Friday, September 27, 2013

Café Le Caire: Middle East Cuisine

I brought about 12 hungry people to Café Le Caire, not strictly a café but a restaurant serving Middle East cuisine for a family gathering on Labour Day this year. Many have not tried this cuisine before and since I love hummus and pita bread, why not introduce the food to them? 
Pita Bread
The menu here is really huge, ranging from Arabic Street food to rice coming from Bukhara of Uzbekistan. But honestly, the first impression of this place was unsettling; dim white lights and narrow space that did not look like it can sit big groups.
The space opposite our dining tables on the second floor
 
Turkish Coffee $5
I did not try this but since it comes with medjool dates, I presumed it must be quite bitter. 
“prepared by boiling finely powdered roast coffee beans with cardamons in a pot with sugar and served into a cup, where the dregs settle. The name describes the method of preparation, not the raw materials” ---Café de Claire menu
 

After walking through what seems like a kopi-tiam on the first floor, we climbed the stairs to the second floor. It was air-conditioned with proper tables, though there was some eerie cold pressure as the place is totally empty except for my big family. 
Cutting straight to the food, the Falefel ($9) served with tahini dip were highly enjoyed by the kids because they are after all fried food made with chickpeas. These were tasty but less crispy than Pita Pan’s.

The Eggplant Yoghurt $6.8 was a cold dish of bland eggplants swimming in unsweetened yoghurt with paprika.  An unusual yet interesting Turkish food indeed but a liking for this taste is difficult to acquire
 
Next was my all-time favourite. The Mezze Platter ($16) is good if you want to try a bit of everything. Hummus (chickpeas), Tahini (sesame), Gibna Mahrus (tangy feta cheese and tomatoes dip) with some salad of olives, light greens and pickles. The platter came with more dips than those shown in the photo above.
 
Some are saltier while some are more sourish.  They are all perfect for dipping with the Arabic bread (can opt for Pita bread too). Arabic bread is much softer and pliable than pita bread. But eventually, we ordered additional Pita bread to mop up leftover dips.
 
Arabic bread is a simple unleavened bread made of flour, water and salt and then thoroughly rolled into a flatten dough while pita, a double-layered flat or pocket bread made with yeast. “ Café de claire menu
Foul? Why will the Egyptians name their breakfast “Foul”?  So I ordered a Foul with Harissa & Hummus ($9), which turns out to be another rich and tasty mash of slow-cooked fava beans mixed with olive oil. Taste saltier than the hummus.  
 
Meantime, the Harissa (on the extreme left) has a coarser texture because it is actually made from LAMB boiled down with wheat! Surprisingly, this Yemeni delicacy does not emit any gamey smell and I would not have guessed its lamb since everything is blended beyond recognition. Sounds odd but I love foul food.

This is call Ba'mia ($9) a lamb stew with Okra (ladyfingers) slow-cooked and simmered for hours, served with rice or bread. Guess menu pictures always look better because the ladyfingers were nowhere visible in the pool of dark brownish red. 
 
But hummus seem to be everywhere, even in meat dishes like Meshawi ($19), a mixture of meatballs, Turkish beef/chicken kebabs, veggie kebabs and lamp chop. The meat is well marinated and succulent, especially the beef.
 
The kids had something healthier- Fish Kebab Bukhari Rice. Though Bukhari is the capital of the Bukhara Province of Uzbekistan, the rice used is actually basmatic grains and Bukhari rice is a widely consumed staple in Saudi Arabia. The fish was lovely marinated and grilled. Overall, this plate is quite similar to our Chinese mixed vegetable rice, albeit in lesser gravy.
Feta Cheese Omelette with fries ($8) for those who prefer to stick to usual western fare.
While the savoury food was hearty, the mandatory sweet fix was less than satisfactory. From the Yemeni Pudding ($5.50), a Middle Eastern créme brulée made of cardamom to the Om Ali ($6.0), an Egyptian hot dessert made of sweetened milk with layers of puff pastries, raisins and pistachio toppings, they were lacklustre—too soggy and stale.
Being crunchy and nutty, the Baklava ($5.50) was the most delicious. But the meal for the kids was nearly ruined by the Le Caire Banana Split $7.5 because they used an over-ripe bananas with some rotten parts.
 
So ignoring the desserts, my family enjoyed the exotic meal here even though it was their first-time experience. Service speed is like the movement of a slow tortoise although we were the first to arrive. But on the very least, the price is reasonable.   
 
For other Middle Eastern food hunts, check out Pita Pan, Artichoke, Onaka.

Café Le Caire 
#01-01, 39 Arab Street
62920979
Fri - Sat: 10am-5:30pm
Sun -Thu: 10am-3:30pm
http://www.cafelecaire.com/

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