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Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt.
Fattoush: Affordable Lebanese Fast Food in Citystars
After a long day of shopping at mammoth shopping mall Citystars, one always yearns for a good meal to refuel. So we decided to try some Lebanese food to get us going.
Located on the fourth floor, Fattoush serves up authentic Lebanese food and the menu features a lot of enticing options. Lebanese salads like fattoush and taboula are available; other options include garlic dip, tehina, coleslaw and pickles. The menu is only available in Arabic, so it would make it difficult for non-native speakers to make a selection.
To us, ordering Lebanese food always entails ordering our all-time favourite mana'eesh. However, we were majorly disappointed when we were told it wasn't available.
After much thought, we ordered a small plate of stuffed vine leaves (12LE) and cheese sambousak (9 LE) to begin. The Lebanese way of preparing vine leaves differs slightly from the Egyptian one; Egyptians normally have this dish as a main course and is served hot, whereas the Lebanese version is served chilled, as an appetizer, with lemon and olive oil.
We liked the stuffed vine leaves, but we still prefer our good old Egyptian way, and we were quite annoyed at how drenched it was in olive oil.
The sambousak could easily pass as the best we’ve ever had. Four semi-circles were served with small fried pieces of shami bread; dipping the sambousak in the garlic dip made for an amazing combination. However, we were mildly disappointed at how greasy they were. Other sambousak fillings include the much-lighter spinach or minced meat.
Fattoush also offers Lebanese grilled meals. A kilo of shish kabab will set you back 179LE; while kofta, grilled chicken and shish tawouk are also available. All main courses are served with a side of rice and salad.
We also ordered the chicken fajita sandwich (18LE); the sandwiches are normally prepared using French bread, but for an extra 2.50LE, you can either have the Saj bread or Lebanese bread.
The fajita sandwich was too greasy for our liking; the thin slices of chicken were cooked with black olives, green pepper and mayonnaise and while we liked the flavour, we disliked how it dripped with oil. And although it was supposed to be firmly wrapped, the oil still found a way onto our clothes.
In short, if you happen to be emptying your pockets in Citystars' shops, but have a growling stomach, Fattoush makes for an affordable Lebanese option. Now, you probably won't be blown away by the cuisine, but it will satisfy your Lebanese craving until something better comes along.
Lebanese restaurants in Cairo continue to flourish on the local dining scene, for both its familiarity and similarities to Egyptian cuisine, and its bold twist. Located on a busy corner of Gameat El Dowal Street in Mohandiseen, Al Mokhtar is yet another eatery offering traditional, Lebanese meals.
The restaurant boasts a classy ambience, complimented by white walls adorned with intricate, hand-drawn murals. While the ground floor features an ordering counter and high tables with stools, upstairs is a spacious seating area overlooking the busy traffic of Mohandiseen. The seating features tables of four and six, as well as those that can seat over ten patrons.
The menu at Al Mokhtar is vast and varied. Appetsers such as fattoush (16LE), tabboula (16LE), hummus beiruty (17LE), kebbeh (20LE) and of course stuffed vine leaves (20LE) are available. Along with a wide selection of manaqeesh (14LE – 22LE), there are also beef and chicken shawermas offered in an assortment of breads (17LE- 19LE), and more common options such as burgers (20LE – 27LE) and pizza (33LE – 40LE).
We ordered stuffed vine leaves, kebeh bel laban (24LE) – meat dumplings with yoghurt sauce – and a minced meat (20LE) manoucheh, along with hummus beiruty and tomeya (8LE) dips for appetisers. We then enjoyed a chicken fransisco sandwich (22LE), beef shawerma in saj bread (18LE) and a spicy kofta wrap (16LE).
After a short time, we were brought the vine leaves and hummus Beiruty, without bread. Although the vine leaves were tasty, they were peculiarly served without stuffing. On the other hand, the hummus Beiruty tasted fabulous as a dip, with added herbs, spices, and diced vegetables.
The bread eventually arrived and was definitely worth the wait; fresh out of the oven, it was steaming hot and fluffy. Despite being well-made with plenty of garlic, the taameya was slightly on the salty side.
We were impressed with the minced meat manoucheh, which, unlike the pizza-similar manaqeesh usually found in Cairo, features a thin sheet of pastry, giving room for the meat flavour to dominate as opposed to the dough.
The sandwiches, meanwhile, varied in quality. The beef shawerma was covered with a generous sprinkle of herbs and spices, without being overtly salted. Meanwhile, the spicy kofta sandwich boasted quality, lean meat and soft, fresh bread, but could have used more seasoning. The worst of the three sandwiches, however, was the chicken Francisco; served in fino bread, the sandwich was made with slices of processed cheese, canned corn and more lettuce than grilled chicken.
It appears that Al Mokhtar is one those venues that offer a wide variety of foods, but at the risk of inconsistency. That said, with reasonable prices, polite staff and filling food, there are plenty of well-made Lebanese dishes to be enjoyed.