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New Cairo, Cairo, Egypt.
El Chico: Tex-Mex Franchise Returns to Cairo And We're Glad it Has
It wasn't that long ago that Cairo's dining scene wasn't very welcoming to the more adventurous side of food, which led to many very quick closures of restaurants that would otherwise have been successful in the last couple of years. One of these restaurants is Tex-Mex specialist, El Chico, which, after opening and closing some time back, has returned.
Located inside Cairo Festival City, El Chico has a very colourful interior with an element of randomness to it. The coloured ceiling lamps, wall-hung Mexican plates and Aztec-patterned couches against different coloured walls all made for a vibrant appearance. Overall the ambiance might be a bit cliché, but it's cheerful all the same, though Justin Bieber and Rihanna being played was a turn off and didn't match the theme.
The variety on the menu is H-U-G-E, so we ordered Taco Fries (65LE) while taking our time to check the menu. The super crispy fries were topped with gooey melted mixed-cheese sauce, chilli con carne and a dollop of sour cream, sprinkled Pico de gallo and jalapeno pepper slices, with a small cup of ranch sauce to be drizzled on top. It was a flawless starter; the fries were perfectly cooked, the consistency of the cheese sauce was spot on and the chilli was seasoned well, while the rest of the toppings worked perfectly together.
Then it was time to get down to business and move to our first main, the Grande Brisket Burrito (80LE). Served with well-cooked mexican rice and mashed potato, which had a chunky consistency and lacked flavour, this soft tortilla bread was filled with rice, cheese, frijoles rancheros – is a thick tomato-based bean soup – and a generous amount of slowly roasted beef brisket.
This was all topped with a drizzle of sour cream and your choice of chipotle sauce or, our choice, the tomato-based ranchera. The portion was enormous and the overall taste was super impressive and well-balanced; the tender pulled brisket absorbed the flavours of the frijoles rancheros, while the ranchera sauce on top boosted the dish with its sharp tomato flavour.
We also tried the Chicken Fajita Chimichanga (55LE) and we can easily say it was the highlight of the meal. Served with mouth-watering sweet corn and a bowl of cheese for dipping (which we mostly used to add flavour to the bland mashed potato) the deep fried burrito was filled with a mixture of Jack and cheddar cheese, pico de gallo, sour cream sauce and tender chicken fajita. The Chimichanga was super crispy and far from oily, and the chipotle dressing on top added a fantastic smoky flavour – overall, another dish with an impressive balance in flavours.
No visit to a Tex-Mex restaurant would be complete without tacos, so we went with the Chicken Cascabel Taco (65LE). Served with your choice of two sides, each taco was literally filled with five cubes of chicken (see photo below) coated with Cascabel sauce – a sauce made of spicy Cascabel pepper – and little-to-no cotija cheese and marinated onions as promised. We expected colourful tacos bursting with flavours like the other dishes, but it was very dry and tasteless.
We finished our meal with a Brownie Skillet Sundae (45LE); a concoction made up of a super chocolaty and fudgy pecan brownie, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and surrounded by a sizzling Mexican butter sauce that is poured into the hot skillet in front of you. The brownie itself was flawless, but the ice cream, on the other hand, was very disappointing due to its horribly chunky texture. The Mexican butter sauce, meanwhile, didn't caramelise enough, because the skillet wasn't hot enough.
All in all, we're glad to have El Chico back in town and our visit was a largely enjoyable one. The food might've had some hit and miss, but the dishes that did succeed are definitely worth a second visit.