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6th of October City, Cairo, Egypt.
Casper & Gambini's: Another Memorable Branch in Mall of Arabia
Whether Casper & Gambini’s goes east or west, whether it opens a new branch or just a home delivery outlet, it never fails to attract us every time we come across it; somewhat like a magnet drawing us in. And this is not due to a lack of places to go to; we were sold from our very first visit to its City Stars branch.
Although Casper & Gambini’s Mall of Arabia branch was visited a while ago, our reviewer was unlucky and the experience wasn’t enjoyable, but since our visits are all about luck, we thought it was time we tried ours again.
Near to Entrance 2 of the mall, the restaurant has two seating areas; one outdoor area where there’s a water fountain, and another indoor section with its entrance on the side of the shops. Both parts are pleasant but if you’re a true appreciator of relaxation, then the outdoor area will more likely appeal to you.
To start we ordered the chicken Caesar salad (45LE). It was served to us in a big, deep bowl that seemed much like a sphere cut in half. The lettuce was fresh; the salad dressing in the perfect amount, where it wasn’t too much or too little; and the chicken was lovely and tender, however there could have been a bit more of it.
We also tried the chicken pesto pasta (56LE), our waiter warned us that the pesto sauce is green and therefore so will be the colour of our pasta, which caused us to hesitate for a moment, but in the end we decided to give it a try and we weren’t disappointed. The pasta was rich and tasty; the sauce was a little on the heavy side, which made us drink a lot of water after it, but the chicken was well cooked. The club sandwich (45LE) we also ordered was a typical club sandwich, but you are given the option whether to have both halves with the same fillings or different. The sandwich is served with French fries that come in a white cup with the restaurant’s logo on it.
After finishing eating we ordered a caramel latte (22LE), cappuccino (19LE) and lemon-mint iced drink (18LE). Overall the drinks were good but the one that stood out by far was the lemon-mint with its bright yellow and green colours swirled within the crushed ice. Although it was quite large, it was so enjoyable that we managed to finish it all.
A large bottle of water at Casper & Gambini’s is for 13LE, a small one for 8LE and a can of Pepsi for 10LE. Unlike our passed review, the service this time was fast and efficient; giving us the right amount of attention.
As of recently Casper & Gambini’s also offers ‘The Chocolate Bar’, that is a very tempting selection of Belgian truffles one can personally choose via The Giftery website.
Some restaurants in Cairo have developed a following of families who dine at the establishment every Friday – like a family ritual of sorts. The thing with these restaurants is, since the people keep coming back, it leaves room for the quality of food to fall.
One such case is Chili’s in Maadi; seemingly a pioneer in overcooked steaks. You’ll find it packed with families every Friday, despite its location in the terrible Bandar mall, and it has somehow managed to survive the economic crash and the uproar in Egypt, all while serving subpar food.
The venue itself has the usual cluttered Tex-Mex diner feel, with an additional outdoor area that’s far too hot in the summer. Seating will take you quite a while if it’s the weekend, and you can also expect long serving times.
Much to our dismay, we sat down after waiting for fifteen minutes. We dived straight into the menu to shorten our waiting time. From the appetisers we opted for a Fajitas Trio (82.99LE).
Arriving on a sizzling hot plate with onions and bell peppers, the dish contained beef, chicken and shrimp, accompanied with small tortilla wraps, sour cream and pico de gallo. Fresh off the bat, the chicken and the beef were so over cooked you couldn’t bite through them; the shrimp, on the other hand, tasted like it had been defrosted and, similarly, hard to chew.
From the main courses, we opted for a Southwest Ribeye (114.99LE) and Crispy Honey-Chipotle Chicken (52.99LE). Served with mashed potatoes with cheese and bacon bits, as well as sautéed vegetables, the Southwest Ribeye is said to have southwest seasoning and topped with seasoned butter. The steak was ordered medium rare, but what we got was a good two stages past well-done. So well-done, in fact, that you could taste neither the seasoning nor the butter; just charred, terrible tasting meat.
The chicken, however, was much better. Served with French fries and the honey chipotle sauce, it too was overcooked, though in a roundabout way, it worked to the dishes favour. The chicken had pleasing crisp to it, albeit a little too chewy, and the sauce was very tasty.
To top off a sad experience, we hoped a dessert could salvage the situation. We were wrong.
We ordered the Brownie Sundae hoping to get to some cold vanilla ice cream melting over chocolaty goodness. Instead, we got a stale, barely warm brownie. The vanilla ice cream wasn’t bad though; don’t be alarmed by its yellow colour though; that’s just the egg whites in the French vanilla recipe.
One can understand the appeal of Chili’s; a big menu of unfussy, filling food. But how it continues to enjoy such a level of popularity, unaffected by the country’s economic woes, is a mystery.