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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.
Levant cuisine has spread in Cairo at a rapid rate in the past few years, with the additions of many restaurants specialising in Lebanese and Syrian cuisine. Ayadina is one such restaurant; specialising in the food of Lebanon – to be more specific – has opened four different branches across Cairo, boasting a unique design and colour scheme that always stands out compared to the surrounding venues.
Their new venue at Point 90 Mall in New Cairo is no different, with the dominating colours of purple, turquoise, pink and green in all of its furniture gave it a playful and relaxing feel, as we took our seats inside.
We opted for the Hommos (24LE), Vine Leaves (26LE) and Toumeyah (22 LE) as our cold mezzas, and the Sambousak mix (34 LE), and the sausage with pomegranate dip (44 LE) from the hot mezzas. We also tried the Chicken Fattah (75 LE), Grilled meat (Kebab) (95 LE), and Shish Tawook (75 LE) for our main dishes, while also opting for the Special Cocktail (25LE), and the – Lebanese house special – Jallab (26LE) to wash everything down.
Thirty minutes later – and after reminding the waiter of our order – the mezzas arrived alongside a bread basket with three fresh loafs of Lebanese bread.
The toumeyah - a garlic dip – was well balanced, proving to be less sour than most restaurants do it and provided a good back drop once the Sambousaks were dipped in it, which came as two meat, two spinach and two cheese. The spinach ones had a slightly sour aftertaste, as did the cheese ones, which were shaped like spring-rolls rather than traditional Sambousak. As for the beef, it had the an earthy flavour and was very well seasoned.
Having a zesty fresh taste, the vine leaves were flavourful and fully stuffed and held themselves together well once sliced into, making it one of the highlights of the meal. The Hommos had a great smooth texture with a rich flavour, meanwhile, contrasting the sweet and sour taste of the sausage, which had a juicy interior as it sponged in the pomegranate sauce, wrapping up a great start to our meal.
Even though it’s a main dish, the Fattah arrived with the appetisers; served in a small metallic bowl with toumeyah, chicken and small pieces of bell peppers and bread.
The rice had an almost overpowering cardamom aftertaste, which almost ruined the whole plate. However, the toumeyah had the same rich flavour as the aforementioned, while cubed chicken pieces were large, well seasoned and worked well with the accompanying pieces of bread which gave a satisfying crunch.
Almost another thirty minutes later, the rest of our main dishes finally arrived. The shish tawook and grilled beef came as six to ten small pieces with a garlic or tahini dip, alongside two pieces of potato wedges.
The shish tawook needed to be grilled a bit more as, although they were tender, they barely had any grill marks while having a pinkish hue to them. Somehow, they were also a bit dry, but this time, the toumeyah lacked a bit in seasoning. As for the grilled beef, it was a bit chewy and had a gamey flavour, and generally lacked anything to make it special or memorable. As for the accompanying potato wedges they were barely cooked and were hard to slice into and – again – lacked any seasoning to which we had to add salt, pepper, and toumeya to give it an extra flavour.
Finally our drinks arrived in tall glasses; the Jallab, which is made from a mix between carob, rose water, crushed ice and topped with pine nuts and almond slices, had a refreshing overall flavour, with the flavour of the carob playing off the sweet aromatic taste of the rosewater nicely.
The Special Cocktail, meanwhile, was a mix of mango, orange, banana and pomegranate grenadine. While having an overall fruity flavour, the mango dominated, with the pomegranate and orange giving a slightly tangy aftertaste; however, the banana was nowhere to be found.
In the end there was a lot going for Ayadina, however cracks were shown in the staff and kitchen’s performance under the pressure of a busy evening, resulting in an occasionally unpleasant and somewhat underwhelming experience at a restaurant we have come to expect more from.