While we know what Chinese food is, and we have a firm understanding of Japanese cuisine, the new Kempinski hotel is pushing the envelope with flavours from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and more. We head over before the official launch.
A smiling Buddha always makes us smile back, and puts us in a good mood. Imagine, then, when we head over to Yana, the Royal Maxim Palace Kempinski's signature South East Asian restaurant, to find not one, not two, but loads of the Buddha's setting the tone for an enjoyable night? We were immediately seated in the dim, yet dashing restaurant, quickly handed a cold towel to cool down from Cairo's never ending summer and given a complimentary ice-cold green tea shot. With the Buddha's warmly smiling, it was long before we were settled and left our experience in the hands of the clearly professional staff, who presented us with a gorgeously-designed menu and some crackers and dips to nibble on as we browsed.
Sufficiently cooled down and relaxed, we tried some of their signature soups and salads to start. The Chicken Won Ton soup was generous, with at least five or six giant and well-filled won tons floating in the clear yet flavourful broth, alongside pak choy; a staple of South East Asian cuisine that most restaurants in Egypt can't get their hands on. Meanwhile, the Tom Kha - a classic Thai soup - had just the right amount of spice, thanks to its chili, lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime leaf base, toned down with a good a dose of coconut milk and sweet, perfectly-cooked prawns. A real surprise was their sour and spicy green papaya salad as it's not every day you come across the exotic fruit here in Egypt.
For our main courses, we opted for a Thai Green Curry with Jasmine Rice, and found a dish that's suitable for all tastes, ages and spice inclinations. Paired with chicken, the curry was moreish, perfectly seasoned and one of the best we've had in the city. With a cool glass of wine to wash it all down with, the spice-factor was easily dealt with, while the perfumed rice gave the harsher flavours a nice balance.
However, the show stopper had to be the crab dish we managed to get our claws on. Though on the pricey end - fresh crab always is - the steaming plate that came towards us was deserving of our full attention. Served Asian-style, which means simply boiled with a whole host of aromatics, the tang and spice of Kaffir lime, lemongrass, ginger, coriander and more, the sweet, plump crab meat was perfectly complemented. With a side of wok fried rice, served in a pineapple, there wasn't anyone on the table not Instagramming.
A glass of wine or two later, it was time for dessert. Now, when we're usually served a fruit platter, we know what to expect. A bit of apple here, some bateekh there... But when Yana writes fruit platter on their menu, you better believe it'll be as authentic South East Asian as they get. A boat load of papaya, dragon fruit, star fruit, Asian pear, lychee and more hit our table like a refreshing, sweet Tsunami. Meanwhile, their delicate Sago - something like rice pudding, but instead of rice, tapioca and instead of milk, coconut milk - was perfect for those with more of a sweet tooth.
Officially launching this October 4th, Yana is bound to be the Asian restaurant everyone's talking about before long. Find out more about the Royal Maxim Palace Kempinski in New Cairo here.