Japanese Nikkei Cuisine Comes to Al Guezira Plaza in Sheikh Zayed
Cairenes are now able to experience first-hand the much anticipated culinary hit that has been taking the world by storm. The dream team of brothers Tamer and Taymour Erian and fellow restaurateur Fabio Donato just launched Izakaya, to showcase Nikkei cuisine at its scintillating, gastronomic best.
Concept: The Japanese first began to immigrate to Peru in the late 19th century and the mouth-watering impact of their influence is Nikkei, the Japanese-Peruvian fusion food. The roots of this fusion lie in the significance both cultures give to fresh fish, as Japanese sushi and sashimi, buoyed by Peru’s thriving fishing industry, mix perfectly with the ceviche, a mainstay of Peruvian cuisine.
Type of Cuisine: By incorporating the Japanese passion for the freshest possible fish and raw vegetables in exquisitely presented morsels with the added punch of traditional Peruvian elements like the famed sweet potato, lime, corn and aji pepper, Izkaya delivers one taste sensation after another. Sashimi aficionados will be in their element, and even novices to the world of raw fish should be won over by the skillfully balanced flavors, and the knowledge that the fish slivers have been quickly seared in a lime marinade.
Décor: Neutral, natural, shades of cream and taupe with natural wood and black as an accent color. The overall effect is chic, relaxed and cosmopolitan, with a Japanese flavor being added by carefully selected artwork and table settings. The international vibe can be attributed to the touch of Greek interior designer Aphrodite. Background music playing is streamed directly from c-burn music consultancy in London, the ultimate source for the latest in sounds tailored to create a mood.
Ambiance: Relaxing, with discreet, courteous, professional service that seems to flow effortlessly. Everything seems in balance; the music, the arrival of each dish, the low buzz of conversation from other diners in this already popular restaurant.
Dishes Sampled: The nice touch of a small plate of complimentary amuse-bouche arrived at the table as we settled in; seared tuna with corn and chili whet our appetite for things to come. Then no question at all, we had to try the tiraditos, beautifully constructed mouthfuls of the freshest of fish and exotic ingredients. We shared platters of Maracuya tiraditos, delicate rolls of salmon and mango in a passion-fruit and coconut dressing, and Classico tiraditos, wafer thin slices of sea-bass, accented with passion-fruit and lightly cured in Leche de tigre, or tiger’s milk, a Peruvian citrus-based marinade. Flavors were fresh and fragrant, and were complemented by the cocktail created by bar maestro Achilles. The ginger, basil and elderflower base worked well with the food combination, and delivered a definite punch.
New plates arrived, this time Abura maki rolls, white fish and avocado with a distinctive abura dressing, along with Niku maki, beef tenderloin neatly wrapped around sweet potato, accompanied by yakiniku sauce. We opted for beef tenderloin again as a main dish, a great choice, as the Wafu tenderloin that came with an accompaniment of sesame puréed potato was as tender as we had ever come across, truly a melt-in-the-mouth experience. Once again, the presentation was a work of art; consistent with everything else we had tried.
There was absolutely no thought of tackling any of the several desserts, although they looked tempting, that can wait for one of many planned visits in the weeks to come.
Other dishes that appealed: To be honest, just about everything. The Parmesan maki, with prawn, scallop, avocado and scorched Parmesan sounds intriguing, as do the Maracuya prawns, skewer-grilled, served with a passion-fruit and peanut sauce. And that is just the tip of the iceberg!
Thumbs up: Menu items are labeled to indicate ingredients that people could be sensitive to or wish to avoid, be it nuts, seafood, dairy or alcohol. Vegan-friendly dishes are similarly marked.
Beverages: Although there is a fully stocked bar, in addition to great fresh juices; the perfect marriage with the food has to be one (or two) of Achilles’ cocktails. Ingredients would thrill any health addict – think along the lines of cucumber, wasabi, basil, ginger, nutmeg, passion-fruit, lime, elderflower and you have a hint of the alchemy involved. They come with either a spirit base or as a soft version, both equally memorable.
Address: Al Guezira Plaza, Sheikh Zayed
Clientele mix: The fashionable set, couples, groups of friends, and everyone who considers themselves a budding or serious gourmand.
Price range: Surprisingly moderate, given the overall quality.
Opening hours: 7 pm to 1 am daily. Last orders at 12.30 am.
Tel: 02 38513251
Facebook page: IzakayaCairo
Instagram: hashtag izakayacairo
Cocktail recipe – Izakaya Sour
Presented by Izakaya’s international bartender Achilles, the fresh citrus-y base of this simple cocktail makes it a perfect accompaniment for summer dishes. The addition of Peychaud’s Bitters, a gentian-based bitters comparable to Angostura bitters, but with a lighter body and sweeter taste, gives the drink a floral aroma. Peychaud’s Bitters were created around 1830 by Antoine Amédée Peychaud, a Creole apothecary from the French colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) who settled in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1795.
Juice of one large lemon
Dash of Peychaud’s Bitters
Small pinch of salt
Maraschino cherry for garnish
Shake ingredients and strain over ice cubes in an old-fashioned glass.
Garnish with a maraschino cherry.
(Optional – the original version calls for the addition of a shot of bourbon or whisky – it’s your choice).