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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.
The newest restaurant to open in Downtown Cairo is the surprisingly sleek Masrawy. Having timed its opening for Ramadan, the new eatery on Bustan Street offers no-frills, wholesome food for fetar and sohour.
There are eight hearty meal options to choose from for Iftar and each offer a diverse and healthy mix of foods including drinks and dessert.
The cheapest of these eight choices costs 22LE and consists of quarter of a chicken, rice, mixed vegetables, mixed salad, Egyptian bread, Oriental dessert, one bottle of water plus a special fruity Ramadan drink. You can also replace the chicken for meatballs in a tangy tomato sauce with pasta.
The most expensive meal on the fetar menu is the Mixed Grill (80LE); but don’t be put off by this significantly higher price because the portion can easily feed two people. The selection of meat is simply delicious. Included in the Mixed Grill option is: ¼ kofta, ½ chicken, ¼ kebab, 2 juicy lamb ribs, a thick soup, basmati rice, green salad, tahina salad, garlic salad, bread, a bottle of water and finally, that special fruity Ramadan drink.
The prices at this new restaurant are highly satisfactory considering the diversity that comes in just one meal choice and of course the large portion sizes that we really love and appreciate. The service is great too; staff is all dressed in bright orange to match the interior of the restaurant.
Masrawy is extremely spacious taking up two large air-conditioned floors plus outdoor seating; it’s clean, fresh and almost sparkles beneath that perfectly adequate lighting. Large tables are available for families or groups of friends plus some quieter tables for two all prepared efficiently and the food is served in stylish ceramic dishes, which really add to the atmosphere and pleasant dining experience.
Masrawy’s sohour menu consists of a lighter and significantly cheaper choice of meals than feter, but there are only four different choices. The cheapest of these costs a mere 10LE and consists of a generous serving of chunky foul, two falafel, green salad, yoghurt, bread and water. On the other hand there is the ‘Masrawy Special’ which costs 18LE and is highly recommended, consists of omelette, a cheese plate, three falafel, salad, bread, yoghurt, french fries and a bottle of water.
There is no daily menu as yet for Masrawy as the focus is purely on Ramadan but the restaurant has managed to burst into the Cairo scene immediately attracting attention and reeling in customers. The seating is comfortable; the large air-conditioned space is refreshing and they serve a top-notch fetar.