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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.
Over the last few years, Lebanese cuisine has continued to take over Cairo’s dining scene at a rapid rate, owing to Egyptian’s love of regional variations of Oriental food. Unfortunately, there’s little outside of that and the standard western cuisines that are rife. That’s why we were immediately taken aback by Yerevan - an Armenian restaurant.
Located on the ground floor in phase two of Heliopolis shopping mall, Citystars, the venue has a simple and casual elegance with neutral colours melding in with dark woods and touches of colour that do a good job from taking you away from the hustle of the mall. Going into the restaurant, we noticed the wood oven where all their bread and pastries are baked.
After going through the menu, we realised that, although Armenian cuisine is similar Lebanese, every dish had a significant twist to it. Despite every Armenian word on the menu being translated, we still had to turn to the helpful staff for guidance. From the appetisers we opted for the Armenian Vine Leaves (35LE), the Armenian Makanek (43LE) and the Mix Mouajanat (40LE).
We were first served some complimentary delicious Baba Ghanoug dip with steaming freshly baked bread. The appetisers then followed shortly after, starting with the cold vine leaves, which were moist and topped with some pomegranate seeds, giving them a sweet taste. Smothered in a perfect sweet pomegranate sauce, the Armenian Maknek, meanwhile, was outstanding and was complimented perfectly by the warm bread. The Mix Moujanat was an array of minced meat kebbeh and pastries including cheese puffs, Pastrami Cheese rolls and Armenian Hats.
Said pastries were all made of fresh tasty dough and a cheesy filling with the Armenian Hats standing out thanks to a stuffing mixture of cheese, olives, onions and spicy sauce topped with yet more pomegranate seeds.
We also tried the Mixed Shawerma (55LE), Mante (70LE) and Fishne Kufte (87LE). The friendly waiters promptly brought the mains after we were done with the appetisers. The Shawerma Plate came as four small sandwiches stuffed with chicken, beef, cheese and soujouk served with French fries and mouth-watering tomeya. The stuffing of the sandwiches was succulent which made up for the dry and slightly burnt bread.
The Mante, a traditional Armenian dish, came as small pastry shells stuffed with minced meat, drenched in tomato garlic sauce and topped with yoghurt. The sauce and the minced meat stuffing were very well seasoned, though the shells themselves were slightly dry and chewy. The Kufte plate featured four pieces of round kofta meat on a bead of crunchy bread bits with Fishne sauce – an Armenian yoghurt sumac sauce – but unfortunately, the over-cooked kofta pieces brought the dish down.
However, the appetisers were markedly better than the mains and the portions of the former are relatively small. All in all, though, Yerevan’s – and Armenian cuisine’s – middle ground of providing discerning Cairene diners familiar dishes with unfamiliar twists suggests that the restaurant should do well and is a unique edition to Citystars.