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Dokki, Cairo, Egypt.
Kasr El Shouk: Egyptian Restaurant in Dokki Combining New & Old
Many of us can become nostalgic for traditional Egyptian food, especially considering the amount of foreign cuisine that has engulfed Cairo. Classical Egyptian has been in danger of disappearing from the market but Kasr El Shouk in Dokki, continues to fly the flag with a menu that includes favourites such as fatta, mesa’aa, molokheya, stuffed pigeon, and tagen-cooked meat and vegetables.
From the outside, the building that hosts the restaurant looks like a traditional two-storey Egyptian house. Once you enter through the beautiful wooden door, you’ll be amazed at how this place balances modernity and authenticity. Not only does it look Egyptian, but also carries the qualities of generosity and hospitality.
The Om Kalthoum songs that play in background help in creating a soothing, welcoming atmosphere. The lighting was neither too dim nor too bright; which further added to the pleasant ambiance.
The service was almost at hotel standard; we were escorted to the second floor, and then led by our waiter to our table. A short time after we sat, they served us complimentary hibiscus as a welcome drink. A few minutes after we ordered, the waiter brought us warm towels and waited until we were finished to take them away.
We ordered a raheb salad (9LE), tomato and cream soup served with croutons (12LE), and a mixed platter of mahshi (9LE) – which was composed of stuffed vine leaves, stuffed zucchinis, stuffed green peppers and stuffed cabbage, served with yoghurt and freshly baked bread. They all tasted like homemade mahshi.
Before serving our main course, the waiter brought several metal holders with a candle under each, these were used to put under the plates in order to keep our food warm.
We had ordered a tagen she’reya (39LE), veal tagen (55LE),and some fresh kishk (35LE). The first dish had rice mixed with she’reya, and the second was also mainly rice, but with meat added. Both items tasted good but the tagen she’rya had a bit too much salt. As for the kishk; its normal consistency is usually milkier than the one served to us, but it was nonetheless very tasty with its accompanying sauce adding to the flavor. Ultimately
Finally, for dessert, we opted for the nouga Kasr El Shouk (18LE), made up of mixed dry fruits and nuts in fresh ice cream, with a slice of white cake and juice. By all standards, this was the perfect oriental dessert to have after a wholesome Egyptian meal. For the third time we were served sweet potato and again, it was on the house.
Kasr El Shouk is highly recommended because you have the chance to try something you rarely find in other places around town.
Despite the increasing number of foreign cuisines that can be found across the Cairo dining scene, there’s just something about the variety of strong, quite eccentric , flavours of Egyptian food that trumps all. Sometimes, all one wants is to please one’s taste buds with some classics and Zooba is the perfect place for serving up exactly what we have been craving.
The third branch of the popular chain is located in the Mosaic food court in City Stars and is easy to spot from a distance, with its big, colourful, bright sign and overall unique appearance. Designed much like a contemporary street food eatery, the restaurant has no doors or walls separating it from the walkway. Adequately-sized, with quite a few tables to offer, worrying about not finding a seat there is rather unnecessary.
We took our seats and immediately made our way to the refreshments fridge to quench our thirst, opting for a bottle of Lemon Mint juice (13LE), which was quite zesty and refreshing. With a chalk board having all the dishes offered scribbled on it hanging over the kitchen and an open fridge showcasing a handful of dips, salads, desserts and drinks, the place feels quite homey and cosy like its other branches, despite its mall location. A stand holding multi-coloured loaves of Baladi Bread definitely caught our eye and added an exquisite touch to the already interesting place.
We made our way back to our table and our waiter immediately came by to take our order. For those that may not be familiar with Zooba, the menu offers all the Egyptian street food items you can think of; from Foul and Taamia to Koshari (and its healthy alternative) to Hawashi, sausages and liver options. From the array of dips, we opted for Beetroot Besara (21LLE), alongside small portions of Wholegrain Koshari (15.50LE) and Classic Koshari (13LE), Hawashi (18 LE) and a small plate of Spiced Sausages (21LE).
Our food literally took just a few minutes to arrive, much to our delight, and we began to dig in. The Beetroot Besara came in a moderately sized container, accompanied by a Baladi breadbasket and tasted quite delicious and dense. The Classic Koshari left us quite disappointed as it was, at best, average-tasting and lacked any oomph. Made with brown pasta and rice, the Wholegrain Koshari, was surprisingly delicious.
The Hawashi was the biggest let down of all the dishes; it was oily and small in size, unlike the the Spiced Sausages which came in an adequate portion and were bursting with flavour.
Zooba has become a staple for those that don’t dare to delve into the more traditional purveyors of Egyptian street food, offering quick bites in a lovely setting. The whole feel of the place, with its funky design and choice of background music (we heard a few songs by indie Arab bands), helped set the mood and the dishes, with a few exceptions, tasted as delightful as they sounded.