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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.
Competition amongst restaurants in Cairo is nothing short of brutal. The rent of most of these venues alone can be a deal-breaker, so when a restaurant manages to keep a prime spot in an area like Road 9 in Maadi, they must be doing something right.
Mermaid has been a favourite of Maadi residents for years. The venue itself hasn’t changed a bit except for a make-shift outdoor area featuring a plastic white and blue tent with a couple of tables and chairs.
Inside, it’s the same American diner decoration you’ve known for years. It's till a little too stuffy, with the rigid wooden booths separating the tables and seating not leaving much room for sitting. A pleasant waiter greets you at the door and shows you to your table. He will hand you a menu and you probably won’t see him again.
No waiter came back, in the tiny restaurant, for fifteen minutes. One only showed up when we called out.
The menu hasn’t changed much over the years either, so we figured we would try some of the famous dishes and see if they were still up to par.
We opted for an order of Garlic Cheese Bread (17.40LE) from the appetisers and Veal Escalope (92LE) and Beef Stroganoff (108.5LE) from the mains. We also ordered drinks, but after receiving the wrong drinks three times, we gave up.
The Garlic Cheese Bread arrived very early on in the chaos and put a brighter note on proceedings; it was very strong in garlic flavour, which was complimented very nicely by the mozzarella cheese and a nice dash of oregano. The mains came about twenty minutes later. We ordered the Veal Escalope with a side of Pasta Bolognese and Sautéed Vegetables and the Veal Stroganoff with a side of Rice.
The Veal Escalope is slightly smaller than we remember it, but just as pleasing to the palate. It was cooked perfectly and seasoned well, though the pasta was average at best and was severely lacking salt, while the sautéed vegetables were essentially just boiled zucchini and carrots with no sort of seasoning whatsoever.
The Beef Stroganoff, which came in a generous portion drenched in deliciously and densely flavoured gravy, was the highlight of the night; like the veal, it was cooked and seasoned well, but once again, the small portion of Basmati Rice was plain in taste and was served in a meagre portion, not fitting of the beef.
Ultimately, while Mermaid still serves decent food, there's been a distinct drop in service and value-for-money since our last visit. Prices have practically doubled and, while one can appreciate external factors like costs, we don’t see anything being spent on the restaurant itself, which looks exactly the same as it did in 2007.