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Mokai Sushi: Sushi Restaurant in New Cairo Falls Short of More Established Competitors
With sushi as popular as ever across Cairo restaurants, the newest eatery to join the pack is Mokai Sushi at Concord Plaza Mall in New Cairo. Competition in the area is fierce, with Sushi Bay, Mori Sushi, Makani Sushi and a soon to open Fuego all in fairly close proximity.
Mokai doesn't stop at sushi, however; the menu also features various items covering fast-food and main courses, and you can even grab a shisha. The venue is located on the outside of the mall and is essentially divided into two separate – they have different entrances – sections; one for sushi and the other for main courses and fast-food, as well as an outdoor area with fire heaters, shisha and LCD televisions.
We entered the sushi bar and sat on two opposite sofas as traditional Japanese music played in the background. The warm orange interior, dim lights and Japanese wall engravings give the place a calming atmosphere and the seating arrangement gives you privacy.
After checking the menu, we opted for Tempura Mariowase (50LE) as an appetiser, and a selection of Nigiri Sushi (10.5LE-12), Ebi Oshi Sushi (34LE/3 pieces), Salmon Sashimi (35LE/4 pieces), a Salmon Temaki (32/piece), and Maki Rolls (23LE – 90LE).
The Tempura Mariowase arrived first and was a plate of fried fish, squid and shrimp along with vegetables. Both were covered in a light, crunchy fried batter that tasted delicious with the accompanying Tempura dipping sauce and everything was fresh tasting, but the amount of vegetables far exceeded the amount of seafood.
Soon afterwards, we noticed that our sushi order was ready to be served; there was no waiter and the platter sat on the sushi bar for quite some time – sushi isn't something that waits for too long.
The first of the sushi that we tried was the Sensei Maki (74LE/6 pieces) – one of Mokai's special rolls. Delicately and attractively topped with salmon, caviar and sesame, they looked fantastic and tasted just as good, with the tuna, avocado, cream cheese and salmon working perfectly together.
The Philadelphia Rolls (34LE/half portion) brought cream cheese, avocado and cucumber together, which are all wrapped in smoked salmon and topped with teriyaki sauce; a simple combination of ingredients which made the roll light and tasty. Another of Mokai's signature sushi, however, didn't fare as well. The Paradise Roll – tempura, cream cheese and avocado, topped with smoked salmon and sweet yuzu sauce –lacked the flavour of yuzu and ended being very similar in taste to the Philadelphia Rolls
Sitting in the centre of the dish were three pieces of Ebi Oshi; blocks of pressed sushi topped with bite size shrimp. Again, the pieces lacked any distinguishable flavour, while the Salmon Sashimi suffered similarly despite being noticeably fresh – the marinated sashimi might have been the better option.
The Salmon Temaki cone, meanwhile, was every bit as good as it looked. Stuffed with fair amount of salmon, lettuce, cucumber and avocado coated with rice and nori, it held together perfectly and wasn't the mess one might think.
As for the Nigiri Salmon, again the fish lacked taste compared to nigiri we've tried at other sushi places around Cairo.
As a venue, Mokai is generally inviting, though when if compared with the more establishes names such as Mori and Fuego, the restaurant comes up just short. Most of our order was satisfactory, but we left remembering the bad more than we did the good.
Aside from the city's international hotels, sophisticated Cairo restaurants are often hard to come by. Two possible exceptions are handily located beside each other in Zamalek; sister venues, Sequoia and Left Bank.
The removal of Mori Sushi from Sequoia, some months ago, signalled the owners' intent to introduce their own Asian restaurant, Mirai.
Wedged in between Sequoia and Left Bank, Mirai strives to provide a sophisticated, Asian dining experience. With an all glass front and dim lighting, the restaurant oozes a stylishly chic, almost romantic, vibe. The decor and attention to detail are impressive, with wood accents and attractive light fixtures transporting diners to a more exotic location.
Upon arrival, we were given the choice between a long, high table, to watch the teppanyaki chefs, a normal dining table, or a cosy booth. Being one of just a few parties, we were also afforded the option of moving around for different courses; sitting in a line for the entirety seemed a little un-intimate for our dinner date.
Hastily handed to us, the menu is a unique, little black book that explores the restaurant's dishes in detail. Although the concept is fairly cute, flicking through the detailed menu became an unnecessarily confusing feat, particularly with their wide selection of appetisers, salads, seafood, chicken and beef specialties, sushi options and copious amounts of hot, cold and alcoholic drinks. An additional teppanyaki menu began at 180LE for a selection of grilled beef cuts and chicken thighs.
As a welcome gesture, we were each served a small cup of traditional, subtle-tasting, lemongrass tea and a warm towel for our hands. To drink, we shared a bottle of white, chilled, Omar Khayyam wine (170LE), which was constantly topped up, thanks to the perfectly attentive waiting staff.
After asking recommendations from our waiter, and eliminating the long list of unavailable dishes, we opted for a Tom Ka Kai (30LE) – chicken and coconut milk soup – and an extra spicy Miso soup (30LE). Unfortunately, we ended up with two Miso soups, and one extra spicy Tom Ka Kai. Resigning to eat the extra Miso soup anyway, and despite it being served at scolding temperature, it was a pleasant broth, filled with small chunks of tofu and herbs. Disappointingly, the chicken soup’s flavour was overpowered by the almost intolerable level of spices.
Our appetisers fared better; the shrimp konafa (80LE) was both generous in portion and deliciously crispy, as were the well-packed, Pad Thai spring rolls (45LE). Particularly saddened about the unavailability of chicken dumplings (40LE) and the Edamame (60LE), we substituted with Kai and Neau Satay (65LE); thin skewers of unremarkable, pattied chicken and beef, served alongside a flavourful peanut sauce.
For our main dishes, we ordered sweet and sour chicken (70LE) with steamed rice (12LE), and a sashimi and maki (185LE) set-selection to share - 15 slices of assorted sashimi, 3 pieces of shake maki, 4 pieces of crispy tempura rolls, 3 pieces of tekka maki and 4 pieces of california rolls.
The sweet and sour chicken was sweet but scrumptious, complete with pineapple rings and cherry tomatoes, although a little more chicken wouldn’t have gone amiss. The sushi platter was an impressive spread, beautifully presented with all the expected trimmings, and extra caviar. Notably, the tuna and salmon sashimi were of high quality, whilst our favourite combination of flavours came from the California and crispy tempura rolls, although the latter should have been a little crispier. Both the shake and tekka maki were a little on the small side, but were delectable nonetheless.
For dessert, our first choice of fried banana (28LE) was also unavailable, so we went for two portions of fabulously creamy crème brulee, one of which wasn’t quite set. Although we ordered a single espresso (22LE), we were afforded a double, whilst our peppermint tea (20LE) was served in a glass teapot, with a candle underneath to keep it warm, akin to a hot plate.
Despite the patchy availability of the menu items, the refined, urbane atmosphere, eager-to-please waiting staff and several polished delicacies, makes Mirai a wonderful addition to its gorgeous Nile-side location.