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Nasr City, Cairo, Egypt.
Tasbera: Delicious Egyptian Food at Citystars
It's amazing how many restaurants attempt cooking Egyptian home food. It's even more amazing how many of them do it terribly, and it makes you wish you were in fact eating at home. It seems like there's always someone's cooking in the family that's better than what you're being served and that sets the bar incredibly high for restaurants, but every so often a new player comes along and manages to impress.
Located in the Khan El Khalili square within the first phase of City Stars, and designed with classic oriental decor, Tasbera has been open for business for about three months, and is owned by the same people who own Strada, the Italian restaurant a few steps away.
The restaurant is quite and relaxing and offers a great break from the bustle of the crowded mall. We sat on a comfortable L-shaped couch in the corner, surrounded by Kitsch artwork of modern Egyptian figures, portraits of antiquities and of course, TV screens. The dominant colour scheme is a mixture of turquoise and wood brown. The experience was complete with friendly and extremely hospitable waiters. Now it's time to see what the food is like.
Divided into different sections, the menu offers breakfast food including foul, falafel, eggs and cheese between the hours of 10am – 1pm, and then moves on to the main courses which include fried liver, sogo' and liver fajita and fried kofta, in addition to sandwiches and casseroles all ranging between 30LE-40LE. While the restaurant serves a set cuisine, we wanted to evaluate some of the creativity within that, aside from the classic dishes.
From the starters, we opted for Alexandrian Liver (19LE) which had a considerably larger cut rather than diced like in sandwiches, and served with chilli peppers. The seasoning was incredible and the liver had just the right texture.
We ordered the Sogo' Fajita (54LE) which was served sizzling in a hot plate just like Mexican fajitas, but the ingredients were very oriental. Great tasting Sogo' with a mixture of mushrooms, bell peppers, onions and olives, served with a bowl of white rice and french fries. No sour cream or cheese, so basically a half fajita and half Egyptian meal. With that said, the dish tasted great and the portion was generous.
We also ordered the Mixed Cheese Feteer (40LE) based upon the waiter's recommendation. Light, delicious and absolutely stuffed with cheddar, roumi and Kiri, yet somehow not greasy at all, this is definitely one of the top contenders for best feteer in Egypt.
We had wanted to try the oriental desserts, but by that point we were too stuffed and instead opted for the Tasbera Cocktail (25LE) which consists of fresh mango and kiwi juice plus pieces of kiwi. Generous in portion, refreshing and slightly zesty, the juice was just as good as everything else we tried.
All in all, our experience at Tasbera was a great one, from the great and hospitable service to the chic decors and the excellent food, Tasbera should definitely be your lunch option the next time you swing by City Stars.
When Zamalek institution, La Bodega, closed down at the beginning of 2014, it left a hole in many a heart. While a beachside iteration has since popped up on the North Coast during Sahel Season, its closure has certainly left a gap that not even its replacement, the phenomenal U Bistro, has been able to quite replace in the same way.
But remnants still remain in the form of sister venue, Aperitivo, located on the same floor of the same building. It’s by no means similar in appearance or, one could argue, atmosphere, but La Bodega regulars have adopted it as a replacement and the spirit is very much cut from the same cloth. For those not familiar with Aperitivo, the bar and restaurant maintains a classic element in its décor and design (think wood and glass cabinets displaying various piece of crockery and ornaments) while also using various more modern pieces (the chandeliers are very cool).
Divided into two sections – the bar and the restaurant proper – there isn’t a lot that will jump out at you in its appearance; but that’s the best way to be for a venue of this standing – demure and unpretentious.
There’s been something of a revolution happening at Aperitivo as of late, including the launch of a new menu; one that walks the line between high-end culinary delicacy and the kind of wholesomeness you get with bistro food.
The concise but varied menu covers soups, salads, meat and poultry dishes, as well as pastas and seafood, which is where we began our evening.
We rarely give up the opportunity to try a dish with scallops in it – not only because it’s a rare commodity in Cairo, but because it’s also often mishandled, which felt like the case with Aperitivo’s seared scallop starter (155LE). While it was a creative and enticing dish, the scallops were slightly overcooked, the accompanying black truffle was too little, though the spiced apple puree that also accompanies the dish gave a pleasant sweetness to every bite despite tasting more like a beetroot puree. Meanwhile, four sticks of asparagus were cooked and seasoned perfectly, while a faint balsamic reduction did little to elevate the rest of the ingredients.
Among the menu’s salads, we were seduced by the camembert salad, which brought together generous chunks of deep-fried camembert cheese together with mixed greens, roasted pears, sundried tomatoes and walnuts. The greens were fresh, the sundried tomatoes added a sweet acidity to thick, pungent cheese and the walnuts gave the whole dish an earthy touch. However, the pears were undetectable, which is a real shame as it could have been the ingredient that brought everything together.
While various mains are included in the new menu, we decided to test the kitchen’s mettle with meats. Despite being served with far too much uncooked fat, a medium-cooked sirloin steak (150LE) was full of flavour and served in a very big portion, alongside some perfectly made oven baked vegetables. Our second dish, the roast veal fillet, was also of a noticeably good quality and served in a large portion, though it was unevenly cooked, meaning some pieces were a little tough and others had a perfect pink interior.
Unfortunately, there was not much else to talk about with the mains, despite the menu promising more; the veal dish, for example, should come with roast pumpkin ad soft polenta, but both were missing from the plate, as was the roasted garlic on the steak dish.
This, actually, defined our meal; what we were served was well-made, but with so much missing from both mains – as well as the missing pear from the salad – severely dwindling what promised to be a fine evening of fine dining. Would we go again? Absolutely – the new menu reads fantastically; but maybe the kitchen needs a little more time to perfect it.