Maadi’s latest addition to the restaurant scene, Tabla LUNA, is barely a week old and is creating quite a buzz. Serving a selection of inventive South American dishes that tantalise taste buds in a prime location in Degla, the new venue is filled every night with happy patrons. DNE spoke to one of the chefs and co-owners, Fabian Maldonado.
Tabla LUNA looks inviting with its warm mix of colours that repeat in the especially designed floor tiles, chairs, walls and dishes. The kitchen is located inside the restaurant, separated from the guests by a glass partition and watching the chefs hard at work adds to the feeling that you have just been invited to a family dinner.
“I love to cook and entertain,” Maldonado said. “I have been in Egypt for 13 years and am a teacher. I throw a party twice a year for my colleagues and over the years they have become a tradition that everyone looks forward to.” Turning a hobby into a profession was a dream Maldonado had for a long time. “One night, while having dinner, my friend and chef Dalia Toulan, suggested we should open a restaurant and the time was right so we did.”
The menu in Tabla LUNA is a mix of different South American cuisine and Maldonado explained why. “There are two reasons. Some of the dishes on our menu are my mother’s recipes,” Maldonado said. “I do not have any formal training but when I was around 15 years old my mother taught me how to make certain dishes and through trial and error over the 35 years that followed I have become very comfortable cooking this food.”
Besides personal familiarity with the cuisine, Maldonado and partners felt there is a market for the food they are serving. “Without any disrespect, many of the menus in the restaurants around Cairo offer similar dishes but there is nothing like [what we offer] in town,” he said.
Tabla LUNA uses only the freshest of ingredients. “Through my partner we have access to a farm and so our produce is of very good quality,” Maldonado said. “Furthermore we import a lot of the variety of spices we use from Europe and Peru because we cannot find them here in Egypt.”
Highlights on the menu are the different ceviches, both Ecuadorian and Peruvian, the vegetarian gnocchi and Ecuadorian roasted duck with a papaya reduction and an apple sauce. Other recommended items are the salads made of fresh greens from the farm, Ecuadorian fried snapper with quinoa, Peruvian chicken in creamy sauce and white chocolate flan for dessert.
We sampled a variety of the starters and were not disappointed. The Spicy Shrimp and Mango Ceviche daily special proved to be a wonderful combination of spicy chilli, sweet mango and perfectly cooked shrimp. The Termes Ceviche Maldonado whipped up as a vegan alternative was equally delicious. The Chilli Nachos proved to be a great combination of salty, spicy and tart flavours and the Camote, sweet potato croquettes and chips served with a creamy dipping sauce were excellent. The Cilantro and Potato with Cheese soup was equally hearty and creamy and the Ensalada de Casa proved to be a tasty combination of crispy greens with earthy red beets and sweet papaya.
Tabla LUNA serves interesting twists on traditional dishes using only the freshest of ingredients. The enthusiasm, love of food and hospitality of the owners adds that extra ingredient that turns good food into something very special and we highly recommend you pay them a visit. Make sure to make a reservation through their Facebook page though to ensure you have a table because they are becoming very popular and deservedly so.
Tabla LUNA is co-owned by Maldonado and his wife Hedi Tawfik and Toulan and husband Tawfik ElKhesen, with the former of both couples running the kitchen and the latter the restaurant part. The name refers to the wooden chopping boards, tabla in Spanish, on which a lot of the dishes are served, and LUNA, which means moon in Spanish, refers also to Lucas and Nadia, the children of the owners.