The Pharaohs of Fish
by Lynne Marie
There’s a small, yet well known seafood oasis that has been getting much praise lately called Sabry’s. This slice of the Nile on Steinway Street is filled with the warmth of the desert sun along with overwhelming confidence and pride. No plain janes please! This food is robust. It is meant to reinvigorate and revitalize as only middle eastern cuisine can.
Flooded in sunset orange with blue and copper accents, Sabry’s holds no secrets. The open air kitchen is up front with Chef Mohammed Elaswad behind it, grilling fish and preparing fresh pitas. The fish is out in the open as well, laid out on a bed of ice. Yet close your eyes and you will only smell toasted spices, olive oil and charcoal.
Our meal started with a special Ramadan treat, an apricot and date juice drink called Kamer Eddine. It is a naturally sweet drink that seemed to wash the grind of the day away. It was followed by a plate of Grilled Octopus. Tender and clean tasting, they had a firm smokey crust and a semi sweet middle. Accompanying the octopus were the pitas we saw Chef Mohammed making earlier. These had a soft doughy edge and a crisp air bubble middle. The Tahini and Baba Ganoush were a celebration of lemon, olive oil, dill and garlic. Tahini can be a spread, a dip or a salad dressing and was filled with a lovely satin smooth sesame flavor. The Baba Ganoush was simply the best I have ever had. If you have never tried this, Sabry’s version is as yummy as it gets–all fresh roasted eggplant with none of the mayo some places add to it. Both of these spreads tasted like they were just made right before service.
Taojine is an Egyptian and Moroccan speciality. I personally found it to be reminiscent of fra diavalo without the pasta. Calamari and shrimp filled a clay pot and were baked with spicy tomatoes, parsley, celery, onion, oregano, cardamom, red pepper and nutmeg.
The Grilled Snapper was nothing less than WOW! Perfectly cooked, it swam nicely in garlic, olive oil and spices, but did not drown in it. Chef Mohammed says they have a special spice mix that each cook uses differently in this dish. I’m not exactly sure what they did, but my husband and I can honestly tell you that we haven’t had fish this delicious since our honeymoon in Santorini. The main attractions were complimented with Roasted Cumin Brown Rice and a cool Middle Eastern Salad of diced lettuce, cucumber, tomato and black olives. In comparison to the spiciness of the entrees, the rice had a sweet raisin finish and the salad was as refreshing as a cold glass of lemonade.
We finished by talking with owner Mohammed Housseen while drinking black tea served in a clear glass with the tea leaves loose on the bottom. The experience may be customized by adding whole cloves or crumbled dry mint leaves. Mr. Housseen is a 30 year veteran, who believes in hard work, follow-through, freshness and details.
Modern yet classical, Sabry’s offers you the exotic tastes of Egypt in a healthy style. The flavors here are so potent, they remind me of why I got into this business in the first place. Although no alcohol is served in this adventure, it’s not missed. Everything is so freshly prepared even the wait staff’s clothing is noticeably pressed and the floors are clean enough to eat off of. Yet this is not a napkin-in-your-lap type of place either. The gem here is its simplicity and its belief in fresh ingredients. The food is amazingly passionate as if it is made to serve a higher calling.
ADDRESS: 24-25 Steinway Street, Astoria