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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 fast-food certainly has a charm to it, we all have moments when we crave a nice home-cooked meal, but have nowhere to turn to. Fortunately, in recent years, the Cairo restaurant scene has featured several new eateries offering just that.
With the emergence of several of these types of restaurants in Maadi, we turned to the one of the area’s longest running home food delivery services, Akl Beety.
The delivery-only restaurant, located in Nirco’s Fifth Sector, has an enormous menu that features everything from appetisers like mombar and kobeba, to main courses and casseroles, crepes and pizzas.
After scanning the menu, we opted for an order of Kobeba (10LE) and Sambsouak (10.50LE) from the appetisers, Mesa’aa (Egyptian moussaka) with Minced Meat (14LE), Rice with Vermicelli (5LE), Oriental Rice with Nuts (8LE), Meal Number 5 (36LE) and Om Ali with Nuts (13LE) for dessert.
The ordering process was relatively streamlined, but the delivery took about an hour and a half when the restaurant states it should only take an hour if you’re ordering from inside Maadi. This was not explained by the restaurant, and no apologies were made for the delay, even though the kitchen was located less than a five-minute drive from us.
Our food arrived neatly wrapped but relatively cold. We found both the Kobeba and the Sambousak to be disappointing, the former for being under-seasoned to the point of having little flavour, and the latter for being very under-fried. Instead of being a crispy and golden in colour, the Sambousak was almost white and rather chewy.
The Mesa’aa, which had good, deep flavours, but was a little short on the minced meat, worked nicely with the Rice with Vermicelli. The Oriental Rice, however, was much less pleasant, tasting stale and chewy.
Meal number five, which is made up of Chicken Pane, Vine Leaves, Yoghurt Salad, French Fries and a soda, was probably our highlight of the night. Two pieces of fairly decent breaded chicken breast and a generous portion of tasty vine leaves made this meal the best at value for money. The French fries were disappointingly soggy, though, and the yoghurt salad was a little bland.
The Om Ali, surprisingly the warmest dish in the entire order, while tasty, was unfortunately dry and could’ve used some extra milk.
All in all, we found our meals to be quite decent, but it’s difficult to call it anything else. On the one hand, the value for money is great, totalling at 106LE for two people and some food left over, but on the other hand, it suffers the same problem most home-food restaurants do; it still tastes better at home.