Sign in using your account with
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!
When it comes to dining in Cairo, Zamalek is the go to hub of restaurants. With so many of the newer restaurants aiming to bring something new to the market, good local cuisine is becoming harder to find. However, unswayed by the contemporary shift, the long-standing El Dessouki continues to serve Egyptian food as it has done for the past 70years.
Tucked away in a quiet alleyway behind Sufi, the outdoor seating area is strangely cosy, with basic plastic chairs and table-clothed tables.
Shortly after being seated, we were approached by a waiter with a profuse sense of typical Egyptian humour. When asked for a menu, he jokingly insisted that he was so well versed in the restaurants dishes that there was no need. He then proceeded to list everything they offer in quick succession.
Traditional Egyptian dishes are available including rice akawy with kidneys, molokheya (7LE), torley (7LE) – a vegetable mix with salsa – pan fried chicken (48LE), beef (30LE), black eyed peas (7LE), pasta béchamel (7LE), spaghetti (6LE), penne (5LE) and mooza (30LE) – tender, fatty thigh meat – amongst many more choices. Balady salad, baba ghnaoug and tehina are also on offer (2LE each).
We ordered one dish of rice, black-eyed beans, salad and dips along with pasta béchamel, half a pan fried chicken (24LE) and a plate of kabab hala (30LE), or pan cooked meat. Everything is pre-prepared and in no time we were enjoying Egyptian cuisine at its best. The pasta béchamel was a generous portion of penne pasta, prepared with a thick layer of cream and topped with flavourful salsa. The rice and black-eyed peas were a delicious combination, especially with the thick salsa sauce covering the beans. The salads were delectable, fresh and crunchy; the balady salad consisted of tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and, much to our delight, plenty of onions. While the tehina was smooth and topped with a decent shot of vinegar, the baba ghnaough had a strong eggplant flavour and was surprisingly spicy.
Unfortunately, Dessouki don’t offer grilled chicken – strictly fried. None the less, the juicy chicken was served hot, and peeling its crunchy skin made it all the more palatable. Slightly bland in comparison to the chicken, the beef was served in soft chunks, topped with a light gravy. Aside from the salads, everything served here is both greasy and a little too salty.
Grease aside, Dessouki offers a great, no-frills, traditional dining experience at moderately low prices, in arguably the most expensive neighbourhood in the city.