Sign in using your account with
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.
There’s nothing quite like the warmth of an authentic Egyptian dinner brewing in a kitchen. It’s a complex, almost ethereal, equation that many Cairo restaurants have tried to replicate and the latest to do so is La Fandi in Maadi.
The small venue is located in the dining complex, the Courtyard, houses a total of ten tables and has found its home in a cosy corner, where it’s managed to cultivate an even cosier atmosphere, drawing on 1960s Egypt for inspiration. Small touches like an old-timey radio, mason jars of pickled vegetables and old-school wooden chairs, tables and chairs hit the spot.
Like all cafes and restaurants at the Courtyard, La Fandi has outdoor and indoor seating arrangements, separated by the restaurant’s glass front.
At the time of our visit, two staff members were holding the fort, both of whom were more than welcoming. The menu is a little more intricate than one might assume, offering breakfast (till 11AM), a rather enticing selections of appetisers – referred to as na2na2a, or ‘snacking’ – as well as traditional Egyptian sandwiches and some creative hawawshi variations.
From the appetisers, we ordered some potato wedges with a special ‘Egyptian seasoning’ (10LE), an Alexandrian liver sandwich in saj bread (33LE), a roasted eggplant, tomato and arugula sandwich (15LE) and, most interestingly of all, hawawshi with pickled lemon (30LE).
The food took no less than 30 minutes to arrive, which is a little on get than you’d expect when considering the straightforward build of the each item; however, the staff assured us that the long waiting time is down to the fact that everything is made from scratch – including the bread.
Everything arrived wrapped nicely – fast-food style – and labelled. We dived into the potato wedges first, which were crispy and golden on the outside, soft and smooth on the inside, the special seasoning was more of a dressing, made up of tehina and sesame seeds, which all came together perfectly.
The hawawshi was next on our radar and it too was a little different to the traditional hawawshi you get elsewhere. The meat was noticeably fresh, lean and with next-to-no-fat, leaving the pickled lemon to still the proverbial show. The Alexandrian liver sandwich was just as successful, meanwhile; the liver was noticeably fresh and, unlike many similar sandwiches that see the peppers and the seasoning dominate the overall flavour, it was full of flavour. Not everything was perfect, though; the roasted eggplant was rather off. The eggplant itself was devoid of any flavour – to the extent that we opened up to sandwich to make sure – to find one slice of it, with the addition of mozzarella cheese. Though we welcome all and any creativity in food, the tomatoes clashed with the rest of the ingredients and, overall, it was really under-seasoned.
The modern spin on classic Egyptian food has been done many times over the last few years to mixed success; La Fandi follows suit to a certain extent, but largely plays within the box of the country’s traditional foods. This is both its greatest strength and its biggest weakness, but overall, we’d have no qualms in returning for a quick na2na2a, so to speak.