Little Egypt in Astoria, Queens

Since I was in elementary school, I knew I wanted to live in New York City one day. The concrete jungle, tall buildings, bright lights, and endless people fascinated me every time I saw photos or videos of this cosmopolitan city. And now that I live here, there really is never a dull moment or day in New York City — if you are bored of this city, it is most definitely a “you” problem, not a problem with New York itself. And when it comes to the sheer variety of cuisines, there’s probably very few cities in the world that could come to compete with the number of cultures represented from a culinary standpoint against New York.

Years ago when I lived in Elmhurst, Queens, I ate at the very first (supposedly first, anyway) Egyptian restaurant that opened on Steinway Street in Astoria called Kabab Cafe. It was a total hole-in-the-wall, and when I went to eat there with my then-roommate and then-boyfriend, there was no menu: we simply told the chef-owner what we liked, and he whipped it all up for us on the spot. It was a little mysterious, fun, and delicious. It was a true eating adventure, especially since I had never had Egyptian food before. Since then, I’ve eaten at Mombar, another Egyptian restaurant completely outfitted in Egyptian textiles and decorations (all hand carted back by the owner and his family themselves) twice. And on Chris’s parents last full day in New York City this time around, we ate at Sabry’s, a cooked-to-order Egyptian seafood restaurant we’d been meaning to try.

Sabry’s was likely one of the most sumptuous meals we’d had in a while. We started with freshly steamed clams in a white wine sauce, plus a seafood soup with shrimp and calamari. We also ordered a mixed seafood tagine and a seabass barbecued Egyptian style (black!).

The first thing to come to our table was a big straw basket of piping hot Egyptian flatbreads, which could have been a side in itself. The breads are freshly made and baked on the premises, and the first bite was so hot and delicious that it took a lot of self-restraint to not fill up on this. A salad also arrived with our two starters. The clams were huge, fat, and juicy; the delicious clammy sauce it left behind could have been drunk up on its own with how flavorful it was. These were probably the fattest clams I’ve had in a while; I am still marveling over how large they were and wondering how they were sourced. Kaia especially loved the clams, eating about five of them all by herself, which surprised us since she’d never really had many bivalves previously. She also slurped up the lightness of the seafood soup and even ate some calamari.

The tagine came to the table with a separate plate of brown rice cooked in a rich seafood broth. The tomato sauce it was cooked it was very rich, brothy, and well spiced. While everything that came to our table was impressive, the sea bass is probably what blew me away the most: the server brought it piping hot to our table, served whole with the head and tail on, and it was BLACK! There was some sort of reddish spice paste slathered all over it. And when you cut the fish open, a beautiful, moist, meaty white flesh was revealed that was ultra luxurious. Kaia insisted she didn’t want fish when she saw it, but when I left it on her place mat, she eventually picked at it and gobbled her whole portion up, asking for more.

In addition, Chris’s parents had a freshly blended mango juice each, and Chris and I shared a “lemonade,” which really felt more like an Indian lime juice, which was a bit tart and very refreshing with the flavors of all the seafood we got to enjoy. It was an extremely memorable meal, one I hope we will revisit in the near future. Astoria has other fresh, made-to-order Egyptian seafood restaurants which are also on our list. That’s one of the most delicious things about New York City: even if you cannot afford to travel to places like Egypt, you probably can afford the $2.90 subway ride to a place like Little Egypt, Astoria, plus a full meal there to feel like you visited Egypt. The whole sea bass itself cost only $34, and honestly, it almost felt like robbery because of how high the quality was. I never stop marveling over how great and delicious this city is.

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