In search of a venue to have an Iftar meal, we came across an online review recommending the Tamara Lebanese Bistro and decided to give it a try. It’s right across the VIP cinema at City Stars, next door to Mori Sushi.
I immediately fell in love with the decor and the tiny details like the railings, wall art, and chairs. But unfortunately, I didn’t get to enjoy the surroundings because the non-smoking section is out in the hallway. As non-smokers we felt quite penalized and marginalized because it felt like we weren’t really inside the restaurant, enjoying the ambiance. It also got a little noisy with children playing in the hallway.
The Iftar menu is a mix of Egyptian-Lebanese food. The list looked like quite a mouthful and proved to be. Most of the people in the restaurant left with takeaway containers because there was a lot to eat. The salad was already on the table when we arrived, so we weren’t really sure how fresh it was and if insects had already gotten to it first.
That said, the Roca salad and Fattouch were deliciously drizzled with the right flavors which went down very well. But being a hummus fan I was quite disappointed in its concentrated, strong taste, which I am not accustomed to in Lebanese cuisine.
The pastries were delicious, my favorite being the Halloumi Safayeh. The spinach was too spicy, while the meat was cooked nicely.
Next, the tajins were brought to our table, which consisted of the famous Egyptian dish Molokheya and Okra. Strangely the rice was unseasoned and very dry. This was the same with the Molokheya. The Okra, however, tasted as it should in its delicious sauce.
Because the service was quite slow, we received our mixed grill quite late. It arrived in a blanket of bread when uncovered revealed the meat. One plate serves two people whilst two plates serve four. I found the chicken quite dry, so I couldn’t continue eating my piece. While the spices in the kofta were tasty, the meat itself was a little soggy. The highlight of the mixed grill, however, was the pieces of succulent meat; it was perfectly cooked so that you could cut into it easily, and it tasted delicious. I would have been very happy to have only that served.
The Karkadeh was also the best I have tasted– not too strong and not too weak. It was nice to break our fast on this traditional Ramadan drink.
Sadly the service was quite slow and disoriented. Some waiters were not focused on those in the non-smoking section; even the table next to us were upset by this. To be fair the waiters must have been fasting too, but it did take a while to get our food, especially our soup and mixed grill. When the bird’s tongue soup arrived it was lukewarm and lacking flavor, whilst the lentil soup was cold but had these lovely hints of spices and herbs.
After a while, the sweet was served, which was adequate, not really impressing our taste buds. The Lebanese Khoshaf was too sweet but at this point, we were just happy to relax with the tea served because you can’t go wrong with Lipton tea.
The beautiful décor builds up an expectation that the food will be just as lovely, but for 170+ Egyptian pounds, this Iftar was a poor effort. Was the food filled with the delicious Lebanese taste my family and I know and love? Perhaps it was the “lite” version but in need of a serious upgrade. Would we eat here again? We all said we wouldn’t since the food, the location of the non-smoking section, and service were all sourly lacking.
But if I were to catch an afternoon movie at the VIP cinema across the hallway and I was dying of starvation, I wouldn’t rule out a light lunch with the Halloumi pastry and Fattoush salad.
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