Of all the wonderful things about being a foodie, there is a particular added satisfaction that comes from encountering people working in the restaurant industry who are utterly passionate about providing the best possible experience to their customers. I defy anyone to eat at new, upscale Japanese-Peruvian restaurant Izakaya and not leave with just such an impression.
Sister restaurant to Zamalek’s Mezcal, Izakaya is the brainchild of Cairo hospitality aficionados Fabio Donato, Tamer Erian and Taymour Erian, the latter of whom had made the conscious decision to introduce Japanese-Peruvian cuisine to the Cairo market, having observed its popularity when living in Dubai. He has built a knowledgeable, experienced team; two Latin American chefs and a Greek bartender talked at length with clear enthusiasm about the details of flavour combinations, the importance of sourcing fresh ingredients and the challenges of adapting recipes.
To say that the bar for dining experiences has been raised would be an understatement. Food and beverages alike dazzled us with often surprising combinations of sweetness and sharpness, colour and creative presentation.
Amongst the veritable feast we sampled, a few dishes stood out. The tiraditos (Peruvian sashimi seared in lime) are unmissable. I devoured the tiradito classico: raw seabass in a beautiful sharp-sour-creamy leche de tigre and passion fruit sauce. The miso is more purely salty, with the tang of spring onions serving to complement the salmon sashimi.
Izakaya’s selection of maki rolls likewise puts other sushi establishments to shame, creating an almost electric taste sensation that speaks to the influence of both Japanese and Peruvian cuisine.
I was also a big fan of the juicy maracuya prawns, which came served in a sweet/spicy sauce.
Meat lovers meanwhile will enjoy the pao burger, with lashings of chilli jam and sweet potato fries, and the wafu tenderloin, served with a wonderfully creamy sesame potato puree.
It was ambitious of us to have dessert after the spread we had already been treated to. Still, I can’t claim to regret sampling the chocolate fondant, a delightfully gooey concoction that melted on the plate shortly before melting in our mouths.
Izakaya’s food and ambience would be reason enough to make the journey out to Sheikh Zayed for an evening that will never be inexpensive but will certainly be memorable. We were really struck by the fact that the establishment, while so obviously trendy, also makes a concerted effort to be welcoming and friendly.
Then again, the care and passion with which Izakaya’s cocktails are crafted would also be a reason unto itself for spending a night there, especially for those who appreciate seasonal fruits and flavours with a Japanese twist. I particularly enjoyed the lemongrass gin and tonic, one of five different gin and tonics on offer. It is such a simple concept and so immensely refreshing. Meanwhile, for a taste that is completely different (at least to anything I have sampled before), the ichigo shrub combines whiskey, strawberry balsamic vinegar cream and lemon. Try it – even just to say you have.
Our verdict on Izakaya: get yourselves here as soon as you can. And come hungry!
Address: Gezira Plaza Mall, next to Arkan Mall, Sheikh Zayed
Phone number: 01271 116 223