I can still taste the fish

My friend Mayumi and I decided we were hankering for seafood, but wanted to try someone new. My usual seafood joint, Elias Corner, hasn’t been quite so hot in a while. All I can say is, thank God for the internet, because a quick search of my neighborhood revealed a treasure of a small restaurant that I can easily say is the best seafood experience I quite possibly have ever had.

The place is called Sabry’s, and it’s a little Egyptian place with a sidewalk café so far down Steinway you’re practically on the Triborough Bridge on ramp. I’d actually never been this far down Steinway before, and was unaware of the large Egyptian population just under my nose. (Mayumi insists that I must try real Egyptian hookah, as Indian hookah just doesn’t hold a candle to it.)

Sabry’s looks quite a bit different than it does in its New York Times write-up of 3 years ago. It’s now full of bronze and metals, reflecting an elegance that its simple menu wouldn’t: the prices are low (no item is over $20) and there’s not a drop of alcohol to be found. As Sabry is Muslim, there is strictly no drinking at his restaurant. Instead, there are fresh squeezed juices of a quality rarely seen. We ordered the lemonade, and was treated to a delicately sweetened version of fresh lemon juice. It was out of this world.

But what of the food? Well, we started with babaganush and salad, and couldn’t resist some mussels in red sauce. There were no mussels, but rather clams, and so we resigned ourselves to picking at these pathetic little rubbery things. When the plate came out, we were utterly shocked: these were the biggest, meatiest, most tender clams I’ve ever had. It redefined what I thought clam should taste like. Seasoned in a tomato reduction with onion, cilantro and whole coriander, all talking stopped until they were reduced to shells. Then we grabbed spoons and started lapping up the sauce. It was THAT GOOD. And the bread, oh, the bread! Fresh flatbread, seemingly baked just for us.

Then the main course came out: one was called tagine, a stew (with the same base for the sauce that the clams came in) with squid and grilled shrimp, both out of this world. And then the fish came out. We ordered whole, fried fish, a whiting and a larger one I couldn’t remember. Crispy skinned and lovely, we quickly reduced both to skeletons.

Afterwards Sabry himself came out to ask how everything was, and we told him. A very friendly man of large proportion (as a great chef should be, see: Ratatouille) he and Mayumi chatted about the delights of his hometown, a place she had recently visited. It was a glorious night.

Few restaurants have moved me like this place has. I immediately ran home and wrote a review on Yelp. Everyone must learn of Sabry’s. It’s a treasure.

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