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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.
People have raved about IKEA’s Restaurant for years. With the Swedish home furnishing giant having landed in Cairo at the end of last year, you can be sure they brought along their restaurant which occupies an entire floor at their venue in Cairo Festival City.
IKEA’s food market is known for offering Swedish (or Scandinavian) food and groceries including meatballs and salmon. The meatballs in gravy with mashed potatoes might be their most famous dish so we decided to stop by since we were in the area.
Relatively easy to get to from the inside, we took a set of escalators up to the restaurant which is spaced out like a cafeteria. The concept is interesting; customers take a tray and are served what they want from the buffet. When you’re done, you pay at the cashier. Later you can deposit you’re tray in allocated areas. The idea takes from the same corporate attributes that IKEA employ to reduce end user cost.
So we proceeded to the buffet and opted for the 15 piece portion of Meatballs with Mashed Potatoes and gravy (35LE) and Herbed Grilled Chicken with Basmati Rice (39LE). We also tested out the Salmon Cake (12LE) and that's what we dug into first. Basically, it’s a ball of mashed potatoes stuffed with cooked salmon and covered in a layer of fried breading. The cake is hot on the inside and has a nice mix of textures between the tender salmon, creamy potatoes and slight crunch of breading.
While the meat balls were tasty, especially with the gravy, we couldn’t help but feel they were a little stale. It might the fact that we knew they were frozen and sent over from Sweden. The mashed potatoes were creamy and similarly complimented nicely by the gravy.
The Grilled Chicken, made with rosemary in the marinade, had a strong herby aroma and, along with its sauce, created a good harmony with the Basmati Rice, which has a herby flavour of its own.
All in all, a pleasant experience that definitely beats having to go hungry while shopping. Would we ever go there specifically for the restaurant? Unlikely; it’s too far out and there’s all of Cairo Festival City behind you with countless other restaurants. But for what it is - a decent and relatively cheap meal - it definitely works.