When word got out that a new seafood restaurant had opened its doors in the capital, I was not excited. I wasn’t even planning on going. Call me biased, but as an Alexandrian and a die-hard seafood lover, nothing beats a seafood meal in Alexandria. I’m glad I changed my mind, because Fish Makan passed this Alexandrian’s strict seafood test with flying colors, although it got credit for being run by Alexandrians.
Set on two outdoor terraces overlooking the Nile and with a small interior, Fish Makan is decked out with white tables and chairs laid with checkered blue and white tablecloths. Think Athens meets Alexandria, but with a view of the Nile.
The Fish Makan menu has an array of appetizers and salads to choose from. We opted for the shrimp with lemon, raw sea bass in lemon juice, crab seasoned with cumin and chili, fried besarya (small fish drenched in batter then fried in oil until crispy) with tartar sauce and the traditional tahini, babaghanoug and mixed green salads. For appetizers, prices range from LE 30 to LE 65 and all salads cost LE 12. All our starters proved to be more than just satisfactory; they were tasty and filling enough to skip the main course. My favorite was the shrimp with lemon: a light and simple dish that is a treat for all shrimp lovers. The crab seasoned with lemon, olive oil, cumin and chili won the approval of my companions, but it was too spicy for my taste. If you can’t handle heat, let your waiter know, they would be happy to adjust the level.
Out came our first entrée, the grilled calamari (prices of all seafood depend on how much you order by weight and how you want it cooked) with a side of sayadeyya rice (LE 18). The calamari flavored with chopped green peppers, onions and diced red tomatoes was well cooked yet still tender; in other words, just how calamari should be. The golden-brown, oniony sayadeyya rice is garnished with bite-sized pieces of sautéed shrimp and calamari and sprinkled with chopped parsley for that extra bit of flavor.
My dinner companions and I unanimously agreed that the butterflied grilled shrimp with butter and parsley entrée was, by far, the star of the meal. The bright coral color of the shrimps glistened with creamy and melted butter, which made for a wonderful contrast to the earthy brown color of the ground cumin sprinkled on top and the dark green of the freshly chopped parsley. It was an immensely flavorful dish with a wonderful palate of colors that looked almost too good to eat.
After we had lapped up every last bit of shrimp, our waiter brought us our next dish: sea bass cooked à la singary. Singary is a traditional Alexandrian method of cooking fish where the fish is butterflied and topped with diced tomatoes, fresh onions and green peppers. It is then seasoned with garlic and olive oil and cooked in a hot skillet or baked. Once again, the dish looked entirely too good to eat, but we dug in anyway. Unfortunately, the taste didn’t quite live up to its appearance. Although the fish was perfectly cooked, it lacked a depth of flavor that may have been remedied by longer marination.
A word of advice: It will be hard not to eat your weight’s worth in seafood here, but leave room for dessert — it’s worth it.
Even though our bellies were full, we couldn’t pass up a date tart (LE 35). The miniature tart comes warm and topped with vanilla ice cream and butterscotch sauce with a dusting of cinnamon. The crunchy base, succulent and warm dates and the cold, creamy ice cream make for a combination born in dessert heaven.
The service is fast and friendly without being intrusive, and the waiters are always ready to help you select your fish and even recommend ways to cook it. For a three-course meal, be prepared to pay around LE 300 per person, so be warned that the bill is likely to leave a dent in your wallet. Nonetheless, with scrumptious food, brilliant ambience and top-notch service, this seafood joint is going to give others in the capital a run for their money.