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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.
No matter how much we love pizza, sushi or nachos, our very own traditional Egyptian cuisine will forever remain our go-to comfort food; because let's face it, it's in our genes. Craving some homemade Egyptian food, we paid a visit to Maadi's Kazouza on Street 9, which hits enough right notes in terms of atmosphere and delicious Egyptian street bites offered.
After miraculously finding a parking spot around the corner and doing a discrete little happy dance - spotted by the people in the car next to us - we were greeted by thefriendly staff into an all-outdoors area, where we took our seats next to several fans leaving us slightly pacified in the insufferable heat.
With a traditional Ahwa Baladi setting, Kazouza offers Egyptianised décor with retro touches, including circular Ahwa tables, old-looking salt and pepper shakers, aged frames as well as vintage tin boxes - the kind of stuff you'd find at grandma’s house.
Checking the menu, we were a little disappointed to find that many items were either unavailable or are still to be added in Kazouza’s new menu. .
After some debate, we opted for some fries (8LE) and Cheese Sambousak(14LE) as appetisers, which arrived, hot and delicious, in no time.
The fries were gold and crisp, while the four sambousak pieces satisfied our afternoon cheese-cravings; perfectly crunchy on the outside, with soft molten cheese on the inside infused with fresh mint.
Coming up next was the much anticipated feteer, Kazouza's signature dish served on a wooden cutting board; we went for a Mixed Meat Feteera (50LE) - comprised of sausages, minced meat and salami mixed with vegetables and cheese. We also wanted to try out Kazouza’s Kofta sandwiches (12LE), served in fino bread.
Taste-wise, the feteer was among some of the best we’ve ever had, boasting a fluffy texture, fresh ingredients and a balanced combination of cheese, meat and veggies. As far as the size goes, however, the portion was rather small. The kofta sandwiches were also a success; smothered in tomatoes and tehina, the meat wasn't too greasy and we loved flavourful seasoning.
After our feteer and kofta fiesta - and after washing it all down with some cold refreshing lemon juice and some Karkadeh (11LE each) - we were ready for dessert. Dessert, however, wasn't ready for us; many of the items in the menu, including rice pudding and cream caramel, weren't available at the time of our visit.
We eventually opted for Cream and Custard Feteer (31LE). It must have been fate, though, because we quickly forgot about the unavailable dishes; filled with heavenly fresh cream, sprinkled with coconut and dripping a delicious syrup, it made up for the initial dessert choices we craved.
Overall, we left Kazouza with mixed feelings; on one hand, the food and the service were excellent, the décor and props were creative, but on the other hand, the small portions and the unavailability of several items was disappointing.