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Downtown, Cairo, Egypt.
Pomodoro: Possibly the Best Seafood Pasta in Downtown Cairo
Delicious spaghetti in clam sauce is but wishful thinking in Cairo, right? Think again. A hidden restaurant inconspicuously located off Bab El Louk and nearby El Horreya serves the best seafood pasta south of Alexandria. Two years ago, Cairo 360 visited Pomodoro when it was just a baladi street eatery barely occupying more than a hole in the wall. Since then, the restaurant has changed, but it still serves up one of the best seafood meals money can buy in Cairo.
After buying a much more spacious adjoining storefront, Pomodoro shed the tiny plastic chairs and miniature ahwa tables for much more trendy leather chairs and glass tabletops. The red and black colour scheme, warm atmosphere and enticing aromas combine to make an ambiance that is not altogether unlike an upscale pizzeria. Word on the street is that the owner studied culinary arts in Italy, and furthermore he insists on hand cooking each and every plate that comes out of his kitchen. Whatever the truth may be, the attention to detail in the kitchen has certainly satisfied many hungry patrons.
As one can only expect with the burgeoning of a successful business, there have been some modifications to the menu and prices over the last two years. The simple menu contains pasta dishes with either seafood or meat toppings in addition to offering a few sandwiches. The seafood pasta plate starts at 25LE and goes up to 50LE depending on size as well as your choice of ingredients which include calamari, crab, shrimp and clams. We ordered the 35LE shrimp pasta and it was delivered piping hot with shrimp scampi smothered in rich, peppery tomato sauce complete with four good-sized crawfish on the side. The generous portions, herbs, spices and fresh vegetables make for nothing less than seafood heaven. If you cannot decide on ingredients, simply order the seafood pasta combo, and you will receive a smorgasbord of seafood cuisine.
Operating within the same price range, chicken and meat pasta combos are available for those patrons who may not be in the mood for fishy plates. Those looking to avoid meats altogether will enjoy the hearty vegetable pasta (25LE) comprised of carrots, peas, onions, zucchinis, and tomatoes. Still others looking for lighter orders or lunchtime options will find seafood (20LE), shrimp (20LE) and chicken (15LE) sandwiches.
Though the heaping portion of seafood pasta for 15LE that could be ordered two years ago is no longer available, this should by no means discourage you from visiting Pomodoro. You may have to fork out a few more pounds, but you will not have to eat in the street nor use your shirt cuff as a napkin. With a comfortable atmosphere, plenty of napkins, and most importantly scrumptious seafood pasta, Pomodoro remains in a league of its own when it comes to seafood in Cairo.
Hotels are notorious for housing some of the most high-end restaurants in Cairo and the Fairmont Heliopolis and Towers is no exception, housing an impressive 18 restaurants, bars and cafes, catering to every style of cuisine for discerning palettes.
Tucked away in the old Fairmont building, Leonardo’s dining area is placed in a small enclosure open to the hotel, but gated by indoor plants and clear plastic vases filled with fresh apples. Each table has delicate, glass place-settings stained in elegant peacock colors that were removed once we were seated. Returning with the menus, the waiter filled our glasses with chilled water and left us to our own devices with the strictly Italian menu.
The menu is easily navigated with sections marked for appetisers and soups, pizza, pasta andrisotto, seafood, meat, and of course desserts. Upon placing the complimentary breadsticks and tray of cheese pastries, the waiter patiently awaited our order while we struggled with pronouncing the names of our dishes.
To start, we selected the Penne Arrabbiata (85LE) and a Long Island Iced Tea (105LE). While waiting for our starter, we whetted our appetites with the savory cheese sambousak and mini quiches. Though a tad oily, the rich texture and salty interior of the turnovers quelled our rumbling stomachs just in time for the Penne’s arrival.
The pasta in our Penne Arrabbiata was cooked with a perfect al dente bite and was mixed in a light tomato and chili pepper sauce with a mild drizzle of pesto accenting the vivid red of the pasta beautifully. Incredibly spicy, the flavours were positively explosive and were highlighted by the intense kick of the peppers. The parmesan delivered alongside the dish helped to mute the heat of the sauce, as well as provide a savoury balance to offset the sweetness of the tomatoes. Presented in a tall glass, the Long Island Iced Tea was a powerful concoction that proved a little too strong for the casual constitution of the pasta.
Coming highly recommended by our enthusiastic waiter, we decided on the Seafood Risotto (160LE) from the mains section. Moving the decorative shrimp heads to the side of the plate revealed an aromatic mixture of creamy risotto bubbling in red sauce cooked with the delectable marine broth present in the dish. With pieces of shrimp, mussel, flakes of lobster and delicate white fish, every mouthful was a chewy delight of incredible textures and flavors from the sea.
Moving to dessert, a gorgeous Tiramisu (50LE) was presented in a cocktail glass and was layered with light cream, ladyfingers and rich chocolate espresso filling. Covered with a generous helping of powdered chocolate, the Tiramisu was a decadent ending to a very hearty meal.
Although prices are a bit steep, Leonardo provides great Italian dishes with rich flavors and generous portions which won’t have you walking away disappointed.