Remember the time I went to Gulf Beach to eat dinner instead because I thought that Cafe Le Caire didn't have any air-conditioning? Well, I was wrong! Cafe Le Caire actually does have an air-conditioned area, on the second floor of its completely open-air first floor dining area. However, the entrance to the second floor dining area is completely obscured and accessible only through a hidden stairwell. There are no directions to the stairwell or the second floor so you'll have to ask the staff directly for directions to the entrance to the stairwell.
I'd never have known about this without the help of Yas and Mr Harvest-The-Crops. We had driven out for lunch to Arab Street for some Middle Eastern cuisine and they brought me here. While the first floor has a very basic and spartan design, not unlike a school canteen, the second floor dining area looks like someone's living room, complete with rugs, warm glowing floor lamps and mismatched furniture.
Of all the Middle Eastern eateries around the Arab Street enclave, Cafe Le Caire is probably the most well known and best. Their food is generally authentic, good and cheap, but be forewarned, service here is very very VERY slow. We were here for lunch on a weekday afternoon, there were hardly any diners and yet it took a full half an hour for them to even serve us the starter mezze platter.
It's apparently a Middle Eastern tradition to start a meal with an assortment of small dishes of starters and dips, usually consisting of vegetables. We started off our meal with a Mezze Platter ($16). I thought this was like the Middle Eastern version of Korean banchan or Spanish tapas.
Some lightly toasted Arabic Bread, thin, soft, chewy and plain, was provided to wrap up the various dips and salads.
Hummus bil Tomato, cooked whole chickpeas with tangy tomato cubes and slightly spiced with sliced chilis for flavour. It had a nutty, almost creamy texture, and a distinctively Middle Eastern seasoning. It was so good I could have eaten this on its own and gone for seconds.
Feta Cheese, fresh, tangy and mashed as a dip.
Babaghanoush, oven roasted to give off a smoky element and mashed aubergine, blended with some garlic, olive oil, tahini sesame seed paste, vinegar and lemon juice, mint, parsley, chili powder and cumin.
Fresh Vegetable Salad, of olives, tomatoes, cucumbers and onions simply dressed in olive oil, lemon juice, and parsley.
The Tahina el Beid, a smooth and creamy sesame seed paste was blended with egg for extra body was a little rich for my liking.
I also liked the Marinated Green Olives and Pickles. Not so much the pickles but the olives for their piquant, salty tang.
I particularly liked the Hummus, chickpeas cooked and mashed, then blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and salt.
The kebabs at Cafe Le Caire are a must-try, and the Beef Kebab ($18), served with Bukhari rice and a side salad, was awesome.
The beef was fork tender, juicy and mouthwateringly aromatic.
The chicken version, Shish Tawouke ($14.50) was just as delightful.
The succulent chicken breast was marinated to fragrant perfection, and despite the grilling process, managed to stay moist.
Cafe Le Caire
39 Arab Street
Tel: 6292 0979
Open Sundays to Thursdays from 10am to 3.30am
Wednesdays to Saturdays from 10am to 5.30am