Coming to Cairo, I knew I was in for a cultural experience – to put it lightly. What I didn’t realise, though, is that it’s so easy to experience cultures from around the world –especially the most important part about culture: the food. Clearly there were going to be restaurants serving cuisine from around the MENA region, but having access to such awesome food from basically all over the world here in Cairo was unexpected. Maybe I was just naïve. It can be overwhelming at times, though, figuring out if you're going to order Indian take-out or Italian food or any of the other myriad of options available in this ginormous cosmopolitan metropolis. Omar’s Cafe inside the Cairo Marriott Hotel is now starting a grand tradition of creating an epic buffet of a different national cuisine every month. This month is a smorgasbord of delicacies from the Far East, and I couldn't wait.
Immersed deep within the swanky fanciness of the hotel itself, Omar’s Cafe was decked out with every kind of Eastern dish you could imagine – which, for me, was about three and a half, but there were way more than that. Each stretch of the buffet was adorned with carved melons and other pretty little things that visually pulled me in every direction, before I even saw the food. The super helpful servers and staff saw my distress and pointed me in the right direction to start.
A super fancy selection of juices lined one table; classics like lemon mint and mango were there, but I elected for something a little more original: apple juice with ginger. I guess the Far East part was the use of ginger but, either way, I hadn’t tasted anything like that ever. Rounding the corner from the juices were a bunch of totally adorable salads. I’m usually not a big fan of salads, or anything that’s not deep fried and covered in nacho cheese sauce, but the presentation of these little healthy piles of veggies with chicken, shrimp, or tofu poking out defied physics. So, as a man of science, I grabbed a plate and got to work.
After devouring a dangerous amount of some kind of chicken and tofu salad with little bits of apple in it, I had to stop lest I begin to endanger the buffet experience. Then I found a juicy bit of chicken at the bottom, totally forgot about the Sun Tsu’s philosophy of the buffet –“It’s a marathon, not a sprint” – and ate the rest of it. I returned to the buffet line with renewed vigour after a brief ahwa
break and got to work checking out the tiny little UFO-shaped steamy space pods that held the main courses.
The dozens of delicious little space invaders held all manner of wonders – Chinese barbecued vegetables, yummy little beef squares basting in their own juices, and my personally favourite: chicken kaju. I’d never heard of kaju before, but my Fancypants instincts initially read the word as 'Kaiju', the giant monsters that periodically destroy Japanese cities and are either stopped by Godzilla or a teenager who has a magic pendant that lets them turn into a giant robot. But, nope; apparently the kaju part just meant it was some kind of cashew curry and it was the proverbial bomb! I ate so much of it I almost forgot (again) to check out the rest of the buffet. Good thing I remembered though, because on my last trip back I discovered this nifty little station where a guy would deep fry stuff for you. A few fresh spring rolls and peanut dough balls later, I was about to call it quits; that's when I saw a couple of whole, roasted ducks.
After wrestling with one of them for about 10 minutes, a kind gentleman in a chef outfit offered to dismember the foul for me. I thought for a moment and told him, “that’s tough, I wish I could just take the whole duck.” He shifted his eyes back and forth for a moment and told me “you could totally take the whole duck.” And so, leaving the Cairo Marriott with a roasted duck tucked under my shirt and a 110 percent full stomach, I immediately checked the hotel’s Facebook to find out what next month’s theme will be. I’m not going to spoil the surprise, but I for one cannot freaking wait.
Check out Cairo Marriott on Facebook and Instagram.