As a big fan of sushi I am constantly on the look out for a salmon nigiri or miso soup so good, it will have me sobbing into my sake for more. There are several decent sushi restaurants in Cairo, but I haven’t had the kind of drool-worthy experience with sushi that I’ve had in other locales. I’m talking about places like Istanbul, Beirut, Paris and Toronto that can give sushi in Tokyo a run for its money.
While there are several well established Japanese restaurants in Cairo, I find there’s always something a little bit unauthentic about them: if there’s no MSG in the food, then the menu is 14 pages deep (with five for sushi rolls alone) or there are ingredients in your sushi that you weren’t quite expecting.
Sorry, but who puts cheddar cheese and/or mango in a salmon roll?
It was only when I read a Cairo360 review a few months back that I knew there was a new place in town worth trying. The review itself was amusing for several reasons, but mainly because of this:
The sushi wasn’t very vibrant in colour, included no cheese and none of them were fried – in other words it looked bland – which led us to assume that this is what real sushi looks like as opposed to the westernised version that we’re used to.
If the reviewer was turning her nose up at the food because it was too Japanese for her taste and didn’t come deep fried with a dollop of cheese, I had a sneaky feeling it might be quite good.
Enter Makino, a new Japanese restaurant located inside Zamalek’s Hilton Residence (the former Hotel Safir on Mohammed Mazar). Rumor has it one of the big fish at Hitachi Electronics in Egypt pushed for the establishment of the restaurant in order to have a place where he and his business associates could indulge in quality Japanese food.
Bless that man’s heart.
The decor in Makino is simple, yet chic and when you enter through the front door you feel as if you’ve left Cairo behind you. There’s a patio, main dining area and a private room just right of the main entrance where you can have an intimate dinner with several guests in typical Japanese fashion (low tables and cushions). The servers are courteous, thorough and extremely knowledgeable about the menu, which was a nice touch considering my dinner companion and I had a hell of a time choosing what to indulge in.
I went for a variation of sushi and nigiri, with cuttlefish, salmon and shrimp in the mix and it was, in the most simplistic terms: fan-f***ing-tastic. Let me be straight: I was hopeful regarding the food though my expectations were guarded until I sank my teeth into a piece of cuttlefish nigiri. That was the moment where my brain shut down for a good 30 seconds and the rest of my senses took over. It was delicious. All of the sushi was for that matter. With the exception of the cuttlefish (which has a calamari-like texture) the fish was tender, light and had a subtle and enjoyable flavour that allowed me the pleasure of savoring my food over the course of an hour. There was no sugary aftertaste, no oil slick on my tongue (thanks to overly fatty salmon), and the ginger had a sharp zing to it that I enjoyed between bites of nigiri.
By global standards it was pretty damn good sushi, and for Cairo it was excellent.
My dinner date, a gourmand in his own right, had salad with cuttlefish, miso soup and a shitake mushroom skewer. By the look on his face – and the fact that he ordered additional sushi after devouring the “awesome” mushrooms – I knew Makino was a winner.
Of course it didn’t come cheap. The price was on the higher end (450 LE or 72 USD for two people) and we didn’t even order drinks. Regardless, for a once-in-a-while kind of affair Makino is worth every pound forked over for your meal. If you’re not big into fish there are a handful of soups and salads on the menu, along with with a variety of grilled meats like chicken, beef and…pork.
Yes, they have pork on the menu.
So damn good.
21, Mohamed Mazhar, (Zamalek) Cairo, Egypt
Hours: Noon – midnight