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Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Elamana: Cheap, Homemade Egyptian Cuisine in Zamalek
There is no shortage of restaurants serving Egyptian cuisine in Cairo, but not all of them prepare food like an Egyptian mama would. Despite a profusion of international restaurants on the island of Zamalek, there are limited options serving authentic Egyptian cuisine.
Elamana is a tiny dining venue located on Sayed Bakry Street, just round the corner from 26th of July Street. Serving up homemade Egyptian cuisine, the venue’s space barely fits its kitchen; so its four tables are arranged along the pavement outside.
Upon arriving at Elaman,a you can immediately take a peek into the clean open kitchen. The menu is promptly presented and lists all the classic Egyptian dishes like molokheya, pigeon, shish tawouk, kofta and chicken as well as a variety of rice and macaroni dishes. The food arrives within five minutes of placing your order. They give you water with the meal; but bear in mind that it is tap water. There are no other drinks available, but upon request they have no qualms in getting you any kind of soft drinks from the supermarket next door.
The molokheya is tasty with a great texture and comes very close to the homemade version. You can tell by its taste that it is made fresh and was not boiled for too long. The chicken is very well-prepared; it’s neither dry nor over-spiced, and the best part is its crispy skin. You can order the chicken by the whole, half or quarter. If you only take a quarter, you can specify which part you want, such as the thigh or breast. The chicken here is so delicious, that you’ll be left wondering why this restaurant isn’t famous all over Cairo.
You can have any macaroni dish served with either béchamel or tomato sauce. Although our portion of the macaroni dish was generous, it didn’t have enough sauce, which made the dish a little dry. Of course, all meals are served with bread and you can order a side dish of rice, baked potatoes or French fries. The downside is that the food at Elamana is served warm but not piping hot. Since you are seated outside, it tends to cool down quite quickly.
The menu is only available in Arabic, and although the waiter is happy to try and translate, his English is limited. At the time of this reviewer’s visit, certain dishes like dolma and sambousak were not available. The food is very cheap: our meal of molokheya, chicken and macaroni came to only 28LE.Elamana is a good stop for a quick and cheap Egyptian meal. If you prefer more comfortable seating, it is recommended that you ask for take away or delivery.
After rushing around the mall, shopping like a maniac and going from shop to shop, you ultimately find yourself in the food court yearning for a quick bite to replenish all the energy you spent on finding the biggest bargains. Wanting, however, to still fit into our newly bought clothes, we opted for healthier, grilled options from Shakra to Go.
Located in Cairo Festival City Mall’s considerably large food court, one can easily spot the place as it boasts Abou Shakra’s classic logo. It is, in essence, a small-scale Abou Shakra restaurant offering many of the original chain’s wholesome, grilled delicacies.
We grabbed one of the menus laid out by the cashier and began scanning them, not letting the sizeable queue in front of it shake us one bit. The place offers all kinds of meat and chicken sandwiches, including shawerma, kofta and pane options, as well as full-on meals that consist of a meat option and two sides of French fries, rice or sautéed vegetables, or dips such as tehina and tomeya (garlic dip). We also spotted some classic appetisers such as samboosak, kobeiba, stuffed vine leaves and even some pasta.
Upon ordering and paying at the cashier, we were told that our food would take about fifteen minutes to be ready, though it took a little more than that.
Efficiently packaged and well-organised, our order looked promising. Our Mix Grill meal (50LE) was, quite surprisingly, small with only a couple of tiny pieces each of shish tawook, kebab and kofta to speak of. The rice, however, was plentiful and the side of sautéed vegetables was efficient. Our second meal was the Shish Tawook meal (30LE) and looked pretty much similar to the first one in overall size and presentation.
Our food lacked the freshness one always expects from Abou Shakra. Sure, the taste was alright and the food was not at all inedible, yet it was sadly stale and just did not taste like it was fresh off the grill. The rice was filled with chicken liver and raisins, which we were not quite huge fans of either and the sautéed vegetables were a tad too oily.
All in all, for its quite lower prices and smaller venue, the lower quality of the food in comparison to the original Abou Shakra restaurants was quite expected. Shakra to Go does, however, offer more diversity to the food court which is laden with unhealthy fast-food options relying on deep-fried food.