Cycladic Charm in Mokattam
By Hilary Diack
Opening hours: 9:00 am to midnight
Address: El Mokattam, 11571 Cairo
Tel: 0112 909 9889
Facebook: Santorini Egypt
Missed out on a holiday in Greece this year? Dry your tears and head across to Cairo’s great new addition to the dining scene, Santorini. This gem of a restaurant looks set to become a local favorite. The distinctive blue painted door and cheerful seating outside are a give-away.
Venturing inside, you are greeted by a warm, vibrant ambiance, where the familiar blue and white décor of the Aegean is highlighted with the splash of sunny yellow rustic chairs. Santorini somehow manages to capture the essence of Greece while neatly side-stepping any lapse into stereotyping. The rough-hewn wooden whitewashed ceiling contrasts with sleek white leather banquettes strewn with blue leather cushions and the ubiquitous white tablecloths of Greece have been changed for glass-topped modern white lacquered tables. The bustle of the gleaming open plan kitchen adds a lively buzz, and the background of songs from popular Greek singers sets the mood quickly.
The menu on offer follows through with a contemporary take on traditional favorites, featuring quality ingredients with innovative eye-catching presentation. This is thanks to Greek celebrity chef, TV food presenter and cookbook writer Myrsini Lambraki, who spent two weeks in Cairo training the Santorini chefs in the secrets of Greek cuisine and her personal recipes.
It was time well spent, the never-ending stream of plates that arrived delighted the palate and brought back memories of many days spent enjoying holidays around Greece. We started with tzatziki, made from home-made yoghurt and cucumber, and melitzanosalata, a perfectly smoky blend of eggplant and finely chopped walnut. Richly red, grilled smoked peppers drizzled with olive oil disappeared quickly, along with our second basket of home-made bread. The pitta bread was addictive, served warm from the oven, slightly salted with a sprinkle of fresh oregano, it melted in the mouth. Our sizable plate of tender paidakia (thyme-rubbed grilled lamb chops) was so filling we could barely do justice to the heap of paprika-spiced fries on the side. The spanakopita, (spinach pie with onion and dill) also warrants a return visit.
A selection of traditional side dishes can be ordered as well, although they may be too much to tackle after the irresistible selection of mezze, and the generous main dishes. Our non-alcoholic cocktails, Blue Shore and Santorini Sunrise were refreshing, light on sugar but big on color, a good accompaniment to the clean flavors of our chosen dishes.
Lovers of Greek cuisine will be happy to see a lot of familiar items like pastitsio and moussaka included in the menu, in addition to regional favorites from all corners of the country. And thankfully, the items are served in the best Greek tradition, simply, on pristine white china.
Winding up with two of the signature desserts, creamy bougatsa custard encased in flaky phyllo pastry and Myrsini’s delightful chocolate cream caramel cake; we chatted on, time forgotten. That’s the way it is in Greece, you see.
Greek Salad Recipe
Known in Greek as “Horiatiki”, this salad is the most known Greek Salad and is made world-wide with various ingredients, the basics of which are tomato, cucumber, onion, olives, feta cheese and olive oil. In parts of Greece, it is also made with the addition of capers, green peppers, different types of cheese and even hard-boiled eggs. Vinegar is not always used but it helps break the strong flavor and aroma of the onion. In Greece, lettuce is not used in this salad as it is in other countries around the world. Ancient Greeks valued their salads and ate them last in the meal even after the dessert. This salad has a high nutritionial value; it is rich in fiber and antioxidants due to the combination of tomato, onion and olive oil. Feta cheese is the perfect complement, providing the necessary protein. A horiatiki salad has about 600 calories, 100% of daily Vitamin C needs, and 50% of Vitamin A and Vitamin B2.
The secret for delicious recipes in the simple and uncomplicated Greek cuisine lies in the quality of ingredients. At Santorini we serve the traditional recipe as explained below;
2 Large tomatoes
1 Medium onion
100 gr Black Kalamata olives – about 12-15 pieces
150 gr Feta cheese block
1 Tsp Oregano
1/2 Tsp Salt
2 Tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. White vinegar
Upon washing and drying the vegetables;
Cut the tomato into large cubes
Cut the cucumber into slices – about 1 cm thick
Slice the onion thinly
Mix the tomato, cucumber, onion and olives
Sprinkle with the salt, vinegar and mix again
Place the cheese block on top of the ingredients
Sprinkle with oregano and olive oil