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Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt.
Frisky Restaurant and Cafe: Tanta-Born Chain Spreads in Cairo, But Disappoints
From the famous Alexandrian Brew & Chew, to El Gouna's iconic Pier 88, Cairo's culinary scene has expanded to include not only international names, but also local ones from outside of the capital.
Coming all the way from Tanta, Frisky Restaurant & Café is one such example, and has opened its second Cairo branch this year in Heliopolis near Tivoli Dome.
With a small, country-like, farmhouse indoor seating that has exposed brick walls, hanging frying pans, plant pots and wooden cutting boards, Frisky's more modern designed outdoor area is just as small..
Boasting all kind of traditional dishes offered by many international venues these days, we opted for Fried Mozzarella sticks (24LE) as our entrée and Chicken Sweet and Sour (55 LE) and Jumbo Cheese burger ((37 L.E) for our mains.
Served with freshly-made and room temperature marinara sauce that had a sweet aftertaste, the mozzarella sticks comprised of five large pieces of deeply fried sticks with a heavenly melted mozzarella cheese – a good start to our meal.
Our chicken sweet and sour main was more of a grilled chicken dish that was comprised of three medium-sized pieces of well-seasoned and tender grilled chicken breasts. With a slightly sweet taste and extremely spicy flavour, the sweet and sour sauce had too much jalapeno in it, which made us abandon the entire dish after two or three bites.
The only perk to the entire ensemble was the two sides of perfectly spiced French fries, as well as crisp and fresh sautéed vegetables.
Unfortunately, the second main was equally disappointing. The Jumbo Cheeseburger's patty was overcooked, dry and crumbly, while the bun was almost certainly was supermarket-bought. The side of coleslaw was creamy but otherwise bland in flavour, though the French fries were, once again, the only saving grace.
Hoping to end the evening on a better note with dessert, we were disappointed to find only two desserts available, of which we chose the red velvet cake (29LE).
Boasting a metallic aftertaste – a possible side-effect of sodium carbonate and the lack of an acidic element – the dessert was in fact the worse course of our meal, with the cake being firm and stale.
Washing away this less than average meal which a Blueberry flavoured shisha (42LE), it was small glimmer in an otherwise disappointing visit, thanks its bold taste that lasted long enough till the end of our evening and was promptly tended to.
Even though the ambiance was extremely ladiback and the service was fast, Frisky's execution when it came to the food was incredibly disappointing – something that won't sit well on what is one of the most vibrant and compeitive areas in Heliopolis.
When Zamalek institution, La Bodega, closed down at the beginning of 2014, it left a hole in many a heart. While a beachside iteration has since popped up on the North Coast during Sahel Season, its closure has certainly left a gap that not even its replacement, the phenomenal U Bistro, has been able to quite replace in the same way.
But remnants still remain in the form of sister venue, Aperitivo, located on the same floor of the same building. It’s by no means similar in appearance or, one could argue, atmosphere, but La Bodega regulars have adopted it as a replacement and the spirit is very much cut from the same cloth. For those not familiar with Aperitivo, the bar and restaurant maintains a classic element in its décor and design (think wood and glass cabinets displaying various piece of crockery and ornaments) while also using various more modern pieces (the chandeliers are very cool).
Divided into two sections – the bar and the restaurant proper – there isn’t a lot that will jump out at you in its appearance; but that’s the best way to be for a venue of this standing – demure and unpretentious.
There’s been something of a revolution happening at Aperitivo as of late, including the launch of a new menu; one that walks the line between high-end culinary delicacy and the kind of wholesomeness you get with bistro food.
The concise but varied menu covers soups, salads, meat and poultry dishes, as well as pastas and seafood, which is where we began our evening.
We rarely give up the opportunity to try a dish with scallops in it – not only because it’s a rare commodity in Cairo, but because it’s also often mishandled, which felt like the case with Aperitivo’s seared scallop starter (155LE). While it was a creative and enticing dish, the scallops were slightly overcooked, the accompanying black truffle was too little, though the spiced apple puree that also accompanies the dish gave a pleasant sweetness to every bite despite tasting more like a beetroot puree. Meanwhile, four sticks of asparagus were cooked and seasoned perfectly, while a faint balsamic reduction did little to elevate the rest of the ingredients.
Among the menu’s salads, we were seduced by the camembert salad, which brought together generous chunks of deep-fried camembert cheese together with mixed greens, roasted pears, sundried tomatoes and walnuts. The greens were fresh, the sundried tomatoes added a sweet acidity to thick, pungent cheese and the walnuts gave the whole dish an earthy touch. However, the pears were undetectable, which is a real shame as it could have been the ingredient that brought everything together.
While various mains are included in the new menu, we decided to test the kitchen’s mettle with meats. Despite being served with far too much uncooked fat, a medium-cooked sirloin steak (150LE) was full of flavour and served in a very big portion, alongside some perfectly made oven baked vegetables. Our second dish, the roast veal fillet, was also of a noticeably good quality and served in a large portion, though it was unevenly cooked, meaning some pieces were a little tough and others had a perfect pink interior.
Unfortunately, there was not much else to talk about with the mains, despite the menu promising more; the veal dish, for example, should come with roast pumpkin ad soft polenta, but both were missing from the plate, as was the roasted garlic on the steak dish.
This, actually, defined our meal; what we were served was well-made, but with so much missing from both mains – as well as the missing pear from the salad – severely dwindling what promised to be a fine evening of fine dining. Would we go again? Absolutely – the new menu reads fantastically; but maybe the kitchen needs a little more time to perfect it.