Cary, N.C. — Nile Cafe looks ordinary from the outside, but the food is anything but. Recently, I attended a media preview of the menu offerings at the newly opened cafe in Cary.
Nile Cafe has been open for a couple of months now. They serve Mediterranean food. Owners are Ehab and his wife, who both hail from Egypt, although they've lived in the U.S. for 30 years now. In that time, they've cooked (and baked beautiful cakes and pastries) for family and friends' special events. Throughout that time, they consistently got positive feedback and encouragement to open a restaurant featuring their delicious dishes. Now they've finally done it.
When I asked Ehab what the main difference is between Egyptian cuisine and say, for example, Lebanese or Greek, he said spice is the main difference. Cumin is a popular spice used in Egyptian cooking.
Ehab, by the way, is one of the sweetest people you'll ever meet. He loves talking about the food and very much wants everyone to enjoy everything. It warmed my heart to hear him talk about how important it is to him to make almost everything in-house from scratch. Their hummus is not made with canned chick peas, and the stuffed grape leaves are not canned either. They make it all on the premises. You can taste the difference -- fresh fresh fresh!
The tatziki is made in-house, and so is the hummus.
Pictured here are the stuffed grape leaves and two of the three rotating soups the cafe features daily. The Lemon Chicken Soup knocked my socks off. So very good!
I've actually been back a couple of times now for the soup and for a few other to-go items. Ehab said that a customer brought some of that soup to a sick friend who ended up liking it so much that she came in to buy some as soon as she felt well. The other soup pictured here is the Lentil Soup, and it was also really delicious and hearty.
According to Ehab, the crispy fried onions on top of the soup make it officially Egyptian. Actually, he said the crispy friend onions on top of most of his dishes make them officially Egyptian. I love me some fried onions, so pile them on please!
Check out these great looking dishes -- stuffed grape leaves and falafel.
This is Penne Bechemel, and it's hearty beyond words.
It contains minced meat, Bechamel and a tomato-based sauce on top. This is a side dish, priced at $6.99, but one could easily make a meal out of this large "side."
This is Koshari, and it's the definition of comfort food. Listed on the menu as a "side," (it's huge), this is the most popular dish in Egypt. It consists of white rice, macaroni, chick peas, lentils and a tomato, vinegar and garlic sauce. And, of course, it's topped with crispy fried onions. Yum!
Ehab kept telling us to "go deep," as in, deep into the pile, as the lentils are deep inside and that's the good stuff. The whole thing was "the good stuff" to me though.
Pictured below is Moussaka -- a potato-based dish with eggplant, lamb, cheese and tomato sauce on top. Under it is "Queen of the Nile," and you can choose different meats for this entree. This particular one was made with beef and chicken.
Oh yes, vegetables too, but the meat, oh boy was it tasty. No joke, a good dish really does start with good quality ingredients, and these meats were juicy and flavorful.
The desserts were all delicious, but the truffles and the coconut cake were my favorites.
This is Mango Knufa and, this was a close second to my above two tied favorites. The taste of this dessert is mostly what you'd expect except for the bottom layer, which is such a surprise. Although the whole thing is laden with mango cream and fruit pieces, it is crunchy on the bottom. Think of a broken-up Triscuit cracker in terms of appearance and consistency. Taste-wise, though, it is light and sweet -- a very nice combination.
You can sip a delicious Turkish coffee with your dessert -- how pretty is the presentation?
By the way, Nile Cade's Chef Saad, formerly of An and Taverna Agora, definitely brings some amazing skills to the dishes. I got to speak to him for a bit, too, and he is now very happy to be cooking the type of cuisine he is most passionate about.
It's nice when things come together like that, isn't it?
I highly recommend this place. Whether you're staying or getting a to-go meal, you will be impressed with the taste and quality of the food.
And don't forget that lemon chicken soup - it is soup season after all!
Read more by Meg Smigielska on her blog, Meg Here & There.