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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.
While new restaurants in Cairo are largely gunning for your tastebuds with new cuisines, Swiss food is rarely given the appreciation it deserves. However, Swiss Cottage in Maadi is one eatery that aims to provide it at its best.
Dimly lit and intimate, the restaurant is comfortably sized and the walls are adorned with decorations reminiscent of Switzerland. Taking our seats on padded chairs tucked underneath red clothed wooden tables, we were surprised to see New Year and Christmas decorations still hanging, even though it was the end of January.
In true European fashion, the welcoming staff are well dressed in black uniform; we were hastily brought menus by a bubbly waitress who advised us on its selections. The menu includes a pleasant variety that neither confuses, nor restricts.
As a staple of Swiss Cuisine, cheese fondue is served in four varieties; plain (125LE), tomato (130LE), cottage (140LE) and Swiss mushroom (150LE). There are also salads; green (15LE), Greek (20LE) and cottage potato (20LE).
The restaurant also naturally offers raclette; a native Swiss dish consisting of freshly melted cheese over potatoes accompanied with tomatoes, onions and pickles. Customers have the option of adding a dash of Swiss herbs and the dish comes as full (130LE) and half (70LE) portions.
We opted to share a Swiss cheese and Mushroom Fondue (150LE), before our appetiser of a Cottage Mix (45LE), and our main course of the mix table grill (95LE).
The cottage mix consisted of slices of smoked turkey, air dried beef Grison and salami; all of the quality cold cuts were fresh, flavourful and smoky.
The fondue was served atop a lit flame and we were brought a basket filled with cubes of white bread, made to be smothered in the bubbling mushroom cheese concoction using elongated forks. The Swiss cheese and mushroom combination was delicious; it was pleasingly bitter, but enhanced by the presence of fresh mushroom slices.
For our mixed grill, we were brought our own personal electric grill. After a plate filled with raw cuts of marinated beef, chicken, sausages and organic potatoes was laid in front of us, we clumsily began cooking. Our inexperience was quickly exposed when a piece of chicken went flying across our table - it was left on the heat until it got stuck.
Goofy cooking antics aside, the mixed grill tasted fabulous. The beef, chicken and smoky sausages were fantastic when combined with the selection of house sauces – garlic, curry, thousand islands and salsa. Full control of the cooking meant we could have our meat perfectly cooked to our own preferences; a novelty experience in Cairo.
The Swiss Cottage is an ideal spot for a romantic date or casual – but expensive – dining; it’s fun, cosy and the food is delicious.