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Dokki, Cairo, Egypt.
Taza: Popular Egyptian Shawerma in Dokki
As the long stretch of road that straddles the borders of Mohandiseen and Dokki, Tahrir Street is home to a variety of Egyptian restaurants and food vendors. You can find everything from Koshary El Tahrir to small liver and sausage sandwich stands hidden in the side roads. Taza is a shawerma restaurant that has gathered a bit of a cult following among Cairo’s locals, visitors and expats alike. Outside the small shop, clusters of hungry people gather around the shawerma stand and the cashier. The inside of the shop is usually inhabited by diners, sitting and standing, tucking into their grub.
The menu is confusing, to say the least, because it’s difficult to decipher items such as the chicken roll or the pizza chicken sandwich. Unfortunately, the staff that we sought help from was none the wiser. One glance at the small space of the restaurant is enough to notice that Taza’s customers rarely venture from the shawerma or kofta sandwiches.
We can see why, though; because the shawerma is pretty addictive. The small and medium sizes are redundant and completely insufficient for satisfying a craving. For 11.50LE, you get a large, perfectly seasoned and cooked shawerma sandwich, whose tehina and salad are as essential as the meat itself. As with all shawerma places; the chicken version just doesn’t live up to its beef counterpart. We usually expect to complain about greasy meat in a shawerma sandwich, but the chicken was actually a little dry.
Taza also offers a range of more substantial grilled dishes including kofta, shish tawouk and grilled chicken (16LE). We tried the latter and found it to be unspectacular, but as good as a 16LE half-chicken could be. It was pretty heavily grilled and had that nice charcoal-grilled taste.
We also tried a portion of fries (2.50LE for the medium, 4LE for the large) and were presently surprised. Taza’s fries have a slightly chunky, floppy and unevenly cut quality about them.
Of course, no Egyptian sandwich joint would be complete without foul and falafel sandwiches, and Taza offers them as such for 1.25LE a pop. However, we’d recommend you pop over to Gad across the road, because based on our falafel sandwich, Taza spends more time on its meat sandwiches; the falafel was cold and dry.
It’s easy to see why Taza has become so popular and continues to be so busy. The delicious shawerma sandwich is the restaurant’s pillar, but you’ll need patience and thick skin to tolerate the queues and blasé staff.
Gameat El Dowal Street stands as somewhat of a hotbed for restaurants in Cairo. The busy Mohandiseen street consistently attracts both locals and out-of-towners looking to dine – be it at some of the city’s most popular chains or the smaller eateries that often go unnoticed.
Darwish is a newly opened restaurant that specialises in providing Egyptian cuisine at its simplest. Their menu is quick and to the point which makes ordering a breeze. Its simplicity is no indicator of its quality, however, with the restaurant’s cooks dependably serving up excellent meals.
The restaurant exists in a small shop in the centre of the busy street, with its open exterior allowing a haze of smoke to escape from their enticing grill. With limited space inside, the seating area extends outside and is a pretty basic setup of red plastic chairs, tucked beneath metal top tables.
While Darwish offer sandwiches such as chicken or beef shawerma (5LE – 15LE), the real magic is in full-blown meals such as the fried half-chicken with molokheya and rice (22LE) or fata (25LE). Their tehina and baba ghanough (3LE) dips are thick and flavourful, avoiding the watery texture that’s a common shortcoming in many local establishments.
We were glad to find their rice less greasy than what’s usually found when eating out in Cairo; combined with molokheya, it encapsulates an authentically simple Egyptian meal.
Soft, with a slight pull to it, kofta orders (104LE/kg) are placed on a bed of rice before being topped with three to four loaves of bread and, combined with a dip or two of tehina, it all makes for a great bite.
Served in a generous portion and with a perfect grilled texture, Darwish’s grilled half chicken (22LE), particularly the dark meat, held a delicious flavour thanks mostly to perfect marinating and seasoning. In true Egyptian fashion, we went step further and cut the chicken into small strips before throwing into a plate of rice and molokheya.
As a newcomer to Gameat El Dewal’s competitive, and quite often overwhelming, dining circuit, Darwish may not offer anything revolutionary; however, the restaurant’s excellent, convenient location along with fast, dependable meals will attract many a hungry patron.