Al-Ahram Weekly Online   17 - 23 November 2011
Issue No. 1072
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Restaurant review:

Gamal Nkrumah

'Why Do Fools Fall in Love'

Dreaming of a White Christmas? Head for First Mall and La Maison Blanche, recommends Gamal Nkrumah

The platinum blonde strolled into La Maison Blanche, a few paces behind the headwaiter. Her face was concealed behind colossal metallic shades and the extravagantly floppy hood of her shapeless oversized overcoat. It is not that cold; we are in Egypt after all and it is mild mid-November.

La Maison Blanche, the exquisitely created eclectic restaurant whose frosty mien was ingeniously created by the international interior design superstar Didier Gomez, is deliberately constituted to enhance the mood of the lighthearted and luxury-loving, moneyed diner. The waiters, too, are all muscle and mirth.

The ice-blonde met them mischievously on their merry terms. She moved across to the chair the headwaiter indicated. She remained silent for a minute or two, playing nervously with an unlit cigarette. "I'd like a glass of white wine, please," she murmured. The completion of this strung-out sentence seemed to exhaust her.

She eyed the menagerie of silken and satin snow-white décor and inched closer to the fireplace. "Let's spy the hors d'oeuvres," she beckoned with fresh delight.

"Coquilles Saint-Jacques en salade d'esperges," she whispered coquettishly. "Pan-seared scallops, asparagus salad and reduced balsamic sauce," I countered saucily and I played along with her contrived Francophone airs by which I was hardly fooled. "I'll go for the terrine de foie gras au naturel, senteur de mangue, or better still, foie gras pol marmalade de pomme -- pan-seared duck liver and apple marmalade, sweetheart," I beckoned.

We sipped our soup and talked guardedly, sounding each other out. We commenced our meal with the delectable snow pea soup. We reluctantly discarded the irresistible mezza menu that appeared to have a decidedly Thai theme. Green papaya salad with seafood Thai-style or beef tenderloin Carpaccio with Tataki pepper. "Let's go for Devil's shrimp," I played Devil's advocate.

La Maison Blanche, officially a French restaurant, has some of the best sushi and Tempura rolls in town. The sashimi, nigri sushi and hoso maki simply spirits your very soul away.

The La Maison Blanche à la carte menu is a mouthful, both in the metaphorical and literal senses. Menu Dégustation is more expensive, though, and far more filling.

For the main course I prevaricated between roasted veal loin, sweet potato purée, green beans and candied shallot on the one hand and roast lamb rack, sugar peas purée, reduced thyme jus and shallot fondant. The platinum blonde preferred pan-seared cod, served with snow peas, zucchini and candied cherry tomatoes. She appraised the fish with a penetrating gaze.

"I'm having crumble rhubarb and raspberry with mascarpone ice cream," she wheezed wickedly in my direction. "Or, shall I go for the caramalised pear millefeuille served with ginger bread ice cream?" I assumed this was a sarcastic charade, snide humour at my expense -- a pathetic diabetic, but no.

So hats off to the headwaiter. I had a spoonful of her pudding. Her giggles were oddly infectious. She sniffed the coffee and arranged her hair with her usual delicacy. "This is great stuff," I yelped. She inclined her head in acknowledgement. The directness of her gaze, the palpable uncertainty in her eyes was all too real. I was sitting next to an infatuated ice-blonde.

The unearthly beauty and cold white marble invoked a certain sense of Siberia in midwinter. "This has been a delightful evening," she whispered but made no effort to pull away. Her face was as soft and as warm as a feathered mattress.

The bittersweet strains of Why Do Fools Fall in Love filled the air. Her cheeks turned a flaming cerise of live coals. She was blushing and her face obviously appeared as if it was on fire. The pearl white surrounding only accentuated the inferno of ruby and carmine before me. Her countenance was as crimson as the setting sun disc sinking behind the palms by the Nile. I stroked her hair and she softened, squashing her face on my chest.

La Maison Blanche

First Mall, Giza

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