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Mohandiseen, Cairo, Egypt.
Solidaire: Disappointing Dining Experience in Mohandiseen
The always vibrant neighbourhood of Mohandiseen is home to many restaurants. Some are terrific, some are ok, and some are just awful. Despite having passed by Solidaire a million times, it wasn’t until last week that this reviewer actually paid the restaurant a visit.
Most of Solidaire is an open-air area; inside you’ll find the DJ booth, a bar and a couple of seats. The terrace is quite large, and most of the tables can easily fit parties of four and more. There are palm trees and waterfalls on the terrace and most decorations consist of flashing lights. The music is provided by a DJ and is awful to say the least. Not only is it awful; it’s so loud that having an actual conversation is impossible.
The menu is gigantic and includes sandwiches, pizzas and pastas, as well as fish tagines and mixed grills for up to five persons. The only thing missing on the menu is healthy cuisine; there are only two salads on the menu. For a starter, we tried the blue cheese farfalle (29LE) and as mains the beef fillet pepper sauce (69LE) and the veal emince a la crème (62LE).
All the food arrived at the same time after waiting for approximately 45 minutes. In the meantime, while waiting for the food, we were entertained by the staff‘s chatty banter that was a little too friendly for our comfort.
Our order of farfalle blue cheese turned out to be fusilli, and though there were traces of blue cheese, it was primarily Parmesan. Our pasta was supposed to contain chicken but this was nowhere to be found. The main course of beef fillet with pepper sauce was surprisingly good, even though the meat arrived well-done and not medium as we had requested it to be. The pepper sauce was delicious, spicy and creamy.
The veal emince a la cream was probably not veal but just beef. We already suspected some trouble with this dish because when we ordered the veal, the waiter asked if we wanted it with chicken or meat. The meat tasted a bit sour and the portion of sauce was very greedy. The dish arrived with a side of vegetables.
Though it has one of the few open-air dining spots in Mohandiseen, Solidaire’s service and food quality failed to impress this reviewer. Maybe it was bad timing or just bad luck, but we won’t be running back for more just yet.
Over the last year or so, new restaurants in Cairo have been introducing more and more exotic cuisines to the dining scene, be it Mongolian or even Peruvian with a Japanese twist, leaving classic favourites like Italian and Asian last week’s news. However, recently opened restaurant, Akli, has gone against the tide and specialises in not only one cuisine, but six, across everything from soups to desserts.
Located off Meccas Street in Dokki, Akli is divided into two zones; the ground floor, which has a exposed glass-wall baking room and shawerma station that wasn’t working at the time of our visit, is made for take-out orders, while the top floor is for dining-in. Besides the unfinished ceiling – which doesn’t seem like it will be finished because the AC duct has already been installed - the interior of the restaurant is on the classic side, with olive green, traditional panelled walls behind ruby buttoned couches. The setup of its tables is also pretty basic, but it actually has a cheerful view of a mini garden. If we were to compare it to another restaurant, Akli has the same spirit of everyone’s favourite, Bon Appetit.
Now let’s talk about the food. Our first flight was to Italy with Spicy Arancini Di Manzo (25LE). Starting from the spot-on creamy texture and the scrumptious golden brown crust, to the melted mozzarella cheese and minced beef, which was bursting with Italian herbs flavours, those four fried Italian rice balls were rather tasty.
Our second stop was at our beloved country with Sojouk (42LE). Lying on a bed of chopped parsley in true 90’s style, the grilled sausage was seasoned well, but it was a bit tough and dry. Overall, though, the appetiser seemed incomplete and needed some kind of a sauce or a dip with it.
Moving to the mains, we opted for the Greek Shrimp Saganaki (120LE). Made of perfectly cooked jumbo shrimp in tomato sauce and topped with feta cheese, the dish was a good one, but it wasn’t Saganaki. There was too little cheese to the flavour and the tomato sauce didn’t have any Greek flavours and tasted like Egyptian vegetable stew. One the other hand, the side of lemon rice added a good zesty flavour to the dish.
We also tried Adana Kebab (89LE) from the Turkish side of the menu. Two pieces of kofta laying on Lebanese bread and served with tahini dip and basmati rice topped with nuts, the dish didn’t capture anything particularly Turkish. Although the kofta was seasoned well and the rice was light and fluffy, the dish was overpriced – it’s almost exactly the same as Shawarmaister’s Kofta Halabi Platter which costs 45LE.
We finished our meal with the French Nougat Glace (27LE) for dessert; a rectangular slice of flawless vanilla ice cream filled with mini bits of pistachio and dried fruits. It was served with sour cherry syrup with a very sticky consistency, but the dessert as a whole was light and well executed.
There’s something about what Akli is trying to do that you can’t help but appreciate – but it’s not an easy job to perfect six different cuisines in one kitchen. The ambiance of the restaurant will take you back in time when you used to dine in a sporting club with the family and the food was, overall, good but there’s nothing remarkable about it.