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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.
The great thing about Lebanese cuisine is that it hits the spot. It strikes a fine balance of meats and carbs versus very tasty salads and appetisers, all se bursting with aromatic seasoning. With that in mind, we decided to stop by Olives in Downtown Katameya Mall for a quick lunch.
Having previously visited Olives way back when Downtown Katameya Mall was but centre of empty shop spaces, New Cairo as an area has grown tenfold in terms of popularity and, by extension, traffic. We wanted to see how the restaurant would handle itself with the added pressure, and if it could have possibly improved in that time as well.
The small indoor area is a little uninviting, so we decided to sit outside in the terrace. The maroon colour scheme, accented with orange wood coloured chairs, glass tables and the few plants lying around does well to break the grey monotony that the mall seems to have embraced.
A waiter greeted us when we approached the restaurant and showed us to our seat. He placed two menus on the table and then retreated giving us space to browse. The menu consists of all the usual Lebanese classics, from cold and warm mezzas and salads to the manakeesh and grill items. It also features some international items like pizzas and burgers, but we weren’t interested in those.
We opted for some Chicken Liver (25.85LE) from the appetisers, Boneless Chicken - Mesahab - (48.5LE) and a Mix Grill (64.85LE) from the main courses with sides of French fries and sautéed vegetables.
The Chicken Liver appetiser was served quite promptly. With a tasty and tangy sauce, were assuming contains molasses, the Liver was a definite success and had us eagerly awaiting the main courses, which were served very shortly afterwards.
The Mesahab dish was considerably large. The chicken was marinated and cooked well, and managed to retain a lot of juiciness. Additionally, the French fries were at a perfect crisp, but the sautéed vegetables were regrettably bland.
The Mix Grill, similarly, was decent in portion. Containing kofta, kebab and shish tawook, we were particularly fond of the kofta which was very flavourful. The kebab, while also marinated well, was a little overcooked and felt more chewy than needed. The shish tawook didn’t stand out.
With an all around good experience, we figured we’d try their dessert menu and went for an Oriental classic: Konafa with Cheese (23.85LE). While the layer of cheese and syrup was tasty but a little on the sweet side, the konafa was drenched and failed to maintain a decent crisp, ruining the texture ratio of the dish.
We enjoyed our experience at Olives, but be aware when sitting outside in a mall that it gets pretty loud. Besides that, it serves as a great spot to have a decently priced filling breakfast, lunch or dinner.