Taken by surprise, senior writer Lamis Zrable falls in love with #ProjectMasmat, and lets go of classist and psychological reservations towards food.
I'm not going to sugar coat this; I HATE foods with 'weird' textures. I've never been a fan of kaware' (knuckles) because you'll bite into them on one side of your mouth only to have them jiggling around on the other. Cow tongue has always creeped me out on account of the thick and scratchy texture it has.
So you're probably wondering how I ended up going to a restaurant on a night where they were serving up the exact foods that repel me the most in life. Well, I had NO idea that's what I was going to be eating... I was told I'll be enjoying a fancy five course meal, and that's exactly how I set my expectations. You might think you KNOW how THAT turned out… except you're wrong.
Due to the somewhat classist psychological barrier against eating food that's meant for the street, it's difficult to accept trying something out which one has strongly associated with disgust, and distaste. It's not surprising as such that many people within my socio-economic background would be hesitant to try a FIVE FREAKING COURSE MEAL that's solely based on what you'll find in a Masmat, and that's exactly how I read the room. However, since I had no idea what to expect, I walked into it ready to experience whatever was thrown at me.
Their kaware' soup was only the first of many surprises. They managed to offset its gelatinous texture with diced apples which cut through the flavour with their sweetness, and added a crunch to the tiny pieces of the knuckle meat. Biting into one didn't toss it to the other side of my mouth, but rather had it splitting around the crunch of the apple, creating a soft but chewable texture. The attention to flavour and texture continued with the salad course; a crunchy toast covered in paprika that married its flavours to the smooth eggplant and tongue meat that lay on top of it.
Up next we were treated to a rich bed of rice coated in au jus from the crisp seared meat that melts in your mouth. The penultimate dish gave us more familiar flavours with fried potatoes, melt-in-your mouth meat, and a pickled lemon (lamoon me3asfar) puree that brought all the elements of the dish together. Finally, rounding off the meal was sweet potato ice cream that had us dancing around our plate to taste the chilli salt, nuts, and demi glaze that it was pared with.
While clearly it is not a meal for a vegetarian, it might also surprise you, it is not one for the faint of heart, each course featured what you would find in a Masmat; kaware’ soup, tongue salad, headcheese with rice, and sweetbreads with a side of potatoes. Kazlak is taking offal meats and elevating them to a standard that we have never seen before. Each cut is treated with the passion and meticulous effort that goes into tending to a Porterhouse; enriching the flavour and texture while simultaneously embracing traditional Egyptian sauces and cooking methods. Now if you're thinking, "I'm just going to pop out and give this delicious sounding menu a try right now," you should probably take a step back and re-read that last sentence. Since this five course meal needs tons of preparation, you need to make reservations 48 hours ahead of time!
Photos by Cairo Zoom.