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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 recent nationwide power outages have left many of Cairo’s restaurants scrambling to keep their kitchens operating at an appropriate standard. Amidst claims of subpar quality, sushi restaurants across the city have suffered heavy blows to their usually impeccable reputation. Located in Om Kalthoum street in Zamalek, Fuego has recently reopened their doors after allegations of food-poisoning.
Walking in rather early on a weekday, the small seating area was empty enough to grab the table in our favourite corner. The interior of the restaurant is decorated in warm, autumnal colours with dim lighting and rich wooden fixtures. The usual placement of the preparation table on the dining floor was sacrificed in favour of seating space and is positioned in the far end of the restaurant.
Leaving us to mull over the menu for a few minutes the waiter returned and patiently stood through the meticulous orders we placed. Ordering the All-You-Can-Eat offer (180LE per person), we pulled out all the stops and requested everything from classic nigiri and hoso maki, to the more elaborate temaki hand rolls, dynamite rolls, green dragon rolls, spicy rolls and crispy rolls. In addition, we also ordered sides of spicy mayo, sriracha and teriyaki sauce.
Our orders were presented on separate platters and were placed in front of us. While we were sceptical at first in regards to the publicised claims against Fuego, our reservations were immediately subdued after the first bite. Thankfully, the power cut just as soon as we received our plates and the back-up generator kicked in almost immediately after, providing an ironically romantic atmosphere to the sounds of our ravenous chewing.
The octopus, salmon, shrimp, and eel nigiri were fresh and silky in texture, complementing the fluffy sushi rice to create a perfectly well-rounded bite. The more intricate rolls were drizzled with house-made sauces and provided a more contemporary sushi experience. Filled with tender eel strips and fried shrimp tempura, the green dragon roll was wrapped with lettuce soaked with caramelized teriyaki sauce. Presented with red crispy rice, the spicy roll was packed with a dangerous amount of heat that had the table reaching for water.
Though the only downside to Fuego are the cramped quarters and heavy dinner traffic, the intimate atmosphere and good dishes makes this restaurant the city’s sanctuary for consistent sushi quality and attentive service.