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Border disputesBy Pascale Ghazaleh
Arriving at a restaurant in the throes of an acute attack of hypoglycaemia is not the best way to prepare for an evening of critical eating, but such, alas, was my state as we approached the portals of Bukhara. As such, I was only able to take stock of the surroundings after having inhaled the better part of a restorative lassi. The interior itself is pleasant enough, though there is little to remind the diner of the restaurant's namesake city. Knickknacks intended to conjure up India do abound, on the other hand: our table was graced with a slightly unwieldy vessel in the general shape of a flower pot. This disposed of, we prepared for assault.
Vegetarians seeking a change from the eternal trinity (fuul, ta'miya, kushari) can find it difficult to eat out in Cairo, but at Bukhara a large section of the menu is devoted to those who would prefer not to consume anything that once had a face. Not being full-time members of the bean sprouts and Birkenstocks brigade, however, we were pleased to note that no great self-sacrifice was necessary: we, too, could partake of the "Traditional North West Frontier Specialties... from the ROYAL Kitchens of North India". Quite what this had to do with Uzbekistan was any body's guess. Taste buds stunned by the prompt arrival of marinated onions, their impact barely assuaged by the accompanying mint dip, we attacked the more substantial fare. The paneer tikka (cottage cheese Tandoori-style) was nothing like cottage cheese, thankfully: a rather alarming shade of orange, it turned out to be delicately spiced, with no powers of adherence to the roof of the mouth. The Tandoori salad (somewhat laconically described as capsicum, onions, potatoes, tomatoes from Tandoor) was applauded with equal enthusiasm: smothered in spices, it nestled for only a moment in its earthenware container and then was no more. By the time we got to the jeera aloo (potatoes with cumin), our hunger pangs had been allayed, to a point. Silence descended upon our little gathering, and there it stayed for the duration of the daal (a tad watery) and raita (ditto). This abundance was helped on its way by the obligatory naan (in its mint incarnation). The meat-eating member of our party agreed to try the ghosht shahi tikka (boneless meat, marinated overnight), which also disappeared in a flash. Hot water with slices of lemon arrived, fleetingly bringing to mind the relative (distant) who, at a dinner party, downed the contents of his finger bowl before realising that protocol demanded a less gung-ho approach. Given the cleansing properties attributed by some yogis to hot water, perhaps he was not so far off after all. The mere mention of kulfi brought panic to my companions' eyes.
Tactfully, the waiter did not shriek with laughter when he saw our empty plates. The service, in fact, is impeccable: ochre salwar kamiz notwithstanding, the staff eschew the faintly menacing affability favoured by some establishments. Customers are even informed that the restaurant "does not levy service charge". We departed, eminently satisfied, and only LE155 or so lighter. At the door, a friendly gentleman proffered rock sugar, cardamom pods and anise to nibble. Indian food, at Bukhara, on the Nile? Those Moghuls move in mysterious ways.
Bukhara, 43, Misr Helwan Road, Maadi