Asia Boutique at the Safir Hotel, Dokki

Be Warned: This is a Cellphone picture

You know the feeling. Great elation, a sense of accomplishment, of a great weight lifted up from off your shoulders. It’s the kind of feeling that demands to be celebrated and commemorated. The occasion, my friends, was my recent divorce from a particularly horrible employer; and I decided to celebrate and commemorate the event the only way I know how: by going out for a meal. Having never been to the Safir Hotel in Dokki before, I strolled around the hotel lobby and chatted with the concierge. I learned that they have an open buffet restaurant, a Lebanese restaurant and an outdoor café. But none of these were as advertised as “Asia Boutique” was; and it there that I decided to spend my patronage.

The dining room is smaller than I expected: the right wall sported a <sigh> teppanyaki grill and the left wall was anchored by a sushi bar. Immediately I worried that this “Asian” restaurant was another excuse for a hotel chain to capitalize on Cairo’s torrid and misplaced love affair with sushi and teppanyaki. As an aside, the good people over at “Benihana” should be looking to open a chain here, because they would do *very* well. Anyway; I found the décor itself to be pleasant. Dimmed lighting, black and red lacquered tables and chairs reinforced the pan-Asian theme and even the chairs were a stylized version of an Oriental pagoda. But it was not pretentious; the table setting was neat and clean, silverware and glasses polished to crystal clarity.

The restaurant was empty save for me and so I expected to be served with alacrity and precision. The sole waiter came to my table, and as he handed me the menu, asked for my beverage selection. I’m always happy when I’m asked what to drink before I order: it’s courteous and proper. And the waiter, Mr. Wagdy, certainly was both, eagerly scribbling down my menu orders and double checking to make sure he got it right.

The menu was easily navigable, offering mainly Thai main courses. Besides the beef teriyaki and the Miso Soup, the teppanyaki and sushi seemed to be the only Japanese offerings; I felt it was a focused menu, showcasing what the kitchen staff can do, as opposed to what the Hotel Managers may want them to do. The prices, surprisingly affordable, were comparable to non-hotel options like Fusion. There is even an option to order from the 3 course set menu, which will set you back EGP120 (excl taxes and charges). In the end, I quickly settled on my selection: Khai Kai soup (a coconut and lemongrass chicken broth), Beef Teriyaki, Chef’s Platter of Sushi and a Fried Banana Dessert. Orders received, Mr. Wagdy deftly retreated to the kitchen to get things started.

Having a nice private moment gave me the opportunity to take in the ambience. It was all very relaxing and soothing, but marred by the lounge Muzak wafting in from the hotel lobby through the restaurant’s double doors. I would have liked those doors to remain shut to protect me from the intrusion of the electronic piano version of Andrea Bocelli’s Con Ti Partiro upon my consciousness.

Mr. Wagdy materialized to bring me my soup, a full 10 minutes before I expected it. It sat, steaming, in an unassuming white bowl, flecks of green on an off-white creamy broth. The odor was unmistakably lemongrass and coriander. The flavor matched the odor, and provided a pleasantly smooth mouth feel to the soup. I had an issue with the tomato skins still lingering at the bottom of the bowl, and felt it was served too hot, meaning it had been reheated by microwave. Uncharacteristically I found myself forgiving the insult; and finished my bowl of soup just in time for my Beef Teriyaki, which arrived as the last spoonful of soup was trickling down my throat. This was Beef Teriyaki the way I liked it and more. The sweet teriyaki smell, punctuated by garlic and ginger, got my mouth watering. The presentation again was understated. Served in a simple white bowl, the dark brown and black contents were highlighted by the julienned red and green peppers streaking through it. I particularly enjoyed the knowledge that I was eating local Egyptian beef.

The service was fast and furious: like a gastronomic traffic jam, the courses were packed bumper to bumper. As soon as the beef teriyaki was finished, I was presented with the Chef’s Platter of Tuna, Salmon and whitefish Nigri sushi; Crab, salmon and Avocado Maki and slices of chilled tuna sashimi. All this was packed onto a small wooden chopping board, unassuming and entirely delightful. Each piece delivered, sweet salmon, stubbornly robust tuna, delicately smoky whitefish counterpointed with the sharpest pickled daikon radish I’ve ever eaten. For EGP65, it was the priciest sushi option on the menu, but probably the dish that best represented the confidence and technical ability of the kitchen.

3 courses in quick succession left me gasping for air, and I was given a brief resting period before my dessert arrived. Sitting on a small square plate was a single banana, deep fried in light tempura batter, and drizzled with coconut and honey. Alongside it was a mound of creamy vanilla ice cream, dotted with whole walnuts and a sliced strawberry. Like the grasshopper gun from Men in Black, this unassuming dish blew me away. Every single flavor came through clearly, mixing and playing off one another. Warm banana, cold vanilla ice cream; soft banana, crunchy walnuts; texturally, it was a delight.

I ordered the check, and was very happy to pay EGP200 (excl tax and tip); I’ve spent more money at Chili’s. The meal, having ended on a very high note, left me with a huge grin on my face. Then I remembered the reason I was celebrating, and laughed out loud in joy. Cause for celebration indeed.


About Wesam E Masoud
Chef Patron of @chefsmarketmasr, Host of @CBCSofra's #matbakh101. I have one degree in Medicine & 3rd degree burns from cooking.

One Response to Asia Boutique at the Safir Hotel, Dokki

  1. Hamada Shukulata says:

    You really enjoyed that banana, huh?

    -Hamada Morsi, el shaheer bi shukulata

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