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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 we think of comfort food, our minds usually go to a place where pastas, pizzas and burgers rule – which might explain why we have endless burger joints and Italian restaurants in Cairo. Caruso’s American Cafe fuses those two things – burgers and pizza. It’s an idea that could be a solution to world peace, but sadly it was “nightmare dressed like a daydream.”
Newly open at Galleria Moon Valley in Heliopolis, Caruso’s is divided into two areas; the indoor space is pretty small and feels like a kitchen with wooden units hung on the wall. Besides the seemingly out of place French windows used in the facade of the cafe, the outdoor area didn’t have anything special to it – just a simple generic seating arrangement.
We started our meal with Chilli Cheese Fries (30LE) as an appetiser, but only because the rest of the appetisers weren’t available at the time of our visit. The fries were cooked-well, but the cheddar cheese didn’t melt enough and the Texas chilli wasn’t really Texas chilli, as it had red beans in it – Texas chilli is all about the beef and spices. This was just the beginning of what was a pretty disastrous meal.
We then ordered the Bacon Cheese Pizza Burger (65LE); served with fries and coleslaw, it’s made up of a beef patty topped with lettuce, tomato, bacon, a slice of cheese and a little bit too much of their special sauce – which had a strong mayo flavour – all filled between two mini pizzas. The concept of mini pizzas as a bun is great, but the dough was thick and chewy and the pizza sauce didn’t work at all with the ‘special sauce’. The beef patty on its own, meanwhile, didn’t have any remarkable flavours and was slightly overcooked. You can’t eat it without making a mess and it dishonoured the great legacies of the pizza and the burger.
We also tried the Skyline Hot Dog (43LE), which is topped with chilli, an unnoticeable amount of shredded cheddar cheese, diced onions, peppers and tomatoes. Suffering the same problems as the chilli cheese fries, the spices in the chilli were overwhelming and the cheese didn’t melt, making us wonder what was so special as to make it the signature hotdog, as mentioned in the menu.
Sadly, we had higher expectations for Caruso’s rather un-American Cafe, but the service was poor, the digital tablet menu was very slow (what’s wrong with printed menus?) and a lot of items were unavailable, including all desserts. The pizza burger might have worked as a publicity stunt, but the biggest problem is the confused identity; the food may seem American on paper, but it certainly isn’t American in flavour.