One to try: At Aziza, eat like an Egyptian
02 Jan 2020
From the detailed Egyptian murals to the aroma of freshly blended spices that permeate the entire space, you’ll feel transported to the wonders of Egypt as soon as you step inside new Sai Ying Pun restaurant Aziza.
Helmed by chef Mohsen Gaber Ibrahim, the Egyptian eatery opened its first branch in 2017 in Kennedy Town, and recently opened a second, bigger spot down the road in Sai Ying Pun. The Egyptian empire never got that far, and the Aziza crew are, perhaps, happy to advance theirs one MTR stop at a time.
A family affair: chef Mohsen, centre, helms the kitchen at Aziza, while his sons run things on the floor
What’s the story: Although it’s only been two years since the Kennedy Town original opened, chef-owner Mohsen has been involved with Hong Kong’s food scene for almost two decades. In 2001, he jumped from Giza to Hong Kong to help run Habibi, a pioneer of all things Egyptian in the city, owned by his brother Hosni Emam. Mohsen then went on to open his own restaurant in 2007, the short-lived but wildly popular Bazaar (if you know, you know).
Fast forward to now, and Mohsen continues to bring joy to Hong Kongers one falafel at a time at his two branches of Aziza, with the help of his two sons who run things on the floor. In a city where much of the talk often focuses on big restaurant groups and international chains, it’s heartening to know that family-run restaurants are still going strong.
Walls are adorned with Ancient Egypt-inspired murals.
The vibe: Located along Des Voeux Road West, the buzzing yet residential Sai Ying Pun is the perfect setting for the homely charm that Aziza exudes. The walls of the airy space are adorned with Egyptian murals, while the attention to detail paid to the intricate designs, from the arabesque light fixtures right down to the plates, is admirable. And with traditional Egyptian music playing dimly in the background, it really feels like you’re in a whole new world.
The trifecta of must-have mezze: hummus, besara and baba ganoush (L-R)
On the menu: The not-so-secret secret behind the well-loved Egyptian and Mediterranean classics served at Aziza is that everything is made homemade. Case in point: Mohsen wakes up at the crack of dawn to make couscous from scratch (a two-hour process, mind you), using a recipe handed down to him by his mother.
Our meal started off strong, with a selection of cold mezze including a silky-smooth hummus (HK$60), smoky and well-balanced baba ganoush (HK$67), and the perfectly seasoned besara (HK$65), a purée of broad beans and caramelised onions, each of which perfectly paired with their pillowy in-house pita bread. The signature Aziza falafel (HK$72) was also excellent, and we were lucky enough to be let in on Moshen’s secret: “We focus on quality – I make my falafel with tender broad beans [in lieu of the regular chickpeas] and plenty of herbs. The cost of these soft greens is expensive, but this is what sets us apart.”
The lamb tagine and homemade couscous is, understandably, a best-seller at Aziza.
For mains, the signature lamb tagine (HK$143) with okra and Egyptian tomato sauce is a hearty meal perfect for the colder months (or anytime, really). The tender protein is easy to pull apart and melts in the mouth, while the spicy sauce packs a punch to the give the perfectly cooked vegetables a bit of a lift. The homemade couscous (HK$40) is ideal for soaking up the sauce, too.
If you’re not a fan of lamb, a wide array of other tagines are available, including chicken (HK$137), braised oxtail (HK$145), and a meat-free variety with green peas, carrots and Egyptian tomato sauce (HK$115).
Ending the meal right were traditional desserts kanafeh (HK$78), a ricotta pudding topped with kataifi pastry, and basbousa (HK$78), a semolina and nut-based cake with a citrus accent. They aren’t overwhelmingly sweet, but just enough to hit the spot after a hearty meal.
What else: Visit on the weekend for a live belly-dancing performance by local artists – you might even pick up a move or two.
PR speak: “Authentic dishes are expertly prepared according to family recipes, and are packed with fragrant herbs as per the Egyptian tradition.”
WOM Guide was a guest of Aziza Sai Ying Pun.
Aziza Sai Ying Pun, Shop 1B, G/F, Upton Tower, 345 Des Voeux Road West, Sai Ying Pun, +852 2886 4889; www.aziza.com.hk