I once had a literature professor who claimed never to read books written any time after the era of Jane Austen. “But aren’t you missing out?” I queried. “What about all the wonderful books that have been written since Austen died in 1817?” “That may be,” he responded, “but at least when I read a well established classic, I know it will be good. I’m running out of time in my life to continue trying out bad writing.”
Replace “writing” in that sentence with “restaurants” and you could sum up my thinking exactly. I’m running out of time trying out mediocre restaurants. It’s a much safer bet, therefore, to try out a restaurant that’s been around for ages, one that has stood the test of time. Don Quixote in Zamalek, Rifai in Sayeda Zeinab, Farahat in downtown; these places have been around for ages, and will likely still be around for generations to come. There’s logic to their longevity. They have figured out the timeless mystery of the restaurant business: how to maintain excellence over time.
I’ve recently discovered another of these well-vintaged gems: Flying Fish in Agouza. I never managed to figure out quite how old this place is, but judging from the Tiffany-era stained glass windows, it must be older than the beginning of Mubarak’s reign. My friend, whose well plugged in ear alerted me to its existence, described it as a cross between Pub 28 and Five Bells, but serving fish.
And the fish it serves is delicious. Serving excellent fish in Alexandria is one thing; serving it in Cairo, and better yet serving it consistently excellent, is quite another. We started out with fried and grilled calamari, shrimp rolls, a variety of mezze and small local clams ominously called esterdia. These were delicious. We continued with grilled sea bass of various preparations — all were excellent.
Flying Fish does not serve alcohol, but they had no problem opening a bottle of wine we brought along. The quality of the food was excellent, and all for a price that would embarrass Cairo’s more genteel fish establishments — around LE80 a person. Flying Fish has been serving generations of fish aficionados in Agouza who vote with their feet and keep on returning.
Details: 166 Nile St., Agouza, Tel: 3349 3234. Dinner for two: around LE180. Open daily from noon to midnight or later.