By Jeremy Hodge
Located on the second floor of the Conrad Hotel, Kamala is an Asian fusion restaurant whose menu combines a hodgepodge of Southeast Asian influences with select items from China and Japan for those who are looking for more traditional oriental cuisine.
For travelers coming through Cairo, the restaurant attempts to convey the image of a crossroads of civilisations, as one will immediately notice the South Asian elements of the restaurant’s layout, architecture and music. Kamala is, in fact, Sanskrit for “pink lotus,” a type of flower which can be seen floating in the pond that cuts through the center of the restaurant.
The meal started with two appetisers: steamed har gow shrimp dumplings and an interesting prawn dish called “dragon balls.” Deep fried and wrapped in shredded wantons, this dish native to the Japanese city of Nagoya was particularly delicious, especially when dipped in your choice of soy, lamb or sweet chili sauce.
We liked it so much we ordered a second one, this time topped with diced up sweet almonds. The dumplings were also flavourful and succulent and made good on a traditional Chinese dish.
Next we asked our server to bring us a sushi platter to see what the restaurant had to offer, which would be sure to either attract or repel customers. Overall it was very satisfying; the platter included an assortment of tako octopus rolls, with tuna, yellowtail and salmon sashimi. A splash of wasabi in a bowl of soy sauce and it was hard to go wrong with the above stated items, although the texture of the octopus was a tad bit stiff and slightly rubbery for my liking. After cleaning our pallets with a few bites of ginger, we were ready to move onto our main course.
I took an order of massamun nea, a Thai beef curry dish sprinkled onions and potatoes. The dish is named after the curry it swims in, massamun, which is supposedly a Thai rendering of the word Muslim. This kind of curry was brought to Thailand from India by Muslim traders and consists of the traditional spice that characterises Indian food.
A pleasant addition for a restaurant that already had managed to encompass so many diverse nationalities, the curry also served as a good dipping sauce for the vegetable fried rice we had ordered to go along with our entrees.
My accomplice in this endeavor ordered what was known as gaeng lire wan gai, another Thai dish that featured steamed chicken in yellow curry sauce. A tasty light option, the chicken was good however the sauce could have used more spices.
For dessert, we ordered an Indonesian dish known as pisang bakar, a caramel ensconced banana doused with mango syrup, and kluay tod from Thailand: deep fried bananas topped with grated coconuts and palm sugar sauce. Both were fabulous and made use of bananas in ways that are very traditional in Indonesia and other island archipelagos in the region such as the Philippines.
We finished with hibiscus tea, whose presentation was quite fanciful; our waiter placed the actual flower inside a glass tea pot. We watched as it expanded and slowly colored the tea, giving off the flavor for which it is famous.
All in all, the dinner was an exotic and highly enjoyable experience. Our server was very attentive, insightful and knowledgeable about the menu and the history behind each item. Kamala is well worth stopping by while in Cairo.