Wed, 01 Feb 2017 - 04:24 GMT
Wed, 01 Feb 2017 - 04:24 GMT
Personalized touches and authentic Chinese flavors define Chinoix at the Renaissance Cairo Mirage City.
by Noha Mohammed
Everywhere Chinese cuisine goes it mutates into a hybrid of its original self and the tastes and cooking methods of its new home. Sharp, zesty flavors are thrown out and the end result is more often than not a blend of ketchup infused with whatever spices are on hand. Don’t get me wrong — I’m all for fusion fare, but ketchup-based casseroles masquerading as sweet and sour Chinese are certainly not fusion in my book.
The Chinoix at the Renaissance Cairo Mirage City Hotel in New Cairo pleasantly surprises with its authenticity, from the native chef and waitstaff to the bowl of delicately flavored tea set in front of you as soon as you are seated. My eyes immediately fall on the petite red teapot of soy sauce taking pride of place by the salt and pepper shakers. “It’s basically their salt,” Chinox manager Ahmed Saber tells us as he comes over to greet us at the start of our meal. “They use it with everything.”
Despite being a relatively new hotel and ensconced in a fairly residential area — you can’t see this small city hotel from the main Ring Road — the Chinoix has garnered a healthy following, with groups of Chinese and expats regular clientele at the venue. Even though it’s a week night I can spot a number of full tables, and most of them are indeed non-Egyptian guests. “Our clientele really like it here because the experience we give is similar to what they find at home. We’ve learned to personalize. As hotel staff we are trained to cater to the international client, so for example soup first followed by salad, entrée, then tea and coffee after dessert. The Chinese don’t follow that order, they have their tea throughout the meal and often like soup after the main dish is served. We do that for our Chinese guests. Plus our chef makes all his sauces — all 24 of them — from scratch and serves up the level of spiciness they are accustomed to. His food is totally authentic.”
Our starters arrive and Saber graciously leaves us to start sampling our Chinoix Assorted Platter (LE 65) and the Chef Dumpling Selection (LE 65). Shrimp kunafa (the one concession to fusion that I could spot on the appetizers menu), vegetable spring rolls and honey sesame chicken skewers jostle for your tastebuds and while the chicken at first appears rather bland, it gets an outburst of flavor when dipped in the infused soy sauce beside it. Both the spring rolls and shrimp kunafa are delicately spiced and were not at all greasy as they are wont to be in other venues. The dumplings were likewise grease-free with the vegetable filling coming away the winner.
For our mains, we tucked into Sweet and Sour Prawns with Pineapple (LE 165) and Chicken Gongbao with Cashew Nuts (LE 135). The prawns were a good size, fork tender and far from mealy, with the accompanying sauce lightly sweetened by the tart pineapple pieces, and without a drop of ketchup in sight. The chicken was spicier thanks to quite a number of red chili morsels and went beautifully with the shredded vegetables and crunchy cashews. Both are undeniably safe bets found on most Westernized Chinese menus and indeed most of the offerings here at Chinoix are more familiar than not. Perhaps the most adventurous options are the Stir-fried Sliced Beef Tenderloin with Asparagus and Mint Leaves (LE 195) or, for vegetarians, the Sauteed Tofu, Eggplant and Shitake Mushrooms in Chili Black Bean Sauce (LE 70).
For dessert we had two of the more “fusion” items: Chilled Green Tea Tiramisu (LE 45) and Deep-fried Wonton with Vanilla Ice cream and Chocolate Sauce (LE 45). The latter fell just a little short, with our tastebuds not quite sure to make of the overly rich chocolate and the crispy texture of the wonton. Not so the tiramisu, which I can only describe as unforgettably ethereal: light, creamy and heaven on the tongue.
Other memorable touches were the tasteful mini chandeliers showering each table with rays of light and the staff graciously stowing our handbags on portable handbag hooks affixed to our tables. A violinist entertains but the highlight, Saber tells us, is when the Chinese patrons join in for karaoke on weekends.
Chinoix • Renaissance Cairo Mirage City Hotel • Tel: 20 24063333
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