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Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt.
Kenoz: Classic Egyptian Cuisine in Citystars
The mammoth that is Citystars in Heliopolis has increasingly become the best place for anything and everything. It has its haters, but if you want to shop, chill out or eat, the giant shopping mall always has options. One of the more peculiar features of the mall is its Khan El Khalili-themed area on the fourth floor. Lined with shops filled with Pharaonic and Islamic souvenirs of questionable quality, the area is anchored by the large entrance of Kenoz.
Seating is divided into the restaurant and café areas that, unlike dining spots in the actual Khan El Khalili market, are spacious, clean and comfortable. The decor is pretty demure and inconspicuous except for the sandy beige walls carrying paintings of noble Arab steeds in combat.
We started our meal with a selection of hot and cold appetisers; tehina (8.75LE), chicken wings (15.50LE) and an aubergine and yoghurt dish (17.50LE). The taste of the tehina leant a little close to hummus but was delicious nonetheless, as was the aubergine. The popular Egyptian vegetable was pickled as per tradition, and the peeled segments are topped with yoghurt. The bluntness of the yoghurt either balances out the sharpness of the aubergine or mutes it, depending on your fondness for Egyptian pickling practices. Although the chicken wings were served lukewarm, their lemon, pepper and garlic dressing made up for it.
For our main course, we went for the mousa’aa (36LE) and the veal kebab (52.50LE). The mousa’aa was served hot in an ovular tagine bowl, and although it was packed full of minced meat and aubergine, a bit too much tomato meant those ingredients were lost in terms of taste.
The generously large chunks of veal kabab came seasoned perfectly but were slightly overcooked. The fries that came with the order were surprisingly adequate, and overall, the dish was more than enough for the hungriest of diners.
Helping the digestion process were orders of freshly made strawberry (13.50LE) and orange (12.50LE) juices. The orange was mouth-wateringly sour – just how this reviewer likes it - while the strawberry tasted more like raspberry but was pleasant enough.
Trying to recreate Khan El Khalili in a Heliopolis shopping mall is no mean feat, but Kenoz takes the best of that experience and adds a dash of good traditional Egyptian food. It’s difficult to be wowed by such domestic run-of-the-mill dishes; but Kenoz does all the simple things well.
With plenty of new restaurants opening as fast as lightning and raising the bar for fine dining in Cairo, the interest in fast food venues is waning – even burger and pizza places are putting more focus on being gourmet. But, located on Zamalek’s busy 26th of July Street, roasted chicken specialist, Chick Shack, proves that the fast food concept is still popular in Cairo.
Not to be confused in any way with popular American chain, Shake Shack, the eatery’s name attracted some negative attention, but it all played into its publicity. The name is where the similarities end, though; Chick Shack stands out with a unique interior and playful vibe of its own. Some of its standout features include its ringed chandelier, an interesting choice of cold colours and a wall made of A-Treat soda boxes, not to mention the quirky staff uniforms made-up of buttoned-to-the-top shirts, grey trousers, suspenders and hats that Michael Jackson would have been proud of.
The menu is quite simple, with roasted chicken as the main attraction, though other items include Lasagna (34LE), Potato Wedges (8LE), or Tropical Salad (18LE) and can work as side dishes.
We started our meal with Shack Salad (28.50LE) as an appetiser, and as our mains, we went with Half Chicken Meal (55LE) and Chicken Cannelloni (27LE).
A mixture of grilled chicken, green apple cubes, corn, bell pepper, pomegranate and mayo dressing, the Shack Salad was an interesting concoction. We loved the tart taste from the green apple which worked well with the pomegranate and the sweet-corn, but the chicken itself was overcooked and very tough.
Now, let's move to what we actually came for: roasted chicken. Served with sautéed vegetables which had a remarkable garlicky flavour and possibly the best spicy basmati rice, which was cooked to perfection and bursting with Mexican spices, the roasted chicken was well-marinated and had a zesty flavour which popped in every single bite. However, the chicken itself was a little bit undercooked but definitely not raw, and even though it was very tasty, the skin wasn’t as crispy as we would've hoped.
We were worried about the ready-to-serve Chicken Cannelloni, but it was surprisingly tasty. Stuffed with chicken and peppers which had flavours similar to fajitas, the cannelloni was well-cooked and had a generous amount of cream parmesan cheese sauce. Sloppy presentation aside, the cannelloni made for a great vehicle for the chicken.
Overall, there was little to complain about at Chick Shack. The venue stands out as one of the healthier fast food places in Cairo; one that also boasts fantastic service, great staff and a friendly atmosphere. The only downside is that there are no desserts to speak of – but with the concept built on a ready-to-serve approach, maybe a soft serve ice cream machine would be a perfect fit. But that’s just us.