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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.
Ever since its opening in Maadi, the Tap has been close to a phenomenon in Cairo, setting new standards for nightlife as a watering hole that serves great bar food and one that has also emerged as a great live music venue. In capitalizing on the Tap’s popularity, founder, Galal El Kerdani, revealed in March that the Tap East would be putting more of the focus onto the food, with a brand new, expanded menu – something we were eager to try.
Located in New Cairo’s Mohamed Naguib Street, inside Stella di Mare Compound, the Tap East is a large, colourful cosmopolitan venue with red brick walls, a large island-bar in the centre and a stage on one corner, with high tables, arcade games and a fantastic retro mural of the iconic Audrey Hepburn and rock star Jim Morrison adding the kinds of casual, playful touches that have become a trademark of the Tap.
One of the most talked about features of the Tap East, however, is the outdoor area, which is as close to a traditional beer garden as you’ll find in Cairo, boasting something close to a lively, schoolyard atmosphere, with wooden benches, dim lit red parasols and its own bar.
Unlike the Tap in Maadi, whose most popular dishes include bar-friendly eats such burgers, nachos and the all important wings, the Tap East’s menu is closer to that of a full-out restaurant, but still closer to gastropub food than that of fine-dining. We kicked things off with Fried Cheese Balls (54LE) as a starter to our meal, while opting for Provolone Chicken (84LE and Filet Black Angus (145 LE) as our main dishes.
Served in a small rectangular plate, our starter came as five small balls of hot, melted, gooey cheese, with a lovely crunchy breaded exterior, all perfectly complimented by the accompanying sweet chilli sauce.
Meanwhile, the provolone chicken dish was a little different from the traditional version, with the chicken being deep fried. The dish came in the form of two chicken breasts topped with mushrooms, provolone cheese, and served on a wooden cutting board with mashed potatoes and sautéed vegetables. The chicken was fried to perfection and well-seasoned, while the provolone cheese had a mildly sharp taste which complimented the chicken rather than overpower it.
The mashed potatoes side had a melt-in-your-mouth texture, though the sautéed vegetables were pretty insignificant as they were hidden under the chicken and were more like a garnish rather than an actual side dish.
Cooked medium well and served on the same signature cutting board as the chicken dish with the same sides, the 200 gm black angus steak had beautiful black grill marks and was perfectly juicy, delicious and boasted a deep smokey taste. It was a delicious piece of meat which was even greater with the accompanying brown mushroom sauce.
Our last stop before we went on our way was to try one of the Tap East’s signature burgers – a decision made when we were told that desserts weren’t available during the time of our visit. Served with perfectly seasoned and crunchy French fries and some chips, The Western Burger (68LE) came in brioche bread and was topped with beef bacon, lettuce, onions, melted cheese and BBQ sauce.Though the burger was fairly juicy and had all the right ingredients to be a great burger, the patty itself was closer to kofta, suggesting that there wasn’t as much fat as there should have been in the meat and that the patty itself was a little too compressed, not allowing what fat there was to trickle in and around it.
Despite the disappointment of the burger, the Tap East is by far the best venue of its kind in New Cairo; it takes the best features of the original branch of the Tap – live entertainment most nights, a great atmosphere as both a bar and a casual dining restaurant – and adds an elevated menu to the mix.