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Mokattam, Cairo, Egypt.
Al Dahan: Traditional Egyptian Grill in Mokattam
Al Dahan is a large, air-conditioned and newly fitted, 90-seater restaurant located on the Suzanne Mubarak Road, midway along Street 9. It prides itself on serving the highest quality traditional Egyptian food.
Upon entering the restaurant, you are immediately attended to by the smartly dressed and ever smiling staff, who guides you through to the open, clean and spacious dining area. The decor is simple and tasteful; Oriental with a modern twist and plenty of marble and dark oak-wood finishing. The menu is simple and is in both Arabic and English, offering the usual suspects of grills, tagines, soups, salads and side dishes.
A waiter will attend to you within minutes of being seated and regardless of how many times you ask for a recommendation, he will almost certainly tell you everything ‘tastes excellent’.
This reviewer’s recommendation is to opt for the meat dishes over the chicken if you prefer fuller flavours but if you are after a lightly spiced meal, the half-grilled chicken with mixed rice and salad is a bargain at just 29LE. The rice is the thick, traditional kind, which is fluffy and moist, but you can also opt for the lighter basmati rice cooked with turmeric. Both can come plain or laced with veal liver or nuts. The chicken is grilled with a crispy outer skin and moist inside whilst lacking a little in salt.
Meals came out of the kitchen within ten to fifteen minutes and tasted fresh. The specialty is the fatta, served with lamb, veal or kawaraa’ (marrow), but if you’re feeling adventurous, we recommend the tagine meals, which may take slightly longer but come in a tempting variety including with molokheya, which tastes homemade and not at all overcooked, or with okra or orzo.
Portions are big, so be prepared; a kilo really does mean a kilo. This is where Al Dahan comes into its own. The kofta, ribs and tarb are marinated and cooked to perfection, arriving at your table fresh off the grill on a bed of diced carrot and greenery. A kilo will put you back between 100LE and 150LE, but the meat is definitely good value for money.
You will not be offered the customary free water but soft drinks are available at an average price, and the most expensive drink on the menu is Nescafé at just 7LE. Home delivery is available in surrounding areas including Nasr City and Maadi.
There’s an Italian restaurant in Maadi that we’ve been fans of for quite some time. In our last review, Il Mulino boasted a breezy, comfortable outdoor area, combined with authentic Italian dishes that valiantly tries to stay clear of localisation.
So when we heard it opened up an express sushi centre by the name of Mikado on its premises, frankly, we were a little alarmed.
The concept of Mikado is very much an easy and unfussy express approach to sushi; you needn’t bother with a menu or even be that aware of the many different types of the Japanese delicacy. Mikado make ready packaged boxes of 10, 20, and 40 pieces at affordable prices. You can specify if you want them roll based or Nigiri, but you don’t have much control besides that.
Curious to see what the selection would be like, as well as just how affordable they are, we opted for an All Rolls 40 Piece (169LE) platter; the 10 piece goes for 59LE and the 20 pieces for 99LE.
The large plastic wrapped platter comes with two soy sauce and two teriyaki sauce dips, as well as the traditional ginger and wasabi. As for the rolls themselves, there were 12 rolls of crab, salmon and shrimp Hosomaki collectively, as well as 28 of their special Uramaki rolls broken down into four Philly Rolls, four Mikado Rolls, four Caterpillar Rolls, four Rainbow Rolls, four California Rolls, four Tamago Rolls and four Green Rolls.
The special Uramaki rolls featured some of the more creative options like the Tamago — a Japaense omelette roll — and the Mikado Roll featuring salmon, mushrooms, cream cheese and green caviar.
Unfortunately, while the sushi was certainly cheaper than practically any other restaurant in Cairo, the quality is somewhat reflected by that. Everything tasted a little stale, and nothing is particularly bursting with flavour - except for possibly the teriyaki sauce.
Sushi, as mentioned before, is a delicacy and the express approach employed by Mikado somewhat diminishes and corrupts the very core of what is an already problematic and difficult food in Cairo.
All in all, there are much better, if more expensive, sushi option around the capital and it isn’t the kind of food too skimp on when it comes to cost. Unless you happen to trip and fall into Mikado, Il Mulino’s very decent Italian food is a much better and safer option.