Forest and feast
The Rainforest Café gives Ramadan a new flavour. Gamal Nkrumah
tastes the difference
The holy fasting month of Ramadan reverberates in the family-oriented Rainforest Café. Yet, it will come as little surprise that the divorce rate is increasing across the country as changes in attitude towards marriage are subtly introduced into a hitherto conservative society. Thank God, many break-ups are amicable. However, I did note at the Rainforest Café, the other day, that single mothers and their children occupied most of the tables surrounding us. Were the fathers enjoying Iftar with their business associates and their friends?
Traditionally, Iftar was among the most private and family-centred rituals of Ramadan. Yes, a day or two were reserved for having Iftar with members of the extended family, close friends and business associates. But, the bulk of the holy fasting month was the exclusive preserve of the family. Breaking the fast outside the confines of home was reserved for very few days, perhaps once a week or so. Yet increasingly, families are finding it convenient to break the fast in restaurants that cater for those who are fasting. These restaurants strive to provide as familiar a family setting as possible.
The Rainforest Café does not even bother to make the experience of breaking the fast in its exotic setting a customary occasion any less foreboding. The massive gorillas, threateningly beating their chests, glaring menacingly at the clientele, prompt the younger children to shriek in terror much to the amusement of their older siblings. The lions roar and the elephants trumpet away. Macaws and parakeets chatter and squawk, hyenas cackle and monkeys whoop, pythons hiss and the excitement and verve of the forest come alive much to the delight of the children. Even so, all the staples of the Ramadan cuisine are spread with much pomp and ceremony on the table. And yes, the haunting jungle sounds that fill this unique eatery are for a month toned down to make room for the more melodic strains of the oriental music traditionally associated with Ramadan.
Of course, the dishes on offer on the Rainforest menu will be served as usual. There are no special Sohour entrees. However, the tamarind, apricot-based qamareddin, karkadé (hibiscus) and other traditional Ramadan drinks are on offer. The Ramadan Iftar menu also includes traditional Levantine mezzas such as stuffed vine leaves, Lebanese labneh (sour cream), kobeibah (pine nuts-stuffed crushed wholewheat and minced meat balls), mouthwatering oriental tagens (meat and vegetable stews), and main dishes like the Rainforest's delectable Luxor lamb chops. I tasted those succulent delicacies and I assure you that it was a heavenly experience. The Amazon beef fillet, 21-day-old Brazilian steaks, were no less delicious. And so were the Nile's grilled jumbo prawns with roasted potato.
The adventurous could try the less familiar entrees for a Ramadan treat. The Caribbean coconut shrimp is quite simply divine. The Congo prawns served with saffron- powdered basmati rice are no less scrumptious. The calypso char-grilled chicken served with aromatic basil mashed potatoes and citrus vinaigrette is out of this world.
The Mogambo prawn penne pasta peppered with succulent slices of sundried tomatoes and topped with a rich Alfredo sauce, basil and Parmesan cheese, green peas and mushrooms are equally pleasing to the parched palate after a long day's fast. The tuki ribeye is another all-time favourite among Rainforest's regular customers. The 21-day aged ribeye steak is served with potato cake and herb butter -- a winning combination. The rasta pasta is unbeatable. And, so is the jungle safari soup.
The Pasta Laya, a decidedly un-Ramadan dish, is I reckon one of the most delightful at the Rainforest Café. The plump prawns are sautéed with chicken breast slices, colourful red, gold and green bell peppers and onions tossed in a fiery Cajun sauce and served with linguini pasta.
The Rainforest Café is a unique landmark in the Cairene culinary landscape. Caribbean, African-inspired and Brazilian-influenced dishes on the menu are adapted for the Egyptian palate.
CityStars, fifth floor, Phase 1
Nasr City, Cairo
Tel: 2480 2560/ 2480 2561
Ramadan special Iftar per person: LE140