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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 in the mood for a light, easy-on-stomach late-night snack, there isn’t much outside of fast-food across the Cairo dining scene. – well, that’s what we thought.
We stumbled on Al Karmeh in Maadi on Road 231. The lights were bright around the modestly-sized venues and the restaurant uses the same red and white colours as in its logo. With an elevated-from-street-level wooden patio outside, the venue is perfect for a quick and quick snack.
As we walked in, the waiter behind the cashier greeted us and offered us menus. The restaurant offers light Lebanese cuisine — think manakeesh, alongside most of the traditional Lebanese salads including fattoush, tabouleh, humus, and spiced potatoes. We opted for a Kofta Karmeh (44LE) alongside a Zaatar with Cheese (14LE), Labneh (19LE) and Homemade Fries (10LE).
Service time was relatively short, but we realised shortly afterwards why that was. Offering the options of Saj or Oven Baked for all the manakeesh, we asked for ours toasted but received them cold. The Kofta Karmeh, meanwhile, was served face up in a pizza box; the dough had no discernible crunch to it, and the meat didn’t really stand out in flavour, due mostly to a lack of seasoning. It was simply meat, cheese and dough with none of the subtle Levantine flair one expects of Lebanese cuisine.
The Labneh, served in wrapped saj bread that, again, wasn’t toasted, also contained diced cucumbers and tomatoes, which was a nice touch, but was sorely lacking thyme and olive oil.
With the Zaatar and Cheese, the ratio was off, so unless you really like the tangy flavour of zaatar, you may find this mankousha a little much. Again, had it beentoasted , it would’ve made a world of a difference.
The homemade Fries were the surprising highlight of the whole meal. Retaining some crunch but still very fleshy, they made for a good side.
The problem with this type of cuisine now is that it’s no longer a novelty. Not only is Shami food now available in any and every part of Cairo, you also have choices and price ranges. With all around average food, it's hard to see how a restaurant like Al Karmeh will compete, especially when there are three other Lebanese restaurants within walking distance of it.