Sushi has recently become mainstay on the Cairo dining scene. Five years ago, sushi restaurants were located only in expensive and obscure corners of five-star hotels. Nowadays they’re plentiful in every city and in every neighborhood, catering to most!
Sushi is easy to attempt; difficult to perfect. Needless to say, with all the sushi options available, there’s considerable variation in quality, freshness, and price. One important lesson to learn when sampling Cairo’s sushi establishments is that paying more doesn’t necessarily result in a better product. Often the opposite is true. Some of the fancier sushi joints in town seem to have precious few guests. As a result, their fish seems to be sitting around endlessly; and their rice, by the time it arrives at your table, is stale and crunchy.
On the other hand, reasonably priced places, with high client turnover, are often exceptional. Take, for example, Makani. While sushi is certainly not the only item on the menu at this popular café-cum-sushi bar (I don’t mean alcohol bar – just that ‘sushi,’ when describing a food venue, usually comes with a noun attached – alternative could be restaurant/joint etc), it’s the one that gives this place a buzz. Makani’s branches are located throughout Cairo and elsewhere around Egypt (details below), and I’ve had sushi there many times, at many different outlets, and have never been disappointed.
Their sushi menu certainly provides all the basic classics: miso soup, eel, salmon, and tuna sushi, California rolls, hand rolls, and sashimi. These are all excellent: the fish is fresh and tasty; the rice is fresh and fluffy; and the seaweed is tender. At the more exotic end of the menu there are plenty of tasty options, many of which carry rather imaginative names including “Dream Come True,” “Geisha” or “Volcano” Maki, or “Spicy Salmon Lovers.” In spite of the literary excess, many of these are delicious.
Makani isn’t just about sushi, and much else can be found on the menu, including salads, sandwiches, pastas, crepes, omelets, pastries, snacks and desserts. On a recent trip to Makani in Dokki the carrot cake looked great, but was unappealingly dry, while the chocolate cake was good. I meant to save room for one of their rather innovatively titled “makaccinos,” an exotic spin on the frappé concept, but I ran out of room.
Makani is known for its bright, modern décor, and their branch in Dokki resembles the resplendent old Cairo style of Abu Sid combined with a serious dose of oriental/Asian flavor. The ceiling is beautifully painted, and the service was fast and friendly. The Dokki branch is next door to a new steak and pasta place called the Avenue. Could this be the start of a restaurant district in Dokki?
To be sure, there’s much going on at Makani beyond the sushi. It has another life as a café and bakery, with regular musical and social activities, a Facebook group of its own, and regular concerts and karaoke evenings at the “Makani Live” branch in Heliopolis. But if you’re after good sushi at an affordable price, this could be the place to choose.
Details: Cairo branches located in Mohendisseen, Heliopolis, Maadi, Dokki, opening in Zamalek soon. Also branches in Hadabah Sinai, Naema Bay, Sharm el-Sheikh, and Carrefour Alexandria. Dokki: 47 Michel Bakhoum St., 3338 6007; open 8 AM to 2 AM seven days a week. www.makani.com.eg. Delivery service available. Lunch for two: under LE200.