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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.
When it comes to restaurants and cafes, there’s certainly no shortage of either. One of the latest to catch the collective Cairo 360 eye, is PepperS, which, located in the Almaza area, does a good job of standing out – largely thanks to its colourful exterior.
Surrounded by luminous greens and cosy outdoorsy tables, Peppers has an inviting atmosphere with a spacious indoor interior, various colourful pepper motifs on the walls and a huge blackboard for guests to show off their talents or leave a comment – as well as a made-to-order pasta station.
As soon as we were seated and handed the menus, we felt comfortable right away thanks to the excellent staff, who were consistently friendly, helpful and all-round cheery. After some thinking, we went for Beef Shawerma with hummus (18LE) from the starters section and Grilled Kofta (66LE) and Chicken Shawerma (46LE) for our mains. What’s interesting is that we had originally ordered the Beef Knuckle Fattah (69LE), but were advised to go for something else by the chef, who admitted that the beef knuckles he had in the kitchen at the time of our visit were not fresh – a sign of a committed chef.
Served with quarters of crunchy pita bread brushed with olive oil, the shawerma was well-spiced, tender and surrounded by hummus which was smooth, creamy yet thick enough to hold its texture. The entire ensemble was sprinkled with a couple of mint leaves as a nice finishing touch.
Moving onto the mains, the roasted kofta was extremely satisfying, coming as four thick juicy pieces of well-seasoned lamb kofta and a serving of steamed sautéed vegetables and French fries – which were a little over-fried, but not so much as to ruin what was an excellent serving of classic Oriental food. Topped with fresh red and green peppers and served ‘open face’ on a baked pita, the grilled chicken shawerma chunks tasted more like chicken fajita, though they were seasoned well and moist, with a serving of creamy and slightly lumpy mashed potatoes and some short-grain steamed white rice which was perfectly spiced.
Skimming the dessert section, which has some classics including Om Ali (36LE), Brownies with Ice Cream (39LE) and Cream Caramel (32LE), we opted for the latter. Covered with fresh whipped cream, caramel sauce and topped with fresh strawberries, the cream caramel had a golden colour and a creamy succulent sweet taste, though the serving was rather small.
We washed our meals with some refreshing lemon mint juice (18LE), which was quickly followed by kiwi and a blueberry-flavoured shishas (40LE and 35LE) which were tended to well.
On paper, PepperS doesn’t offer anything particularly innovative with its dishes, save for little touches like the open face shawerma. However, as common as many of their dishes are, they sure execute them well, which in itself is something to shout about.