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Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
3enab: Smokey Shisha in Zamalek
3enab's central location, along with the colourful, bright neon signage above the door, attracts a younger, more fashionable crowd; we had to wait around fifteen minutes to be seated on a Saturday night. The décor is much the same as before and the small restaurant is divided, with the front exposed to the outside by a large sliding window. Seeking warmth, we headed to the sheltered area at the back which was warm but unfortunately, very smoky – particularly as it was crammed with both people and shishas.
The lighting was incredibly dim and if it wasn't for the huge plasma TV screen illuminating our table, we may have struggled to read the menu. The shisha menu wasn't as vast as we'd hoped, with a total of just nine fruity flavours (20LE-40LE), but, there's also the option to be inventive and mix the tobaccos. We chose the most unusual, and slightly out of place, Red Bull flavour (40LE) and, as a tribute to its name, one 3enab (grape) flavoured shisha (40LE).
The shishas were prepared carefully and arrived quickly. Noticing there was no space on the floor to put our shisha, the waiter swiftly retrieved a smaller, chrome shisha pipe to place on the table, which was both cute and satisfyingly unobtrusive. The Red Bull was an adventurous choice and proved that sometimes it's better to stick to what you know. The thick smoke was smooth as ever but with only a slight hint of flavouring. The grape shisha was much more identifiable, being light and full of flavour.
Of course, when you order a shisha, it is almost obligatory to sip on a juice of some sort. 3enab offers a large selection of hot and cold drinks including smoothies, fresh juices, frappés and cocktails. We went for a cocktail named after the celebrity doctor, Dr. Oz (15.95LE), which turned out to be a healthy blend of fresh carrots with a tangy orange juice kick; the honey added some sweetness but was a little hard to mix in. Not wanting to overload on veggies, we also went for a very sweet and fruity cherry berry juice (17.95LE) to compliment our shisha choices.
The food menu consists of many choices, from sharing platters, soups and sandwiches to salads, steaks and grills. We settled on the Trio platter (59.95LE) to share – a starter borrowed from the old menu – made up of our choice of tasty coconut shrimp, the most delicious, buttery, grilled corn on the cob and disappointingly cold chicken skewers.
Our next course of beef fajitas (41.95LE) came in a large portion and wrapped up in warm, soft bread with fresh onions, juicy tomatoes and sweet red peppers, with nice, tender beef pieces. The dish came with perfectly fried potato wedges, but was left unseasoned - which turned out for the best as it allowed us to add the suitable amount of salt and pepper for ourselves.
To finish, we spoilt ourselves with a fabulously sticky, hot chocolate brownie and ice cream (59.95LE), which in our experience, more and more restaurants in Cairo do exceedingly well – 3enab being no exception.
The vibrant, young crowd and good location really sell this place and we're likely to return to 3enab to enjoy another fruity shisha.
On the Cairo restaurant scene, there’s little to distinguish between those that play in the genre of international cuisine. Many will serve the same unauthentic, localised dishes in an attempt to attract the rather than presenting accurate interpretations.
Located on the Le Pacha 1901 boat on the Zamalek Corniche, Carlo’s is both a restaurant and a cafe, offering appetizers, salads, pastas, pizzas and main courses alongside cold and warm beverages, shisha and beers, spirits and liquors.
The scent of m3asel is overpowering at first, so unless you’re okay with the smell or are here to smoke a shisha, head straight to the far-end where the terrace is open. After sitting down, one of the waiters hastily gave us our menus, and disappeared into the bustle of the half-crowded venue.
We opted for vine leaves with yoghurt (28.90LE) as a starter, and from the main course selection, a Ravioli Panna (67.90LE) and beef fillet with mushrooms (108.90LE).
In regards to portion size, the vine leaves were satisfying and appropriate. Prepared with meat in the stuffing the only letdown was the yoghurt. It wasn’t a yoghurt salad - there were no cucumbers or mashed up garlic; just yoghurt.
The Ravioli Panna, prepared with ricotta cheese and spinach, isn’t so generous in portion, unfortunately, especially considering its 68LE price. While initially pleasing on the palate, the taste of chicken broth came to overpower the sauce as we dug in more and more.
As for the Beef Fillet, we had our usual scepticism about whether or not they would get the fillet’s cooking right. In such cases, we order medium to avoid over or under cooking. More often than not, we receive well done steaks after ordering medium or medium rare. This didn’t happen at Carlo’s. We got the medium we asked for.
Tender, juicy and pink on the inside, the fillet was perfect. Topped with cooked mushrooms and delicious gravy, it was by far the highlight of an up-and-down meal. Even the side serving of French fries were excellent; crisp and golden on the outside, soft and mushy on the inside.
As for service, well, we’ve seen restaurants with more attentive staff, and where the food is served faster. But with that said, there were no glaring errors or offences cause. As a space, Carlo’s is clean, but not exactly relaxing, thanks primarily to the racket of shisha service.