Sabaya: Delicious Lebanese at the Semiramis Intercontinental
Ahmed Abdel Razeq
Located on the second floor of the very strategically
situated Cairo Semiramis Intercontinental Hotel, Sabaya is a Lebanese
restaurant/lounge that promises a chic and comfortable dining experience.
Sabaya compensates for its lack of window views with soft lighting, comfortable low seating and an elegant interior decor. The lounge
section is separated by mashrabeya and consists of smooth couches, but
interestingly they don’t serve shisha, an integral part of a Lebanese lounge experience. The restaurant is spaciously arranged, with
faded portraits adorning the wall, as Arabic pop hits play softly in the
This reviewer was impressed with the menu’s extensive list
of signature Lebanese dishes; aside from the obvious sambousak and mana’eesh,
the restaurant also offers specials like raheb and shish barak. You can opt for a set menu for two people of cold and hot mezzas, as well as a selection of
main courses and desserts to choose from for 170LE per person. Sabay also
offers a Lebanese special of the day menu, which comes with your choice of soup
as well as a dessert for around 95LE.
We ordered the set menu for two, and the maitre d’
kindly agreed to swap the main course with our selection of that day’s special – kebbe
labaniyah –at no extra charge.
After presenting our table with complimentary glasses of
karkadeh and a large plate of fresh salad, the mezzas arrived with a plate of hot, freshly
baked shami bread. The taboulah, which the waiter served without prompting onto
our plates, was one of the first delights of the evening: delicately acidic and
mixed with crushed wheat, we could have spent the night happily lapping it up.
The hummus dip was also pleasant, creamy with a touch of lemon; though the
flavour could have been stronger. Just as pleasant were the grilled halloumi
pieces and the baba ghanough, and the cold vine leaves made our companion (a
former Beirut resident) sigh in content.
The hot plate of spinach sambousak and meat sambousak weren’t
as exciting; though the dough was agreeably cooked without a greasy oil residue,
there wasn’t enough meat in the pastry to make its flavour discernible. The falafel won us over, though; chewy and
delicious with sesame seeds practically popping with flavour, the portions were
served hot out of the oven.
The main course of mixed Lebanese grill was a letdown: although
the grilled kofta, marinated chicken and lamb chops came with deliciously grilled
tomatoes and yellow bell peppers, the marinated chicken had barely any flavour.
The kofta was slightly better with an agreeable grilled flavour, though it was
too dry for our liking.
The kebbe labaniyah arrived in a hot pot of steaming yoghurt
and kebbe stuffed with pine nuts. Though it was heavy on garlic, the creamy
yoghurt sauce blended nicely with the kebbe’s chewy texture.
Although we had yet to select our choice of desserts, the waiters
suprised us by serving all three options: a plate of fresh fruit, oriental sweets
and two tiny bowls of cold mahalabeya, which was absolutely delicious.
The service at Sabaya was swift, respectful and accommodating;
making this a perfect option for a quiet date or dinner. Two set menu meals and
two non-alcoholic drinks amounted to under 500LE, a hefty price to pay; but
then again it’s expected if you’re dining at the Semiramis Intercontinental.