Written by Nelly Ezz
Combining two completely different culinary cultures like Japan and Peru sounds like quite the flavour roller coaster. That’s why Izakaya Cairo, which is a restaurant and a bar, is a must-try when you’re in the mood for upscale dining and dancing. Izakaya refers to a Japanese bar where many small dishes are served to accompany alcoholic drinks and cocktails – so we headed to Palm Hills in Sheikh Zayed to give their distinctive menu a try.
Image credit: Izakaya Cairo
Reserving a table or a few seats at the bar is preferable before heading there to guarantee your spot. Tuesdays and Fridays are usually the busiest, but the place is generally always buzzing until 1:00 AM. We got to our table in the outdoors area, and we immediately felt the boho-chic vibe around us. The setting was filled with bamboo chandeliers, fairy lights, bright indigo branches, and greenery everywhere – quite soothing yet lively at the same time.
We began our night with a few drinks, starting with two cocktails: Hibiscus Gin and Tonic (203 LE) – hibiscus infused gin, ginger, mint, and tonic, and an Izakaya Old Fashion (301 LE) – whiskey, cinnamon syrup, and bitters. Both cocktails were refreshing; the flavours were on point and the amount of alcohol balanced out the sweetness and floral tones of the herbs.
We then decided to get a starter to share: Truffle Tataki (223 LE) – Australian beef tenderloin, ponzu, truffle oil, grated ginger and spring onion. This starter went great alongside our second round of cocktails. We got The Pineapple Sage Daiquiri (219 LE) – pineapple and sage-infused rum, agave nectar, and lime, and The Whiskey Sour (320 LE) – whiskey, lemon juice, angostura bitters, and sugar syrup. The earthiness of the truffle and freshness of the onion brightened up the beef tataki and complemented our vibrant drinks.
After enjoying our cocktails, we decided to pick a few special items to try. First, we got Josper Tako (184 LE) from the main courses – chargrilled octopus, cauliflower puree, aji Amarillo paste, apple, and seasonal vegetables. This plate was simply a piece of art; the octopus was seasoned, tender, and moist to perfection while the puree and vegetables elevated the dish’s flavour profile. Then came another selection, the Tori (97 LE) – chicken, aji Amarillo pineapple marinade, and teriyaki. Unfortunately, this one wasn’t as successful. The marinade was tasty, but the chicken arrived slightly cold. Not undercooked, but needing a few more minutes of heat for sure.
Last but not least, in the savoury section, we had to try their famous Parmesan Sushi Roll (144 LE) – eight pieces of sushi filled with prawn tempura, scallops, seabass, avocado, topped with torched parmesan. We are all used to cream cheese with sushi, but the torched parmesan takes sushi to a whole new level. The seafood was cooked perfectly, the avocado was ripe, and the parmesan melting on top of the roll brought all the flavours together.
We wanted to try the Mochi Trilogy from the dessert section to end our meal, but, maybe because of the loud music, the staff probably misheard us. We ended up with another dessert that we hadn’t seen on the menu. We got the Tres Leches, a moist, airy cake soaked in milk and other ingredients. When we told them we didn’t order that, the staff were friendly enough to take it off the check. The cake was airy, bubbly and not overly sweet – but the mochi sounded more interesting.
All in all, the experience was rather lovely, from the friendly staff and the vibrant ambience to the delectable cocktails and delicious food. Izakaya can be a bit expensive, but it’s a guaranteed good time when you’re looking to splurge a little.