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Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Cairo Kitchen: Balady-Chic Restaurant Opens in Zamalek
It seems that balady-chic is rapidly taking over Cairo. We were first introduced to it a couple of weeks ago when Zooba opened up in Zamalek and now a few blocks further down 26th of July Street, you will find the Cairo Kitchen; just around the corner from La Mezzaluna.
Interior designer enthusiasts are in for a real treat at Cairo Kitchen; with high ceilings, the venue is instantly appealing and the Cairo Kitchen designers made the most out of this feature by mixing tradition with retro. With pop-art Arabic text on the wall and a copper-tile ceiling, it feels like you’ve stepped into a time zone where Cairo is in fact the coolest city in the world.
The restaurant consists of different levels with various types of seating. We nestled ourselves on the upper level, across from the food counter and drink-station, at an American diner-style bar. The food corner itself is a true jewel. Starting on the left of the semi-self serve counter, there is the koshary station with all the different ingredients. Moving down towards the right is a generous salad bar and further past the salad are the choice of desserts.
We started off with a refreshing glass of karkadeh (7.50LE) before indulging in the food. We opted for the large salad platter (25LE) and received a plate filled with all kinds of Egyptian style salads. We fell in love with their deliciously spicy foul; though it was a bit heavy on onions, the flavour of the beans still dominated the overall taste. The kishk we got was delicious too with a creamy aftertaste; the walnuts on top added to the flavour as well. We were less impressed by the zucchini stuffed with cottage cheese, however; the cheese had a very strong flavour that overwhelmed the mushy zucchini. The eggplant and yoghurt salad fared better and served as a very refreshing dip.
For the main course, served in a tagin dish, there was Koshary Eskandarany (39LE) and Fereek with chicken liver (29LE). The Koshary Eskandarany came with shrimp and can best be described as a glorified version of normal koshary. Though the shrimp were flavoursome and the tomato sauce tasted of wonderful fresh tomatoes we couldn’t help but be a bit disappointed with the dish. It sort of lost its koshary identity and turned into a regular rice-and-shrimp dish; this was mainly due to the lack of some key koshari ingredients, such as chopped onions.
The fereek with chicken liver was tasty but not very impressive; the fereek had a touch of coriander that gave it a zesty taste but the kibda was a bit too dry for our liking. We ended our meal with rice pudding (9.50LE) which came with a generous amount of nuts on top. Though the taste was sweet and satisfying the consistency of the 'roz bil laban' was disappointing; it was a bit too loose.
The staff members at Cairo Kitchen are super nice and will help you out in the food selection process. Healthy eaters who might otherwise stay clear of Egyptian dishes might want to try the Well-being koshary, which is made with wholesome brown rice and brown pasta.
Interior and staff wise there is nothing wrong at Cairo Kitchen but the food is still a little off base. Having just opened, we still have high hopes for the restaurant though.
Is there no end to new restaurants in Cairo? Feteera opened at the beginning of March and like many of the brand new eateries which pop up out of nowhere in Zamalek, it looks to be a hip joint from the outside. However, Fateera avoids being pretentious; its walls may be adorned with indie pop art images, but its main feature is a huge stone oven at the back – which, far from being a mere gimmick, turned out to be a wonder when it comes to cooking pies.
In Egypt, feteera can translate into anything from ‘pie' or 'pancake' to 'pizza' – balady-style – so those new to the dish may be curious as to what they'll receive. Although the menu reads ‘pie’, the selection of toppings suggests pizza, and as we waited for our ‘feteera’ to arrive we were further perplexed as we watched the chef sculpt the dough into an assortment of shapes, looking suspiciously like a pancake.
On offer from Feteera’s menu are vegetarian, cheese, seafood and chicken or meat dishes, plus additional toppings which are available for between 2LE-11LE.We ordered a Chicken and Pesto Pie (52LE) and a Mushroom Roll (25LE).
When the food arrived, it was piping hot, but we were still none-the-wiser about what to call it. We can best describe it as a crispy pancake stuffed with pizza-style fillings, so the best word for this creation may indeed be: pie. The Chicken and Pesto Pie was creamy and delicious, offering a good balance of flavour with plenty of chicken to fill the 12 inch dish. The pastry was cooked beautifully and formed a light flakey casing for the chewy cheesy center. Slightly worrying were the grease stains left at the bottom of the dish and after our cutlery failed to live up to the job, using our fingers to eat the pie turned out to be messy business.
The roll was a crispy pancake wrap, such as to rival Lebanon’s manouche. It contained roasted peppers, which despite not having been specified on the menu were a warming addition to what was otherwise a very plain snack. The mushrooms were slightly undercooked and hadn’t properly infused with the other flavours and despite the encouraging chunks of garlic and olives, all were tasteless. The roll proved to be too doughy and plain, losing all its taste despite the crunchy chewy texture we bit into at first boded well.
For dessert we treated ourselves to the Mars wrap (28LE) and a Banana and Peanut Butter wrap (29LE). Feteera could have been more generous with the amount of chocolate but the peanut butter and banana combination was a triumph, if we do say so ourselves. It tasted buttery and soft, filled with just the right amount of ripe banana.
Though feteer with toppings is nothing new, this Egyptian pie house gets the thumbs up from us for bringing a traditional Egyptian dish up to date, allowing diners to fill up on an authentic dish with a modern Zamalek twist.