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6th of October City, Cairo, Egypt.
Casper & Gambini's: Sub-standard Service at Mall of Arabia
Casper & Gambini’s has been around in Cairo long enough to have established itself as a very successful restaurant chain that regularly delivers delicious food and speedy service. With the recent opening of its latest branch at Mall of Arabia in 6th of October City, it seems that the chain has a few kinks to smooth out before this branch lives up to its standards and our expectations.
Located across from Dalydress, Casper & Gambini’s interior is decorated in dark wooden browns and sky-blue, including dark flooring, brown leather seats and a blue counter with different, coloured syrup bottles arranged across the top shelf. Smoking and non-smoking sections are available, and the end of the room is flanked by cubic glass frames that let in the afternoon sun.
For a light lunch, we ordered the halloumi and vegetable salad (39LE), the tempura shrimp (21LE) and the slim-line chicken salad (38LE). The halloumi pieces were nicely grilled but far too salty; fortunately the grilled bell peppers tasted sweet and contrasted smoothly with the halloumi and its bedding of rocket. The tempura shrimp was also heavy on the salt, which made its accompanying soya sauce dip unbearably salty and had us wishing for a creamier, citron-based sauce instead.
We asked for the slim-line chicken salad to come with a French dressing minus the garlic due to a garlic allergy. Twenty minutes later, the waiter served us a side bowl of ranch dressing full of garlic, whereupon we explained the garlic allergy issue again. Ten minutes later, he brought us a bowl of French dressing specially made by the chef, which would have been appreciated had it arrived half an hour before with the salad.
For dessert, we continued the light meal with the non-fat frozen yogurt (27LE); a delicious healthy option that came with crunchy granola, a berry sauce and pieces of banana and peach.
As much as we like Casper & Gambini’s, we have to say that the service was disappointing. It took far too long for our orders to arrive, despite the abundance of staff and the moderately filled restaurant. Our order of Bombay chai ice tea came as peach ice tea, and when we asked for the correct order, the glass sat at our table for twenty minutes before it was picked up and delivered to another table instead. The fact that someone else got our order (even though it was untouched) had us wondering just how fresh the other items were.
This review may be a little harsh considering that we visited during the branch’s opening week, but Casper & Gambini’s has a reputation to uphold in terms of quality and service, and we sincerely hope that both will have improved on our next visit.
Over the last year or so, new restaurants in Cairo have been introducing more and more exotic cuisines to the dining scene, be it Mongolian or even Peruvian with a Japanese twist, leaving classic favourites like Italian and Asian last week’s news. However, recently opened restaurant, Akli, has gone against the tide and specialises in not only one cuisine, but six, across everything from soups to desserts.
Located off Meccas Street in Dokki, Akli is divided into two zones; the ground floor, which has a exposed glass-wall baking room and shawerma station that wasn’t working at the time of our visit, is made for take-out orders, while the top floor is for dining-in. Besides the unfinished ceiling – which doesn’t seem like it will be finished because the AC duct has already been installed - the interior of the restaurant is on the classic side, with olive green, traditional panelled walls behind ruby buttoned couches. The setup of its tables is also pretty basic, but it actually has a cheerful view of a mini garden. If we were to compare it to another restaurant, Akli has the same spirit of everyone’s favourite, Bon Appetit.
Now let’s talk about the food. Our first flight was to Italy with Spicy Arancini Di Manzo (25LE). Starting from the spot-on creamy texture and the scrumptious golden brown crust, to the melted mozzarella cheese and minced beef, which was bursting with Italian herbs flavours, those four fried Italian rice balls were rather tasty.
Our second stop was at our beloved country with Sojouk (42LE). Lying on a bed of chopped parsley in true 90’s style, the grilled sausage was seasoned well, but it was a bit tough and dry. Overall, though, the appetiser seemed incomplete and needed some kind of a sauce or a dip with it.
Moving to the mains, we opted for the Greek Shrimp Saganaki (120LE). Made of perfectly cooked jumbo shrimp in tomato sauce and topped with feta cheese, the dish was a good one, but it wasn’t Saganaki. There was too little cheese to the flavour and the tomato sauce didn’t have any Greek flavours and tasted like Egyptian vegetable stew. One the other hand, the side of lemon rice added a good zesty flavour to the dish.
We also tried Adana Kebab (89LE) from the Turkish side of the menu. Two pieces of kofta laying on Lebanese bread and served with tahini dip and basmati rice topped with nuts, the dish didn’t capture anything particularly Turkish. Although the kofta was seasoned well and the rice was light and fluffy, the dish was overpriced – it’s almost exactly the same as Shawarmaister’s Kofta Halabi Platter which costs 45LE.
We finished our meal with the French Nougat Glace (27LE) for dessert; a rectangular slice of flawless vanilla ice cream filled with mini bits of pistachio and dried fruits. It was served with sour cherry syrup with a very sticky consistency, but the dessert as a whole was light and well executed.
There’s something about what Akli is trying to do that you can’t help but appreciate – but it’s not an easy job to perfect six different cuisines in one kitchen. The ambiance of the restaurant will take you back in time when you used to dine in a sporting club with the family and the food was, overall, good but there’s nothing remarkable about it.