New faces. Complete strangers. One big table. One extra seat. For you. Time to open the “friendly” valve.
The monthly Chef’s Table is an opportunity to take a seat and let yourself be warmed with the smiles of easy-going, interesting conversationalists who have all come together for a night of gastronomic pleasure.
Three creative chefs, Moustafa El Refaey of Zooba, Ayman Samir of the Cellar Door and Wesam Masoud of Eatcorp meet to brainstorm on a full-course meal that will, firstly, challenge and excite themselves, and secondly, impress the people who care to see what they’ve got.
The next Chef’s Table is scheduled for Saturday, 22 December – just in time for Christmas. They will pair wines and cocktails with the food, harnessing the celebratory holiday spirit.
At the last Chef’s Table, they focused on integrating very local or regional staples into their not-regional plates.
They opened with a pumpkin soup. A small square bowl, slightly larger than a shot, was perfect in texture and smooth in flavour.
The spinach salad with bangar (pickled beetroot) can be taken as a risk or as a safe zone: although not many people like pickled items, it seems to be a necessary evil accompanying most Egyptian meals. The visual of the plate was appealing and well-balanced, with the red bangar on one side and the green salad on the other. Apples mediated the bitterness of the fresh spinach leaves. They took the extra effort to peel the tomatoes and walnuts gave quenched the molars; really preparing the stomach for the rest of the meal.
Next? Fiesta-time! Chef Ayman presented each of the Tres Tacos to me. One was taco cheese with braised tongue. The second? A moussaka taco. And the final and best, in my humble opinion: a Moroccan spice ceviche taco. Latin American ceviches tend to rely so heavily on vinegar or sour lemon that it blots out most of the flavour of the fish and roots. Their version, although lemony, was on the sweet side - not at all bitter – and the mouth got a nice earthy spark of cilantro. Their secret is coconut milk, orange juice, and preserved lemons.
Many people around the table remarked that the cheeks were such a nice treat. I’ve heard even cannibalists claim it’s one of the best parts.
In this Chef’s Table session they decided “for” fish plates. They highlighted salmon, with pepper compote, fava beans and tempura. The sea bass was a wonderful texture. The chefs allowed the fish to be fish, yet softened the flavour. The tempura was a bit of a failure: it wasn’t cooked well, but that’s a small oversight in relation to the extensive meal. A very unusual savoury red pepper alioli laid on a bed of bell peppers.
In between, the chefs smartly introduced a palate cleanser of orange ginger in Greek yoghurt.
Next was the main plate: roasted goat. Potato terrine, caramelised carrot and with green pea puree really came through to delight everyone. In fact, if one would base their opinion on goat meat on this plate by the three chefs, it would be one of the most popular meats ever.
The de-boned oxtail was a bit dry/hard on the outside, but this can easily be explained: oxtail, like a few of the items on the ambitious chef’s menu, is not a habitual item in most kitchens. One exception is, of course, where bulls are iconic: Spain. The treat of such an unusual dish in a chef’s table in Egypt was highly appreciated.
An extremely light dessert topped off the night: a pool of amaretto sauce and scattered candied cherries. The chocolate beef bacon was an excellent idea - the bacon need only have been less fibrous and dry. The highlight was the ice cream, which for a moment made me wonder if it was homemade. If it wasn’t, I would gladly be oblivious and even today do not care to inquire.
“Blissful” is a good adjective for the night. Table topics ranged from work, to the economy, to travel anecdotes inspired from the joy of the many successions of unique plates for this unique night.
Chefs Ayman, Moustafa and Wesam wrote on their Facebook wall “we look forward to feeding you” on Saturday 22 December.
Saturday, 22 December
Cedar Door, Maadi
Contact Cedar Door directly for reservations: 0223598328