Tamarai’s second dining and nightlife experience is undoubtedly cooler, literally and metaphorically, than anywhere else in Cairo.
The terrace, which opened to the public with an all-white themed party last month, is truly an extension to its indoor counterpart: a relaxed dining experience with good food and drink in the earlier part of the evening, and a vibrant clubbing experience during the later hours of the night.
Tamarai’s terrace is large, boasting several lounge and dining areas with two beautiful rough stone bars at the center. Perching on the bar is the best place to people-watch, check out the colorful characters that compose Cairo’s nightlife scene, and be in the thick of things when the night starts to pick up. Not to mention, close proximity to the bar ensures constant hydration whilst dancing throughout the night.
But Tamarai’s terrace is not just about those late night moments. It is also an ideal dining destination featuring the creations of Chef Jimmy, who recently came over from France, and Chef Vincent, a chef with over 24 years of experience in Cairo and a managing partner in Tamarai.
The menu has been updated for the summer; with more emphasis on local fresh summer produce, said Chef Vincent. Although Tamarai was recently hotly criticized by a poorly written anonymous blog proclaiming itself to be the ultimate word on food in Cairo, dining at Tamarai is a true delight. Testament to its culinary abilities are the many diners who fill up the restaurant on weeknights to enjoy mezzas with drinks and multi-course meals.
Dinner on a Wednesday night started off with martini cocktails. Novelty cocktails at Tamarai include guava juices and hibiscus, giving drinks a local flavor. Cocktails are generously poured, so take heed, they are strong.
Ordering a blue cheese salad with roasted apple and walnut oil, and a Black Magic (black tagliatelle with shrimps and piment d’espellete) as a hot starter, the meal started off really well. The blue cheese salad balanced all those flavors with the sweetness of the walnut and apple. Although there is nothing wholly novel about this salad, it was just perfect.
The Black Magic conquered what is so difficult about seafood pasta dishes: the pasta tasted fresh and untainted by the flavors of the shrimp which itself was juicy. Different flavors played together quite nicely without masking one another. In a slightly creamy sauce, it was the perfect precursor to our main dishes.
The menu includes dishes such as the Burgundy steak (roasted beef tenderloin in red wine sauce, morel macaroni gratin), and fine beef imported from Australia, but it’s the plethora of fish dishes that are so appealing. The menu plays with different cuisines and ingredients: Asian, Mediterranean and French influences can all be found mixing together on one dish at times.
Salmon features quite prominently on the menu, with several variations of the fish. Pink salmon (crispy marinated salmon, flavored with pink berry pepper, balsamic syrup) was pondered initially as a hot starter, but any salmon dish at Tamarai is guaranteed to be nicely done.
With that in mind, I ordered the grapefruit salmon (roasted salmon with “Julienne potato and cucumber in light grapefruit sauce) which was slightly surprising to my palette. The citrus of the grapefruit did emphasize the feel of summer and in a funny way was brought about together with the cucumbers.
But it is a hearty dish with thickly sliced fingers of potato and for that reason alone, the tiramisu with red fruit and black currant “Verrine for dessert was left unordered, sadly so. Tamarai’s desserts have always been a delight; to come just for dessert would be wholly justified.
To speak of the terrace’s interiors would be a misnomer; the terrace is wholly outdoors, open to the sky and to beautiful breezes from the Nile. A view of Zamalek across and the old Imbaba Bridge are surrealist reminders of where one is. The terrace’s design was done by Shahira H. Fahmy who designed the restaurant’s indoors, in a palette of beiges and whites.
Stone left rough and unsmoothed sourced locally cover walls, pillars and the bars, lit up with reflected color and white light throughout the evening. Although designed by the same person, the terrace is an entirely different experience both visually and emotionally to that of Tamarai’s indoors.
Cool in colors, and cool in temperature, the terrace is an ideal spot to escape the oppressive summer heat. And during weekends, if one should be so lucky as to wrangle reservations, at 12 am people start to get antsy for the DJ to spin some dance tunes. And when he does, it’s a bona fide party.
The scene from where I’m perched? Young hip 20-somethings dressed to kill mingle with yuppies, and if weren’t for the view of the Nile, I’d be thinking I’m anywhere in New York.
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