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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.
While many restaurants in Cairo open to great fanfare and hype, it's the test of time that often sends the unsuccessful off to restaurant heaven - being inconsistent is the Cairo's most consistent trait.
Powered by Amer Group, Studio Masr has built quite a reputation over the years and has expanded to over fifteen branches, even including a couple abroad.
But there’s one location in particular that remains somewhat special. The Nile City Boat branch located in Zamalek boasts both a great view and a special mixture of kitsch and Oriental memorabilia.
While most of the Nile-side boat venues are pretty crowded on weekends, we decided to have a midweek lunch, opting to sit in their open air terrace-like area, especially in between seasons when there’s just the right amount of sun and breeze.
The menu hasn’t changed much over the years, offering standard Oriental cuisine and grills including kebab, kofta, veal, lamb and chicken, as well as tagens and appetisers.
Feeling particularly hungry we decided we would order a couple of mezzas, Hummus with Meat and Pine Nuts (32LE) and Chicken Liver with Garlic and Lemon Sauce (32LE), as well as the Studio Masr Grill Shawaya for two (160LE).
This kind of cuisine isn’t generally served very fast, so it was no surprise it took upwards of thirty minutes to arrive.
The appetizess arrived first accompanied by fresh bread baskets. The Hummus was smooth and freshly made rather than canned. The meat was hot off the skillet and the pine nuts were roasted with the meat..
Similarly, the Chicken Liver was nice and zesty and, along with the fresh warm bread, left us eager for more food.
The Studio Masr Grill (160LE), featuring Kebab, Kofta, Veal Cutlets or Lamb Chops, Chicken Breasts and Shish Tawook, was a very decent in portion for two. While the seasoning was delicious all around, the kebab, veal cutlets and chicken breasts were slightly overcooked.
The all-around experience was pretty good, if unspectacular. With a pleasant atmosphere in both this and most of its branches, plus food that needs no market education and that Egyptians love, it’s no surprise a restaurant like Studio Masr has flourished so well over the last few years.