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Dokki, Cairo, Egypt.
Sizzle Grill House: Delicious Steaks and Tasty Brownies in Dokki
Having seemingly popped out of nowhere on Dokki’s Michel Bakhoum Street, Sizzle Grill House is the latest in a long line of café/restaurant hybrids in the area. The modestly chic interior is visible from the street and was enough to lure this reviewer in for an impulsive visit.
From the variety of starters, we tried the potato skins (19.95LE) and the tortilla chips with spinach and artichoke dip (25.95LE). Rather than the small bite-sized pieces we expected, the potato skins were huge. They were topped with melted cheeses and diced beef bacon, both of which were minimal. We should have got a pot of sour cream, but were served with a pot of plain yoghurt instead, and were grateful for the bottles of ketchup, mustard and chilli sauce on the table. The delicious and warm tortilla chips were not done justice by the disappointing dip, which was high on artichoke and low on spinach, and needed a lot of salt.
The feijoada (79.95LE) is a Brazilian dish that combines a specially marinated beef steak with a bean stew and thin fried onion chips. It comes highly recommended by the staff, and is served with one side of your choice. This reviewer opted for the Mexican rice, which, albeit spicy, was dry and tasteless. It mattered not though, because the steak itself was more than enough. Cooked perfectly to medium as requested, the piece of meat was larger than steak cuts, and the bean stew gave it a colourful taste. So much so however, that the beans and onion chips overshadowed the taste of the meet when combined in one bite.
We also tried the blackened fish and shrimp (74.95LE); a traditional Cajun preparation that is seldom found in Cairo restaurants. The idea is that the fish – or meat and chicken – is immersed in melted butter before being seasoned heavily with various herbs and spices, with the result being a creamy but mildly spicy dish. Although the sauce was creamy, it was only slightly seasoned and needed much salt and pepper.
The fish was a little tasteless but cooked perfectly, as was the shrimp that was much more flavoursome. The dish came with two side; sautéed vegetables and potato wedges. We were pleasantly surprised that the vegetables weren’t overcooked and mushy, while the potato wedges were just a little to crisp on the outside but were served piping hot.
Alluring photographs in the menu compelled us to order the chocolate stones (29.95LE) from the small dessert section. Six small brownies were brought to our table on a hot skillet, where the waiter poured coconut milk over them to produce a cacophony of sizzling. The brownies were adorned with chocolate pebbles – hence the name – and slices of fried dry apricot accompanied the dish as decoration. Having never tried chocolate pebbles, we expected them to be crunchy or chewy, but they were soft and complimented the slightly spongy brownies perfectly. Said brownies were densely chocolaty, and the small pieces are perfect for sharing.Despite its name, which is more fitting of a fast-food joint, Sizzle is an ambitious restaurant that we can see becoming a new favourite hangout spot on account of its impending expansion. Staff told us of the ongoing work with the small garden area: screens will be erected to show live football and shisha will be served. Striking a balance between the high-end restaurant and the casual chill-out spot it will certainly be a challenge.
When it comes to Cairo restaurants, the city’s hotels are usually safe bets for an evening of fine dining. Incorporating the original Palace Al Gezira into its design, the Cairo Marriott Hotel in Zamalek remains one of the most beautiful hotels in the capital. Built in 1869 by Khedive Ismail, and once used as a temporary home to many European monarchs, the intricate neo-classical architecture is still as breathtaking as it once was.
Saraya Gallery, a restaurant on the ground floor of the main palace building, is both impressive and dazzling with shining oriental chandeliers, giant golden mirrors, patterned wood wall panelling and intricate plaster work adorning the mile-high ceilings. Such a majestic setting brings on a sense of nostalgia and expectations of a meal fit for a king. Arriving in the evening, our dining experience was accompanied by the sound of soothing – and slightly romantic – live harp playing.
Soon after we were seated, the menus were delivered, and we ordered the chef’s recommendation of the French onion soup (45LE) for our starter, the 10oz certified black Angus New York sirloin steak (315LE), and the pasta e risotto Tuscany tour (130LE) – a dish that combined three pasta and one risotto preprations.
The drinks menu was vast, filled with an infinite variety of imported wines, liqueurs, whiskeys, spirits, cognacs, beer, cocktails and non-alcoholic concoctions. One red berry iced tea (28LE) was ordered, along with a couple of large glasses of Cape Bay white wine (105LE/each). The white wine was served chilled in two enormous wine glasses, whilst the red berry iced tea was slightly tasteless, but we were afforded the chance to sweeten it ourselves with a side of syrup.
To start, a complimentary bowl of delicious bread arrived alongside a butter dish. The food took a while to arrive, but all was forgiven when the plates were finally delivered underneath grand silver cloches.
The onion soup was covered with a thick layer of stringy cheese which we cut through to reach thinned, flavourful soup with sweet onion pieces and the soggy bread immersed at the bottom of the bowl. The steak, meanwhile, was a colossal piece of quality meat, and happened to be our favourite of the meals. It was perfectly cooked to our medium-rare specifications and the pepper sauce was well balanced, while the side of vegetables remained a little crunchy, but was lacking seasoning. Our second side of parmesan fries was also sub-standard; undercooked with a measly cheese topping.
In the creative four-pasta dish, the ravioli all’aragosta, penne all’arrabiata, spaghetti di mare, and the risotto del giorno were each unique, but some more delectable than others. The spaghetti di mare was positively al dente and sported a handful of tasty, fresh scallops and small shrimp, all rolled in a delicate tomato sauce. The penne all’arabiata, served with a generous amount of spicy tomato and basil sauce, was unfortunately undercooked, while the ravioli all’aragosta was vividly flavoured by pieces of lobster and baby shrimp. The risotto, meanwhile, was full of flavour, but the rice was slightly harder than we were expecting, which meant it didn’t hold together like most risottos. On a brighter note, though, the rich mushroom and cream flavour was quite moreish.
Overwhelmed by the fabulous sounding desserts, we ended our meal on a high note, ordering the chocolate croquant (70LE) to share. Despite the exotic promises of chocolate dacquoise, sable Breton and caramelised hazelnut, it was effectively a delicious log of milk chocolate mousse, with a filling of dark chocolate, covered in coco powder, with a side of scrumptious strawberry compote.
We’re not sure the quality of all the food entirely justifies some of the high prices; however, Saraya Gallery undoubtedly provides a magnificent setting for a formal dinner, hand in hand with some of the most professional waiters we’ve been lucky enough to encounter.