Makino, Japanese at the Hilton Zamalek
Updated July 2015 by Bec
After becoming frustrated by the culinary options in Cairo, rumour has it that some Japanese businessmen selected two of the finest chefs from home and flew them here in 2012 to start a restaurant in the Zamalek Hilton Hotel to appease the tastes of their staff. True or not, I’ll believe any romantic fable about this place, and you’d be sucked in too after a meal there.
Makino serves up proper, traditional Japanese dishes. It’s not the westernised, deep-fried, overly colourful, Chinese-Japanese fusion stuff, but the seemingly simple yet full-flavoured, out-of-this world food. Whether you like it or not, you won’t find Philadelphia cream cheese or funky mango slices in your roll here!
I’m not exactly sure if it’s the lack of true Japanese dining in Egypt that has me drooling over Makino’s dishes, but I think it’s safe to say it’s one of the best Japanese restaurants in the country. It’s certainly the best I’ve come across in my quests.
Entering the restaurant you’re greeted with maple wood tables and chairs, Japanese-inspired shades between seating areas, a pebbled floor, one or two Japanese dudes expertly chopping raw fish behind a low sushi bar, and bamboo trees glowing in the courtyard. But the most reassuring sight of all is the ever-present handful of tables occupied by Japanese customers looking pleased with their food. Your Japanese dining experience is heightened further when the waiters provide cold hand towels, real chopsticks, and a complimentary starter.
The extensive menu is daunting and I find myself tabbing pages and keeping notes of what I want to eat next time I visit. But the quality of the food gives the restaurants I visited in Tokyo a run for their money. The melt-in-your mouth salmon sashimi is nothing short of orgasmic. Even the wasabi is fresh – ever so slightly crunchy and grainy - as it should be. The dishes at Makino appear simple, but the flavors have depth and the elements are intricately laid out: for example the ‘soba buckwheat noodles in broth’ with a garnish of seaweed. If simplicity and authenticity isn’t for you, then try the tempura (deep-fried) selection or head to Mirai down the road for a more contemporary Japanese culinary experience.
If you’re getting a headache trying to pick something from the 20-page menu, share the sizeable ‘Shoukadou Bento Lunch Box’ with a friend (180 LE) for a selection of tempura, special grilled fish of the day, special meat dish of the day, and side of the day, with rice. Some of their best dishes include their sashimi selection (65-75 LE), ‘Makimono rolled sushi’ including the salmon California roll (80 LE), ‘Agedashi Nasu’ deep fried eggplant in tempura sauce (38 LE), and the ‘Ika Rukkora Shio Kombu Marine’ marinated fresh cuttlefish and rocket (52 LE). If you think I’ve overlooked the noodles, udon know me very well as the ramens (65-80 LE) and ‘kaisen chasoba salad’ sashimi salad with green noodles and seasame sauce (68 LE) are among my favourites.
And just to top it all off, they serve beer, wine and sake.
When at Makino, you have to try their Salmon Sashimi (76 Le/5pc), which is alwasy so fresh and smooth that it melts in your mouth.