Quality Indian options are appearing all over Cairo faster than Rama fled to Sri Lanka to rescue his beautiful wife Sita. It used to be that those with a hankering for curry were limited to Kandahar in Mohandessin or making the trek out to the Mena House Oberoi, a bad commute, and an even worse dent in your pocket book. Bukhara, with several branches around town, changed all this by making Indian food accessible, though not yet great. Quality had to wait for the arrival of the Massala restaurant at the Karvin Hotel in Heliopolis, run by a scion of the famous Indian family Oberoi. Similar quality soon appeared at Maharani, one of the offerings on the Pacha boat in Zamalek.
With the arrival of Nawab, again in Zamalek, the tale of Indian food in Cairo has taken its latest twist. Nawab, the brainchild of an Indian/Lebanese husband and wife team, has provided a quality option, nearly on par with the greats of Cairo Indian cuisine Massala and Maharani, while coming in at a fraction of the price.
Nawab refers to an Indian prince, and immediately places the restaurant in the northern Indian tradition, drawing upon dishes from the region of the country north and west of Delhi, the princely states of yore. Where it triumphs over its rivals around town is in the variety of its menu. I didn’t get a chance to meet the owner/chef, but chances are he’s from the north-west state of Punjab, toward the border with Pakistan, based on the number of dishes served Patiala style, stewed in tomatoes with cashews and raisins.
The food at Nawab is excellent. The ingredients are fresh, the tastes are authentic and spicy without necessarily being hot, the pickles are excellent and home-made, and the naan is fresh and delicious. The ultimate compliment was paid to the establishment the night that we went; several tables were filled with Indian clients.
However, Nawab isn’t in any danger of knocking its rivals off their perch for the best curry in town just yet. For starters, the décor is unappealing: bland decorations, cheap tables and place settings, a too-loud massive flat screen TV blaring in the background. The service also lags behind: we were brought fizzy water in dirty bottles that reeked of benzene. It doesn’t have a liquor license.
However, these issues are easily addressed, and having been open only a few months, chances are the management will take them on soon. In its core business, that of serving food, Nawab excels. It’s also distinctly affordable; spending more than 200LE on a dinner for two would be difficult. If you’re after great Indian food, and don’t mind a bit of a do-it-yourself service atmosphere, Nawab could be just the place.
Details: 21 Baghat Aly St., Zamalek, Tel: 2736 0433; www.nawabegypt.com under construction. Delivery in Zamalek and nearby areas. Open daily for lunch from 1-3 PM, and for dinner from 6-11 PM.