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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.
When it comes to fine-dining in Cairo, the capital’s hotels are largely a safe bet – none more so than Fairmont Heliopolis & Towers, which is home to a remarkable 17 restaurants, cafes and bars. There’s plenty of choice, but from the small courtyard pool, to the open oven with freshly baked bread, to the Islamic chandelier design, our visit to Lebanese restaurant, Al Dabké, was a delightful dining experience from start to finish.
Warmly welcomed by the cheerful and attentive staff, we were handed the menus and found a variety of mouth-watering choices that covered everything from from soups and mezzas,to fattah, savoury pastries and grilled dishes. Eventually, we went for the Fattoush salad (50LE), Chicken Fattah (155LE) and Lebanese Kofta (170LE).
Drizzled with ground sumac, the Fattoush salad – also known as the Lebanese summer salad – was the perfect mix of sweet and sour. The pomegranate molasses skilfully mingled with the well-seasoned and spiced vegetables, leaving an overwhelmingly savoury and tingly aftertaste.
Sprinkled with pine nuts, the chicken fattah was comprised of large pieces of moist and tender to the taste poached shredded chicken smothered in a zesty chickpeas and yoghurt sauce. The only misstep to this big-portioned dish was the plain pita bread served instead of the roasted bread promised by the menu.
Served as four large pieces of lamb-minced meat with a side of Tahini dip, the Lebanese kofta was succulent, tender and delicious, with well-cooked minced meat rice and tasty grilled vegetables as side dishes.
Torn between some typical Lebanese delicacies for dessert, including traditional Lebanese pastry (55LE), Mastic ice cream (45LE), katayef keshta (45LE) and kunafa othmanlia (60LE), we ended our meal with the latter – a classic in the Lebanese kitchen.
Warm out of the oven and garnished with small pieces of chopped pistachio, the kunafa was sweet and gooey, enveloping a chewy and slightly salty akawwi cheese which was saturated with tasty and sweet honey syrup – as the shimmer alone was tempting enough.
No quintessential Oriental evening would be complete without shisha and we pushed own our delicious meal with a blueberry-flavoured and gum-flavoured shishas (45LE each) which were promptly tended to and marked a perfect ending to an experience we left with few qualms.
Despite being busy on at the time of our visit, Al Dabké hit all the right notes in bringing a high-end finish to Levantine cuisine and transpired to be more than befitting of the five-star billing of Fairmont Heliopolis.