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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.
Abou El Sid has established itself amongst the greats when talking about authentic Egyptian cuisine in Cairo. With branches all over the city and beyond, we were excited to see what special fetar program they had to offer this Ramadan, so we headed on over to the Maadi branch with high hopes and empty stomachs.
We arrived thirty minutes before Fetar, as was required, even though we had placed our orders over the phone earlier that morning. The outdoor area was quiet and quaint in the light of the setting sun, with stern-faced waiters gathered around the door getting ready for what seemed to be a Battle Royale Fetar to end all fetars. But this quiet proved to be the calm before the storm; staff members wearing every colour uniform imaginable were running around in circles trying to get everything ready in the minutes before the call to prayer.
Right before Fetar, we were offered the restaurant’s Ramadan drink selection and opted for karkade (Hibiscus) and amar el din (Apricot) (18LE each). The karkade was tart and refreshing – not too sweet like what many venues tend to offer. The amar el din, meanwhile, is an acquired taste at the best of times and lacked the classic apricot taste and sweetness.
As for the soup and appetisers, they all suffered one fatal flaw: they were cold. In the fetar rush, the show-runners at Abou El Sid neglected that, though setting down the starters a full ten minutes before fetar is time efficient, it isn’t very enjoyable for the guests. The Chicken Orzo soup (22LE) tasted quite nice, but other than its temperature, its lack of chicken was disappointing. For appetisers, we had Lamb kofta (42LE), kobeba (36LE) and stuffed vine leaves (28LE) with baba ghanoug and cucumber yoghurt salad (15LE each). There isn’t much to say about both the kofta and the kobeba – they were both cold, dry and overall unappetising. The Vine Leaves fared better – without being spectacular – especially when paired with the cucumber yoghurt which, like the baba ghanoug, tasted pleasantly homemade.
For our main course, we chose the Veal Chunk Tajin (68LE) and the Circassian Chicken (62LE). The tajin was delectable and perfectly cooked, with the rich and inviting veal served in a bed of equally delicious vermicelli. The Circassian Chicken was a different story, however. The classic walnut sauce was clumpy and hardly enough for the bed of bland rice that lied beneath it. Though the chicken itself was good, the dish as a whole was a letdown.
After we finished eating, we became uncomfortably aware of how loud and chaotic the surroundings were. With waiters shouting orders, big groups of people and electric fans that did more to irritate than to keep us cool, it was only the nostalgic sounds of Om Kalthoum and Abdel Halim Hafez that maintained any trace of atmosphere.
Pondering the idea of dessert, we were a bit confused as to who to ask for the menu – there seemed to be new faces and uniforms every couple of minutes. After asking for the menu three times, we discovered that, to get anything done, we had to ask the, assumed, Head Waiter, and after finally getting a hold of him, he took his sweet time with it.
We’d almost forgotten about dessert when they set down the Om Ali and Mohalabeya (25LE each). The Om Ali, though pleasantly warm, had no milk, which was quite unfortunate, because it actually tasted good. The Mohalabeya on the other hand, was heavenly with delicate vanilla flavours and roasted nuts sprinkled on top.
Overall, we were disappointed and left wishing for a do-over. The evening’s execution had not gone as planned and the food and the overall atmosphere had suffered. From the chaos of service, to the mess-ups with the food, it was a poor reflection of a giant in the dining scene.