Al-Ahram Weekly Online   18 - 24 May 2006
Issue No. 795
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Restaurant review:

Delightfully Sharming

When in doubt, follow the scented trail

So you're walking down Naama Bay and the day's beach fun has been digging a steadily widening little hole in your stomach; as you tread past dozens of restaurants, bars, cafés and lounges, you are lost in an acute case of embarras du choix -- in the festively jovial and cleverly alluring selection, how is choice possible? Lucky for me, my insider friends residing in Sharm El-Sheikh have already played the tried and tested game; a recommendation was only a call away and you can be sure that little green telephone button was promptly pressed.

Lo and behold, among the list of must-dos was the very restaurant I stood before, imbibing the smells of its open kitchen: an expanding affair by the name of Kan Zaman. Nostalgia, huh? Well, for one thing, the prices on the menu certainly bring back memories. There, on the corner of the inside promenade, was a cozy little open-air arrangement, fairly busy, with the candles on the tables lit for the convenience of diners from all around the world. One look around the patch of garden was enough to guess this much, and the signs so far confirmed that one's friends had good taste. The Levantine ma"tre d's accent twisted the knob of fusion even a tad further and the menu, equally cosmopolitan albeit with an Italian penchant, was just perfect -- for yours truly had been dreaming of a Spaghetti Marinara for enough time to justify the indulgence.

A waiter wondered why anyone would be in such a hurry (fair enough when you are familiar with the Sharm tempo) so I explained that the trip back to Cairo began in 45 minutes and missing it would have been most unbecoming. Away he flew to promptly return with a Kan Zaman Salad to keep me appetised until my pasta was freshly cooked. Here I will throw in a word of warning: if you don't fancy a runny nose in public, you may wish to avoid this choice as the tiny cubes of green chili are rather potent. The salad is a stir of fried aubergines, tomato, onion and chili cubes, tahina and greens -- and it comes with a basket of scorching oven-baked pita.

My pleas for greater speed were actually answered -- no sooner had the salad been taken off my table than a huge plate of the seafood spaghetti I so desired landed on it. On the side of the deep dish lay a full crab and a jumbo shrimp to nibble on, as well as a helping of shredded mozzarella (Parmesan would have definitely been a wiser choice) to complement the sauce. Now, that sauce was the real secret. Based on tomatoes and onions, a hint of parsley and garlic, it was rich in flavour, light on the stomach, while sliced calamari and baby shrimp retained a strong presence among the vegetable mix. True, there were no muscles (moulles) dotting the mix with their tantalising orange appearance, as one usually expects of a Marinara, but the absence was easily excused considering all ingredients guaranteed freshness.

Try as I may to finish my plate like a well- mannered person, the feat proved impossible -- it was just simply huge and no amount of rolling the spaghetti against the spoon seemed to be taking anything away from the remaining amount to eat. I gave up, and gave in to another urge, going Italian all the way -- that was a gelatto to cool the tummy with.

By the time you make it to Kan Zaman the menu may have changed, as they are rather active and innovative back there, but if you have the chance, do not forgo the vanilla ice-cream, for it will balance out hot and cold, savoury and sweet, for a most delicious end-of-meal treat.

And now for the big surprise: at this Sharm hot spot, with freshness and quality guaranteed in a delightful setting, an LE50 bill will cover this filling meal (without beverages).

Go, see -- and conquer.

Kan Zaman
Naama Bay
Sharm El-Sheikh

By Injy El-Kashef

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