By Ronna Fisher
When I first pulled up to the restaurant Taste of Egypt, I was confused as to why the friend I was meeting was sitting outside with a strange man. After I tentatively approached their small table and chairs, Rebecca introduced me to the owner of the restaurant. The owner was very, very friendly. He asked us to sit and brought out Egyptian Lemonade.
Although I was super hungry and ready to eat, we sat outside for about half an hour listening to the owner talk about the people of Egypt and trying to convince my friend that she should study abroad in Egypt instead of Israel. After awhile, the owner told us he had some Egyptian fruit in his car. He then proceeded to bring back a grocery sack of dates and figs from Egypt. For a couple seconds I thought, “Should I really eat this food that just appeared out of a stranger’s trunk?” But my curiosity (and the fact that there were four of us out in a public place where I didn’t think the owner of the restaurant would try to murder all of us) eventually won out. I had never tried either piece of fruit and it was something completely new to my palate.
Finally, when my growling stomach could take it no longer, the owner invited us inside to eat. The room was small and filled with Bollywood sounding music. To our left was a long buffet. Across the room was a large mirror on which “Taste of Egypt” was crookedly embossed. In French, the words “La Toilette” guided patrons to the restrooms. It was not fancy by anyone’s standards, but it was clean and decorated. Even if the decorations leaned towards tacky, a person could tell that the staff cared and took pride in their restaurant.
The owner proceeded to show us how to fill our plates with rice, then different kinds of vegetables and meats in different spots on top of the rice. He told us to help ourselves to whatever we wanted. He promised falafel, pita bread, lentil soup, Egyptian salad and Mango juice. To say that we sat down to a feast would have been an understatement. While the lack of prices or a menu anywhere did concern us slightly, we were too busy trying pickled lemons, falafel and Egyptian salad. The rice, meat and different varieties of vegetables were both filling and tasty. The flavors were subtle and not too exotic.
The pickled lemon should not be eaten by itself—I will tell you that. In my opinion, it should not be eaten at all. But for the sake of experience, you should at least try it. The lentil soup was lukewarm with an interesting, grainy texture (not my favorite). The Egyptian “salad” was probably my favorite dish. It was light and refreshing, basically made up of cucumber, tomato, mint and some kind of dressing or oil. When we all felt that if we took one more bite we would explode, the owner brought out great big mugs of mango juice. Already a fan of mangoes, it didn’t take long for me to drink all of mine and half of one of my friends. It was cool, creamy and, without a doubt, made from fresh mangoes that very day.
It is hard to tell whether the owner was simply bored by the low traffic that Sunday or if he treats every guest the way we were treated, but he was very accommodating. He was excited about his country and his food, and it was obvious he loved to share that with others.
When it was time to pay the bill, it came to a whopping total of $20 per person. Now, before you get a bee in your bonnet just remember how much we actually ate. We had two different drinks, soup, salad, bread and other sides, a buffet of rice and multiple types of meat and vegetables—not to mention the fruit he offered us so graciously from his trunk. Include the experience of hearing about Egypt and being able to ask questions about the country from an Egyptian, including a couple of questionable but entertaining stories involving the CIA. We left full, in high spirits and with great memories. One of us even left with a free Egyptian desert (which I tried, and it was amazing).
If you still want to experience it without spending as much money, just make sure you turn down anything that a staff member wants to bring you. It may seem like a sample or a gift, but you will pay for it. Many online reviews write that the buffet without any drinks cost them $10.
I understand that student’s wallets are little light, but if you do happen to come across a little extra moollah and you are looking for a way to experience a new culture and try some new food, then Taste of Egypt is the place for you. I truly believe that the extra money was worth it. I intend to return. Maybe next time you will come with me.
Taste of Egypt is found at 3604 North May Avenue Suite E, OKC, OK 73112.