A Royal Meal in The Kitchen Club
The restaurant’s menu is printed on papyrus tones with Hieroglyph symbols. Chef Mostafa Seif, winner of 2018’s Top Chef Middle East and Executive Sous Chef at Pier 88, welcomes you with his signature statement: a strong confidence in Egyptian food.
It starts with Kabab Hala; a tender lamb ragout served in a tart case of crispy ‘rokak’ bread and paired with deliciously tangy goat cheese.
Waiters then bring the Deconstructed Falafel Soup which is pure genius in a bowl. Sautéed and microgreen sprouted fava beans, tahini foam, and the magic potion of green ‘bisara’ is poured to dazzle! The soup is unique and delicious.
Next is a heartwarming medley of Egyptian flavours from our sea to the south. Chef Mostafa presents Wild Sea Bass coupled with Mefatela from Upper Egypt.
When the Pharaonic Duck arrives, featuring ‘dukkah’ crusted duck breast, duck thigh ragout and a type of barley known as ‘farik’, it’s all dressed in orange and apricot purée.
After an orchestra of surprising flavours, our wonderful Chef ends the journey on a sweet note that tickles our nostalgia: Childhood Memories “Sakalance”: a plate of playful ‘halawa’ fluff and the lightest sesame meringue paired with mastic ice cream.
He left me both quite speechless and very curious.
Q – With Egyptian food, there’s the sense that local is simple and not always in a good way. But what you manage to do from a look at your menu design, and a few bites is to transport us to an experience of Egyptian food as it would be served for royalty. Did you dream of making it more sophisticated?
A – It’s resurrection rather than transformation. What I’m doing is reviving the glamour of Egyptian cuisine and bringing it to our palates. Through my interpretations of tradition, I found my calling in the search for our timeless heritage.
This all starts with ingredients. Across Egypt there are endless distinct ingredients that are wonderfully versatile. A good example is the Mefatela, which is actually a sweet dish in Upper Egypt. My passion for food and our heritage, helps me understand each ingredient so I’m able to play with it, releasing some wild flavours. But it’s more than this. If you understand the process from farm to kitchen, how long it takes to dry, how the women grind it with special handmade tools, how each grain is a labour of love, then it makes perfect sense: something that takes this much effort deserves to be known and live on in food culture.
Q – Your approach challenges expectations. How do you handle this?
A – With the utmost confidence in my purpose. I’m aware of how shocking it can be. I remember reactions the first time I shared my idea on tonight’s soup! It took over 3 years to develop this menu and what would I be doing if I didn’t trust in it?
As eaters, we’ve forgotten who we are. The first wine, bread, foie gras, came from this land. Royalty wasn’t served by mediocre chefs. Pharaohs had an incredibly picky diet, but the duck plate, for example, is something I would have boldly offered.
Q – Tell us about your experience running the Casa Cook’s Kitchen Club tonight.
A – It offers so much potential and really facilitates what I do with ease. It’s been a pleasure to work with Chef Edwin and his staff. The greatest strength of all is having a reliable team.
Q – What is your take on El Gouna. Are there any plans to lead your own kitchen here?
A – It would be incredible to work in El Gouna. The town has such a strong food culture and attracts open-minded people who don’t need much beyond the food itself in order to appreciate it. It’s a motivation chefs dream of, and few are lucky to cook for.
Thank you Casa Cook and Chef Mostafa Seif for an evening that both touched and tremendously humbled. It is rare to feel privileged after a meal, but if you taste Michelin aspiring tradition, packed with flavours from the most distinct areas in your country, how could you not?