Sign in using your account with
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.
Known for its greenery and quiet, Maadi is host to a number of restaurants and cafes offering breakfast options for fans of the sunny outdoors. Among these is Akasya; a restaurant that takes up the space that was once occupied by Euro Deli on Road 232.
Retaining much of the same décor and outdoor area that made Euro Deli so popular, breakfast was in order.
Visiting early in the morning makes the August sun more bearable, and the staff are noticeably more attentive when there are less people there.
We took our seats garden-side, and dove into a menu that’s comprised of a number of breakfast options including crepes, omelettes, bagels and sandwiches. They also offer pizza, pasta and chicken, beef and shrimp main courses if you’d rather come by for lunch or dinner.
We opted for Cheese Sambousak (20LE) from the appetisers, Spinach with Cheese Crepe (34LE) and a Roast Beef with Cheddar Baguette (26LE).
Serving time can be rather long, though this time around, we’d say it was average. Given that the restaurant wasn’t crowded, and our orders were fairly simple to make, they should’ve been served faster.
Eventually, four pieces of Cheese Sambousak arrived on a bed of lettuce at our table; the dough was nice and crunchy, but the cheese was rather bland and was in dire need of some kind of seasoning.
The Spinach and Cheese Crepe arrived next; essentially a blob of cheese and oozing with spinach and cream cheese – and not in the good way. The ratio of filling to crepe was extremely off, you could hardly taste any crepe through the ridiculous amount of cheese and the sheer amount of oil spilling out.
We hoped the Roast Beef sandwich could salvage the breakfast, but we were wrong. The decently-sized, toasted baguette contained lettuce, mayo, melted cheddar cheese and thick slices of roast beef. While we certainly appreciate the use of real roast beef and not the processed and packaged supermarket kind, it had no flavour whatsoever. The sandwich tasted like cheese, mayo, stale lettuce and a large, very chewy object resembling meat but tasting nothing like it thanks, once again, to a severe lack of seasoning.
While the food was disappointing, the cheque was pretty inexpensive and the atmosphere was great. Akasya’s outdoor area is perfect for people who work on the go or like to have business meetings outside the office, but maybe try the omelettes instead?