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Zooba: New Zamalek Restaurant Making Egyptian Food Trendy
Your daily doses of foul, taameya and koshary are found on pretty much every street corner in the city; in Zamalek though, they are a bit more difficult to come across because of all the sushi restaurants, cupcake shops and whatnot taking over. But there is good news for all out there who are craving typical, wholesome, Egyptian food in Zamalek. Newly opened Zooba, located on 26th of July Street, is possibly the hippest local food outlet ever.
Zooba, right next to Café Mex, is easy to spot with its bright blue doors and lovely display of flowers and plants. Zooba’s logo has two birds sitting together underneath an umbrella and can even be found on the tree in front of the shop. The restaurant has the coolest design we have seen in a long time –best described as ‘balady chic’. There is a self-serve fridge to the left as soon as you enter; in true Egyptian style Zooba only has water and fresh juices. Juice wise, you can choose from exciting mixes such as strawberry basil (12LE) and mango rosemary (13LE) that are packaged in delightful bottles. In the fridge there are also salads in shakers, such as lentil salad (13LE), or pick up some foul sprouts (5.50LE) or termis (5.50LE) to go. You can also pick up jars of olive labna (22LE), coriander besara (16LE) or tomato besara (16LE). At the other end of the shop is a counter with a selection of koshary, roasted sweet potato and soup. There are cute baskets you can use to collect your goodies in and while Zooba is essentially a take away place, you are welcome to take a seat at the community table if you prefer to eat there.
All the food at Zooba is prepared fresh and right in front of you. Feeling excited, we decided to go all out and try the beef kibda (28LE), hawashi (14LE), a large koshary (17LE), taameya (17LE), foul with tahina (15.50LE), lentil soup (11LE) and fried potatoes (4.50LE). All the food comes in funky coloured packaging with the name written in Arabic and English. The lentil soup came with baladi bread croutons and was deliciously creamy and tasted fresh and homemade. The koshary was delicious too and we managed to finish the entire bowl even though it was huge. The foul with tehina was tasty with a rich consistency; it was enjoyable but we did feel the tehina flavour was a bit lost. The taameya was very impressive; they weren’t over fried and the inside was soft and perfectly moist. The best thing though, without a doubt, was the hawashi. The meat was excellently grilled with perfect seasoning; the bread around the meat had the right amount of grease and we couldn’t help but order a second portion. The fried potatoes came in a newspaper cone, just like they have them in any local market.
The bread at Zooba is also worthy of a mention; apart from the regular bread they also have some that is baked with spinach or beetroot, giving each a green or red colour, respectively. We ended our dinner with roasted sweet potato that comes filled with equally roasted marshmallows (6LE) and as we expected, you can’t go wrong anything that contains marshmallows.
Everything about Zooba charmed us; the food is great, the staff is friendly and helpful, even the bathroom design is appealing with hilarious bucket-shaped sink and a mirrored wall inside the toilet. There is also good news for people with allergies, as the menus specify whether a meal contains dairy or nuts. Every detail at Zooba has been taken care of and we absolutely love them for that. Bravo!
While many restaurants in Cairo open to great fanfare and hype, it's the test of time that often sends the unsuccessful off to restaurant heaven - being inconsistent is the Cairo's most consistent trait.
Powered by Amer Group, Studio Masr has built quite a reputation over the years and has expanded to over fifteen branches, even including a couple abroad.
But there’s one location in particular that remains somewhat special. The Nile City Boat branch located in Zamalek boasts both a great view and a special mixture of kitsch and Oriental memorabilia.
While most of the Nile-side boat venues are pretty crowded on weekends, we decided to have a midweek lunch, opting to sit in their open air terrace-like area, especially in between seasons when there’s just the right amount of sun and breeze.
The menu hasn’t changed much over the years, offering standard Oriental cuisine and grills including kebab, kofta, veal, lamb and chicken, as well as tagens and appetisers.
Feeling particularly hungry we decided we would order a couple of mezzas, Hummus with Meat and Pine Nuts (32LE) and Chicken Liver with Garlic and Lemon Sauce (32LE), as well as the Studio Masr Grill Shawaya for two (160LE).
This kind of cuisine isn’t generally served very fast, so it was no surprise it took upwards of thirty minutes to arrive.
The appetizess arrived first accompanied by fresh bread baskets. The Hummus was smooth and freshly made rather than canned. The meat was hot off the skillet and the pine nuts were roasted with the meat..
Similarly, the Chicken Liver was nice and zesty and, along with the fresh warm bread, left us eager for more food.
The Studio Masr Grill (160LE), featuring Kebab, Kofta, Veal Cutlets or Lamb Chops, Chicken Breasts and Shish Tawook, was a very decent in portion for two. While the seasoning was delicious all around, the kebab, veal cutlets and chicken breasts were slightly overcooked.
The all-around experience was pretty good, if unspectacular. With a pleasant atmosphere in both this and most of its branches, plus food that needs no market education and that Egyptians love, it’s no surprise a restaurant like Studio Masr has flourished so well over the last few years.