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Mohandiseen, Cairo, Egypt.
Essence Barbecue and Mughal Cuisine: Near-Perfect Pakistani
The recently opened Essence Barbecue and Mughal Cuisine in Mohandiseen promises ‘delicious and mouth-watering Mughal cuisine’ prepared by the female executive chef and co-owner. What sets Essence apart from other restaurants in Cairo is that its promise of good food is backed up by a concise menu, courteous service and stunning interior decor.
The restaurant’s colour scheme is one of muted reds, accented with deep-coloured wooden chairs and wooden panelling adorning the length of one wall. The table setting is very elegant with well-polished cutlery; but it’s taken one step too far with the thoughtful but unnecessary addition of a fresh rose on each table, alongside a shot glass with a floating candle decorated with rose petals.
We started out by ordering the vegetable samosas (13LE), which arrived right on time, having been given sufficient time to rest from the heat of the deep fryer; but not so much that they had gone cold. This helped us enjoy the subtle heat of the spices as opposed to the raw heat of the cooker. The vegetable pakoras (15LE) were veritable pillows of light and airy deep-fried goodness, but not oily in the least. Both appetisers came with a bowl of mint-yoghurt dip to balance out the mild spices.
The restaurant was empty save for our own table; so the service was absolutely spot-on, and the main courses arrived just as our stomachs began signalling. Sadly, the rogan josh (68LE) was not available and, upon the strong recommendation of the head waiter, we ordered the smoked yogurt lamb (65LE) instead.
Arriving in domed copper pots, the chicken karai (54LE) was a quarter of chicken, bone-in, robustly spiced with (among other things) chilli, tomatoes, lemons and cardamom. The flavours were very satisfying, but the inclusion of the bones was unfortunate, since it forced this reviewer to get his fingers sticky. Finger licking may be good for fast food, but here it was an embarrassing oversight. The daal tarkewali (29LE) is made of lentils cooked with onions, tomatoes and a cornucopia of spices, but lacked the punch and full flavour of the chicken tarkewali.
Our taste buds thanked us profusely for the smoked yoghurt lamb, comprised of a dish of very tender smoked and barbecued lamb resting in a spiced yogurt sauce. The delicate flavour of the charcoal smokiness combined with a muted lamb flavour mingled very well with the tart spiciness of the yogurt. It was easily the best dish of the evening.
It has been said before; but no meal is complete without a dessert. With full bellies, we ordered the gulab jamun (20LE). Normally, this dessert is a sickly sweet confection at other restaurants; but at Essence it was made with even-handedness and grace. A brace of spiced coconut spheres settled in a shallow pool of cardamom-spiced syrup delivering spice and sweet in equal measures, culminating in a very satisfying end to an enchanting meal.
Boasting some of the biggest and best restaurants in the city – Tamara, Mori Sushi, Qahwa to name a few – the Waterway's cluster of restaurant and cafes, 'W', is the newest attraction to Cairo’s dining scene in and makes a great choice for anyone who’s wondering where to eat.
With plenty to choose from, we finally decided to visit Crave and give its newly launched menu a try.
Divided into two areas, Crave has a simple sporting club-like outdoor area perfect for a morning coffee or brunch with friends and a cosier indoor area with a fantastic choice of grey and blue furniture, plants hanging from the ceiling and a delightful sight of the waiters preparing cocktails behind the bar which gave the place an overall fun vibe.
With many new items to the menu, we decided to order Vimtojito (29LE) and Strawberry Sensation (30LE) as our drinks while taking our time to check the new items.
Topped with Vimto flavoured cotton candy, the Vimtojito grabbed everyone’s attention with its cute presentation. We fell in love with the sweet and sour flavours from the mojito syrup, lemon, the 7up soda with the Vimto syrup and the fresh mint.
Fresh strawberry puree mixed with cranberry juice, the strawberry sensation was a very interesting choice and we loved the spicy kick from the addition of black pepper and hot sauce.
It was really hard to stop ourselves from ordering our good old Shrimp Kunafa (55LE), but since we’re here for all that is new, we opted for the Grilled Shrimp Guacamole salad (60LE).
Topped with perfectly marinated shrimp skewers bursting with flavours, the salad was well-balanced flavour wise, from the fresh mixed greens and the sweetness of the corn and cherry tomatoes, to the tropical flavour of the pineapple and the citrusy dressing which complimented the shrimp so well. Even though we could barely feel the presence of the guacamole, we really enjoyed the salad and it was an absolutely delicious start for our meal
With so many new tempting items, including Herb and Fereek Chicken (70LE) and Cherry Soya Tuna (99LE), we decided keep it simple and go with Penne Fried Chicken (53LE) and Steak and Mushroom Pasta (55LE) as our mains.
Starting with the penne fried chicken, the pasta was cooked well while the tomato basil sauce was so fresh, only it needed more seasoning and perhaps a kick of shredded parmesan on top too.
Stuffed with cheese and mushrooms, the breaded fried chicken was tender and rich from the cheese, while the mushroom added an earthy flavour and absorbed the deliciousness of the cheese. The crust had exquisite flavours but sadly it didn’t stick to the chicken.
A combination of fettuccine pasta cooked well and tossed in creamy balsamic sauce, the mushroom and steak pasta introduced us to our new favourite couple; the exquisite balsamic and fresh cream duo which formed a creamy sweet and sour masterpiece. Although the seared steak was overcooked, it nonetheless complemented the whole dish with the roasted mushrooms.
With three new desserts on the menu including Jar Cake Duo and Chocolate Chip Lava Cake – we decided to give the Coffee Toffee Crumble (39LE) a try.
A crumbly Lotos biscuit cake topped with a good quality scoop of vanilla ice cream, coated with a toffee-like croquant shell which added an exquisite crunch and a side of homemade coffee syrup in shot glass to pour over the dessert; let’s just say that this heavenly dessert is every coffee addict’s dream come true.
Although we would’ve liked to see the same creativity we saw in the dessert’s section with the appetisers and mains, the menu’s new additions, the great service, the ambiance and Waterway’s spacious new branch will not disappoint you and makes Crave still stands as one of our absolute favourite restaurants when it comes to fine dining in Cairo.