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Dokki, Cairo, Egypt.
Dargedodna: Levantine Love
If you are lucky enough to have a Shami grandmother; you probably already understand the ecstasy that is cuisine from greater Syria. If not; consider visiting Dargedodna, Egypt’s exceptionally convincing solution to Syrian home cooking.
Serving up home-style Levantine favourites in a comfortable and unpretentious location in Mohandiseen, Dargedodna is an excellent option for a leisurely weekend lunch with friends and family.
Menu options are extensive, beginning with a wide selection of soups and hot and cold mezzas, and moving on to a full range of sandwiches, grilled meats, fish and Arabic classics like molokheya and bamia.
We wanted to order everything, but decided to try the things that the Levant makes best, beginning with lentil soup (6LE). The soup was a perfectly balanced blend, rich with lemon and cumin; it surpassed our high expectations and whetted our appetites for the next course of hot and cold mezzas (5LE to 12LE).
We sampled the fatoush, a crunchy and fresh take on the classic salad. We feasted on high-quality house olives; and rich and creamy hummus in addition to perfectly prepared kebbeh and spinach, zaatar and halloumi cheese pastries. Each dish was well-prepared and spiced; although the pastry dough could have been fluffier and fresher.
The real attraction of Dargedodna lies in the wide selection of grilled meat platters served as main courses. We left the sandwich selection behind, which includes meat and chicken shawerma, shish tawouk and liver options, and headed straight for the good stuff: a whole chicken grilled over charcoal and served with vegetables, French fries and garlic dip (42LE) and Molokheya with chicken (27LE).
The chicken was blackened and tender– the perfect antidote to a craving for grilled meats, while the molokheya was prepared just as we like it: soupy, garlicky and with plenty of chicken and lemon to spare.
Other must-tries include bamia with mutton, fish sayadeya, the Palestinian classic dish of mansaf, and the chicken shawerma platter. All meat dishes are served with large side portions of vegetables and fries, with prices ranging from 19LE for the liver platter and 25LE for a massive mahshi platter, up to 160LE for kilos of shish tawouk, shawerma and shrimp. For dessert; don’t miss the cheese and nut konafa (10LE).
If you want to go all out, Dar Gdoodna offers specially prepared dishes for up to ten people by advance order. The turkey stuffed with rice, meat, nuts and Syrian spices is a very special treat and a deal at just 390LE.
For all your Levantine cravings; head to Dargedodna, your adopted Syrian grandmother, for the best of Shami home cooking in Cairo.
Levantine restaurants have blown up over the past few years in Cairo, but finding a good one isn’t always easy; there are so many, including local ones, which end up being a pale imitation at best.
Abu Youssef, on the other hand, is a pure Syrian restaurant, starting from the management to the chefs both inside the kitchen and on the shawerma grill outside, only leaving the waiters as locals. Hidden in Hegaz St in Mohandiseen, the venue is almost always full and even a few celebrities have been spotted dining there.
After taking our seats in the indoor dining area, we looked into the menu and ordered the Taboula (10LE) and Mesabaha (Syrian Hummus paste) (10LE) as our cold appetisers, alongside the Grilled Kobeba meal (35LE),the Shawerma Extra (40LE), Large Tawook meal (45LE), and half grilled chicken (40LE) for our main dishes.
About Twenty minutes later, we saw our waiter coming with almost all of our main dishes, as well as the grilled kobiba which came with fries, tomeyah and pickles, while the grilled chicken came with an extra mesabaha and a green salad.
After being overwhelmed with the number of plates in front of us, we started with the cold appetisers first; the mesabaha, which is basically a hummus paste, was drizzled with some olive oil keeping it light and smooth, while bursting with rich flavour which made us hurry for the next bite.
The taboula, meanwhile, was a green sensation; rich with a zesty and refreshing flavour, the salad had a good mix of parsley, mint, bulgur and onion with some chopped tomatoes topped with lemon juice and olive oil giving it a flavourful taste.
The Grilled Kobeba Meal came as four burger bun-sized pieces with fries alongside some green salad and pickles. The kobiba itself was very well cooked with a slightly crunchy outer shell and juicy minced beef filled interior, which was bursting with flavour, with a light spiciness that gave it an extra kick.
The Shawerma Extra meal comes with a plate of pickles, tomeya and fries, with the tomeya having a great garlicky taste and smooth texture that worked well with almost everything on the table. The fries, too, had a unique homemade seasoning that gave them the push they needed.
As for the Shawerma itself, it was in a rectangular form cut into six pieces; what makes this sandwich unique, however, is the addition of mozzarella and mushroom – the ‘extra’ part – which works strangely well considering it’s almost unheard of here.
The large Shish Tawook meal came with fries, tomeya and pickles similar to the previous plates, but had the addition of bread covered with chopped arugula and a salsa-like sauce which gave the bread an extra punch.
Coming on three skewers and cut into five medium sized pieces, the well-spiced shish tawook is made of chicken breasts rather than thighs, which gave them more flavour. The only downside, however, is that it was a bit dry, though that was easily solved with the pickles and the toumeya.
The Half a chicken grilled, on the other hand came, with almost everything mentioned before, the bread, salad, mesabaha, tomeyah, pickles and fries (with the option to change it to rice if required).
Grilled on coal, the chicken was tender and had an earthy flavour to it with smoky aftertaste; it was cooked well yet remained juicy, while the restaurant’s in-house spices gave it a unique edge over traditional Egyptian grilled chicken.
Although the staff were either hard to find or overwhelmed by the amount of diners, in the end the experience was a great one for one simple reason: great food that left us stuffed and struggling to make our way to the exit.