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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.
One thing we’ve learned over the years at Cairo 360 is that when it comes to Cairo’s dining scene, the only certainty is that nothing is certain. We’ve seen many a novelty and gimmick fade into obscurity, though certain cuisines all but guarantee a certain level of success – Lebanese being one such cuisine.
Located on the Giza Conriche, recently opened Alwan Lebanes Bistro takes up the space where short-lived Asian restaurant, Chop Chop once was, right next to the new Saudi Arabian Embassy. As with Chop Chop, Alwan shares an entrance with a neighbouring Indian restaurant – previously Asha’s – which is currently under renovations.
Upon entrance, a friendly waiter greeted us at the door and stayed with us in the endeavour of exploring some of the more unfamiliar dishes.
Though the names Alwan (‘colours’ in Arabic) seems more suited to a quirky cafe, the décor is actually very contemporary and the use of colours subtly brightens up the cold, sleek space. Our favourite feature was the coloured strands running across the windows.
We started with a classic Fattoush salad (20LE), which we found very balanced and generous with the crispy, fried bread. Next they served us the Fruit Cocktail (29LE) which was fresh and delicious.
We had opted for Mankoushet Alwan (40LE); a round mana’eesh split up into four pieces, each with a different filling. The oregano and cheeses sections were flavourful and light, though the meat in the minced meat piece was noticeably not fresh. Confused about what was in it, our waiter clarified that the fourth piece was in fact stuffed with Lebanese kishk – a dish made of cracked wheat, yoghurt and milk. Similar to a savoury rice pudding, it didn’t quite sit well with the bread of the mana’eesh.
The great thing about Lebanese cuisine is the colourful and liberal use of spices, which was very obvious in the Mixed Grill (99LE). The Shish Tawook and Kabab were incredible; the seasoning was perfect and they were cooked exactly right. The Kebab was so tender it would melt in your mouth. The Kofta on the other hand, while perfectly seasoned as well, just couldn’t seem to keep its consistency. Every time you touched it with a fork it would crumble into smaller pieces.
One of our favourite features of the experience was the tasty and freshly baked Lebanese bread. We decided to end the meal with a Nutella Pie (35LE). Topped with bananas and kiwi, the pie was a great combination of soft and crispy, while the banana and kiwi was fresh.
Being a relatively new restaurant on what is an already very busy Lebanese dining scene in Cairo, Alwan delivers what it promises, but lacks the pizzazz to challenge more established Lebanese restaurants like Taboula.