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Nasr City, Cairo, Egypt.
Shatshat: Spicy Fast Food in Nasr City
Egyptian sandwich shops seem to be taking a step up in style and innovation when it comes to presentation; from the names of their meals to the menu design and ordering process. It is also one way to compete with the bigger fast food chains and stand out amidst the growing numbers of sandwich joints in Cairo.
Shatshat is a new sandwich venue in Nasr City with a menu of mouth watering, enticing and spicy food options. You can pick one of the El-mefalfel rice meals with chicken liver (7.50LE) with some tahabeesh on the side, or, if you can handle it, some seriously spicy hawawshy or 'hawawshatshat' as the venue calls it (10LE).
For shawerma fans, Shatshat will be a disappointment as it's one of the few sandwich places in Cairo that don't make shawerma sandwiches. They've made up for it though with the Miami chicken sandwich (11.75LE), which is more or less a shawerma sandwich with green and red peppers that add a sweet flavour to the chicken.
If you're not much of a spicy food lover, the chicken pané sandwich (12LE) will be a safe choice, and the good news is they don't just fry some chicken out of a frozen box like other fast food joints do; the chicken is marinated and cooked as you'd make it at home, which makes the portions less crunchy but flavoursome.
Though we ordered our kofta meal (25LE) with fries on the side, we received it with rice instead, and they sure make their rice spicy, though it was also fresh and well-cooked. The kofta was served on a bed of tomatoes, onions and peppers and looked a bit pale, but it was fortunately grilled to perfection with a serving of coleslaw and tomeya dip on the side.
If you're not up for cooking on your day off, Shatshat celebrates the weekend with special family meals. The four-meal weekend menu includes a mix grill meal (80LE), which is a mix of chicken, shish tawouk and kofta; all seasoned with Shatshat’s special mixture of herbs. The menu also lists the seafood bamboti meal (80LE), which is served with rice, salad and bread.
Shatshat may not have the hang of things quite yet but they’re getting there. Their sandwiches are good and the service is efficient for the most part; just make sure to double check your order before leaving.
The restaurant certainly doesn’t look very Indian either. Owned by the Americana Group, this ‘casual dining brand’ has branches throughout Cairo, and is apparently ubiquitous in the Middle East as a whole.
Americana certainly seems to be the order of the day as far as the Viny Square branch’s décor is concerned. But despite being shiny and clean, the interior was poorly laid-out and felt cramped, with a group of waiters gathered uncomfortably round the counter.
These waiters far and away were the best thing about the restaurant. Attentive and helpful, they really deserve to be serving better food than the greasy, sub-par fare, dished out courtesy of their employers.
The platter consisted of four kobeba, twelve vine leaves, eight samosas filled with either cheese or mincemeat, all accompanied by dipping sauces: tehina and yoghurt. Given that all the above elements relied largely on oil rather than flavour, it was a little difficult to tell them apart. Save the vine leaves, which were drenched in mouth-stinging vinegar. The samosas’ pastry casings were fine, but the salty cheese filling oozed out of the samosa like silly putty. The mincemeat was similarly underwhelming; garnished with an ill-fitting selection of spices.
The two small pots which accompanied the platter apparently contained the dipping sauces. However, they were as sparse as they were ill-fitting. This may have been because the ‘tehina’ wasn’t actually tehina; just an anonymous oil-based sauce in which to dunk our oily comestibles.
We watched the lovely waiter with growing sympathy as he brought out the Tikka Mixed Grill (47.27LE); this was a plate containing a quarter chicken, five pieces of kebab and two pieces of kofta. On the side: oily ‘buri’ bread, bland mixed vegetables, a choice of basmati rice or fries, and tomeya sauce, which was identical to the alleged tehina.
Chicken Tikka claims to serve, ‘exclusively delicious recipes of meat, chicken, quail and farouge’. Accordingly, most of the meat was pleasingly moist and tasty. Apart from the kofta, which was rough and dry.
The menu does have some variation, offering a salad bar at 17LE a bowl and a children‘s menu (dishes roughly 20LE). Tea and soft drinks are both 6LE and there is a selection of juices; the guava juice (9LE) was made of fresh guavas. However, it failed to make up for how unsatisfied and unhealthy we felt upon leaving the restaurant, vowing to eat nothing but raw vegetables for a week.
The result of our philosophical musings? Chicken Tikka is a weird cultural hybrid; an anonymous American chain, failing to embrace or understand any of the elements that make up its hybridism. More importantly, the food is unsatisfying and it’s overpriced.