahlab came with scarce toppings already mixed into the overly watery drink. It was also much too sweet.
Sequoia also offers shisha (28LE) in all the basic flavours and we found it to be smooth and regularly tended to. The same can be said of the service, too; the place quickly filled up around us and we found the service to be attentive and efficient despite the growing crowds.
More than just good food, Sequoia is truly pleasing on the eye; apart from the obvious Nile views, the design itself is dreamy, rustic and very unique to the city, and you can thank Eklego Designs for that.