NYC's Best Seafood Restaurant is Actually Alexandrian
The fishies of the Alexandrian coast are making a much bigger splash than you’d think on Big Apple streets.
A popular Alexandrian folklore tune - one that accompanies both fishermen on their ventures out at sea and little kids on their way to school - goes, “In the sea there’s a fish, that pushes another fish”. Properly indoctrinated by the society around us, we hummed and sang this tune mindlessly, unaware that the series of pushed fishies was slowly making its way towards Queens, New York, in the form of one of the city’s most prominent seafood restaurants: Hamido.
The first fishie to initiate attack, or a butterfly (shrimp?) effect of sorts, was Hamido co-founder Mohamed Abu Ker’s unbridled love for the sea and what it brought to the shore. Mohamed grew up amid a family of fishermen, and so the crashing waves of the Alexandrian shore were well within his scope of familiarity.
It is difficult to explain one’s relationship with the sea when the sea is all you’ve ever known, but what I do know is that a distinct effect certainly exists. One that, when meeting others who grew up in non-coastal cities (or coastal cities to a different sea), becomes ever more apparent. Something in the sea mist, specifically the Alexandrian one, awakened a yearning in the heart of Mohamed Abu Ker - one that drove him and his cousin Moghared Mansy to the Alexandrian sea all the way from NYC.
“We knew early on that any food business we would start would center fish,” tells us Hamido cofounder Moghared, “Mohamed was so attached to the cuisine, he would always host gatherings at his place and cook fish for us. He would just always get it right - he has a real knack for it.”
Inspired by the culture of ‘aklet samak’, Hamido allows visitors to experience the traditional experience of picking out their meal raw (and fresh) before being seated. By the time you settle in at your table, briefly hash out the dynamics of exactly who made who late Egyptian-family-style and inhale an array of traditional salads and starters, inevitably filling up on pickled lemon and tahini-dipped bread, your frutti di mare of choice will be ready, grilled, fried or seasoned to your preference, on your plate.
Even beyond the recipes and down to the ingredients - Hamido’s fish is Mediterranean: “We import our fish in same-day cargo from the Mediterranean sea for that authentic Alexandrian flavour - our branzino is always fresh from Greece.”
“In New York, there are hardly any prejudices. This is the primary reason we found it in us to open there. We’ve been in this area for 20 years, and when we opened in May 2019, we knew people would at least want to try what we had to offer.”
The rest was history.
Once people tried it, they could not let go of Hamido. The countless positive Yelp reviews under the restaurant’s name, accompanied only by complaints about the restaurant always being jampacked, only stand to prove that.
Who could blame them? Hamido’s traditional Alexandrian recipes are unlike anything they’ve ever experienced. In fact, they’re also unlike anything we’ve ever experienced; the menu, engineered exclusively by Mohamed, who grew up right in the middle of Alexandrian fisherman culture, combines traditional dishes with a contemporary twist. For example, the restaurant serves scallops, a dish unfamiliar to Egyptian crowds, in Egyptian-inspired spice-heavy butter dressing. That, among the restaurant’s other fusion dishes, creates a unique dining experience from an unexpected bridge between two cultures.
Their fusion cuisine, as a result, draws in a unique crowd. As Moghared puts it, “We’ve had Americans walk in, get wowed by the display of fresh fish that greets them at the entrance and the unique flavour of Egyptian seafood. We’ve also had crowds of Egyptians walk in, either yearning for a taste of home or excited by the unique recipes Mohamed’s managed to come up with.”
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Jan 29, 2024