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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!
Koshary, foul, taameya are the foods most synonymous with Egypt, but rarely does anyone bring up feteer – a classic Egyptian dish that can be traced back for many generations. With several versions covering sweet and savoury, as well as the traditional Feteer Meshaltet, restaurants who focus on Feteer can target a very wide audience and get creative.
In Maadi, one such eatery by the name of Feteera can be found on Road 233. With one man behind the counter both taking orders and preparing them, the restaurant itself is tiny, meaning eating-in isn’t exactly the most comfortable of experience.
But feteer is a food best eaten at home where you can get messy without the judgemental eyes of fellow diners. The menu features both feteer and pizza, alongside the Rocket Menu – feteer wrapped into a sandwich.
We opted for a Minced Meat Rocket (15LE) and an Alexandrian Sausage Rocket (15LE), as well as an Alexandrian Hawawshi (15LE).
Serving time was quick and the Rocket Feteer consisted of three wraps per order in Styrofoam plates. Using feteer essentially as bread is an obvious but novel use of it, but the stuffing itself did little to help either sandwich. Firstly, because it was so scarce, and secondly, the meats – especially the minced beef – were overcooked to gaminess. In addition, the feteer itself was greasy and soggy.
The Hawawshi, which we originally thought was just a Rocket stuffing, turned out to be a full sized hawawshi with a peculiar non-bread but also non-feteer dough. Whatever this hawawshi was trying to be, it missed the mark entirely, thanks primarily, once again, to overcooked meet.
While Feteera’s creative use of feteer is commendable, the fetter itself didn’t impress, often being far too greasy. Another factor that undermined the food is the overcooked meet that, when combined with disappointing feteer, didn’t leave much to enjoy. There’s always a danger when meddling with a classic – especially when the fundamentals aren’t executed correctly. The biggest problem with Feteera, ultimately, is that behind the innovative variations, the feteer itself left much to be desired, so anything built on top of that is doomed to fall short.