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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 general appraoch adopted by restaurants in Cairo is 'bigger is better'. However, it’s important to remember that good things come in small packages. Modest eatery, Six Bites in Mohandiseen, specialise in producing fresh finger-foods.
This curiously small, glass fronted venue is easy to miss. Despite giving the impression of being a catering company, the two fridges at the back of the shop contain a selection of both savoury and sweet pieces, ready to take away. In the instances of pre-ordering – which should be done a few days in advance – the menu boasts a wide variety of mini sandwiches and sweet desserts to choose from, whilst in person, we were able to point out which ones appeared most appetising. Prices are either per kg (100LE-200LE), per piece (2.5LE-5LE) or per ready-mixed platter (140LE-180LE).
Perfectly sized and attractively presented for party food platters, we ordered a variety of mini buns; from the straightforward chicken and cheese types, to the more adventurous seafood combinations. Made fresh daily, each bun-base was deliciously soft and fluffy, supporting the generous, flavourful fillings.
Our favourite had to be the creamy mozzarella and tangy dried tomato (2.5LE) combination, which tasted remarkably like a tiny pizza. Another delicious bite was the more unusual labna and thyme (2.5LE), which was both smooth and delectable. The smoked salmon was also thoroughly enjoyable, complete with a creamy filling, crunchy salad pieces and a small slice of lemon. Unfortunately, the blue cheese and walnut combination – although made with good quality cheese – was slightly too potent for our tastes, as was the adventurous white cheese sharkasia (2.5LE). Although assured of its freshness by the shop assistant, due to a slight greying of the meat, we were too nervous to try the roast beef bacon and lettuce (3LE) sandwich.
As for the desserts, each one was more scrumptious than the other. The chocolate tart was piled high with chocolate chips, while the inside was filled with a rich, creamy, chocolate paste. The blueberry pastry was filled with sweet cream, as were the seasonal fruit creations. The bitesized caramel and strawberry cheesecakes were exceptional and were wonderfully sweet, thick and creamy.
Despite occupying such a modest venue, Six Bites offer exceedingly good finger foods at more than reasonable prices, making them an excellent catering choice for any occasion.