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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.
Said to be dedicated to their mother by two twin brothers, Serena Eatery plays on sense of nostalgia in trying to separate itself from what is an increasing number of Lebanese restaurants in Cairo. Although this approach has seen a restaurant like the Edward’s charm diners, Serena Eatery’s story is quite vague and doesn’t reflect on the personality and aesthetic of the restaurant like the Edward’s does.
Located at the Platform in Maadi, Serena Eatery has a very basic interior, with a colourful service station the only thing standing out against the plain white walls. The outdoor area, however, overlooks a breathtaking Nile view, with comfortable cushioned wooden chairs and couches making it a much more enticing option.
We were welcomed with a bread basket (8LE) served with hot tomato dip, thyme and sesame dip, and pickled onion and cabbage. The bread was unremarkable, though the dips had interesting flavours and the pickled cabbage boasted exquisite tart and tangy flavours.
We began our meal with a Lebanese classic that isn’t found at many Lebanese restaurants in Cairo; Spinach Mashrouha (35LE). Similar to flat bread, it was topped with fresh cherry tomatos, spinach, flavourful creamy sauce and mixed cheese; it had a perfect balance of flavours and the portion was huge, making it a perfect sharing starter.
Moving to the mains, we started with levantine dumpling, Shish Barak (60LE). Cooked in a mouth-watering, garlic-infused yogurt sauce alongside four pieces of veal kebbeh, the dumpling dough was well-cooked and the minced beef stuffing was seasoned well, as was the veal kebbeh, but it would’ve made sense to serve it with rice – especially considering that it was listed as a Fatta on the menu.
Another dish we tried was the Mixed Grill (95LE). Served with regular French fries, spicy tomato dip and garlic dip – which was really chunky and had an almost gooey consistency, similar to over-whipped egg white – the mixed grill consisted of super-tender Shish Tawook, perfectly spiced kofta and kebab, and, even though it was a bit chewy, lamb ribs bursting with flavour.
Disappointed to find that many items were missing from the dessert menu, we went with Halawa Shaar (35LE). The dessert was pretty simple, just a simple fluffy halawa shaar sprinkled with some chopped pistachio and served with a tasty scoop of mastic ice cream. Overall, the dish was good, but, again, there was nothing remarkable about it.
All in all, only a few misfires tainted an otherwise pleasant visit to Serena Eatery. Though on the surface it offers little in terms of standing out from the crowd, the reasonable prices, great view and excellent service will have people coming back time and time again.