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Dokki, Cairo, Egypt.
The Yemen Restaurant: Waning Taste of Sana'a in Dokki
Located on a sleepy street in Dokki, the aptly named Yemen Restaurant has been a cult favourite on Cairo’s casual-dining scene for quite some time. Having closed down and renovated, we decided to check out if said cult following is still warranted. Now looking like a large cafeteria, the shiny tiled floor, metal seating and straight-to-the-point name is by no means a sign of laziness, but more a sign of economy – a theme that runs deep throughout the whole dining experience.
Small bowls of soup were rushed to the table almost as soon as we’d sat down; bowls that would traditionally be drank out of. Fortunately, the restaurant provides you with spoons. The meat stock soup, though pleasantly unassuming in taste, suffered the occasional slither of fat; a defect that is not for the weak stomached.
Ready to dig into something of more substance, we were informed that only a handful of the dishes on the menu were still available. Legend had warned us that we’d need to arrive early to be privy to all the dishes, but an 8PM dinner isn’t late by any stretch of the imagination in a city like Cairo.
We received a veritable smorgasbord of everything that was still available. First to arrive at the table were two large portions of Yemeni bread (3LE per one piece). Served hot, the bread isn’t too dissimilar to feteer or naan bread but was in no way greasy and held together pretty nicely.
Plates of liver (15LE), chopped meat (10LE), beans with eggs (6LE), vegetables (5LE) and salta (10LE) were served up as promptly as the soup was. Both the liver and chopped meat were cooked and/or served with the same mix of sliced vegetables, with the meat faring better than the liver, which was tasteless in comparison to Egyptian-made liver dishes. The meat was a little dry, but the accompanying fried peppers, carrots and other unidentifiable vegetables provided a much needed tenderness to the dish. The salta – also a mix of meat and vegetables – only differed in that it was drenched in a brown, meat stock sauce. It tasted no different.
Said vegetables also make up the mixed vegetables dish, with the only addition being slices of soggy potato. Just for the fact that they didn’t contain the same mix of vegetables as the other dishes, the beans with eggs stood out as the highlight. Served sizzling hot in a generous portion, the dish uses the beans as a mix of foul and a bean casserole. Although basically a mush of beans, tomato and boiled egg, the hearty dish was full of flavour and made for a great impromptu sandwich with the bread.
Though the staff members at the restaurant are quick as bunnies, they have no clue what the dishes are and are only able to repeat the ingredients of a dish when asked about them. The fact that there was only one variable ingredient between three of the dishes left us feeling a little short changed. Apart from the bread, we left the restaurant none the wiser to what Yemeni cuisine actually is.
We always have a number of restaurants at the back of our heads that we know we can always rely on for a tasty, non-fussy meal and Ruby Tuesday happens to be one of them. Not feeling up for any eclectic dishes and wanting a taste of the familiar, we headed over to Ruby Tuesday to see if they’re still at the top of their game.
With dim lighting and dark wood panelling, the place is anything but tacky; the décor is simple and steers clear from any cliché American-diner references. The choice of background music playing, however, begged to differ with the bubble-gum pop hits of the 2005-2010 era playing non-stop during our whole visit.
Our waiter greeted us outside and led us straight to a table in the requested non-smoking section, coming back a couple of minutes later with our menus. The menu offered more or less the same options it always has alongside new, rather interesting additions including: the Hickory Barbecue Chicken (65 LE), Hickory Barbeque Salmon (105LE), New Orleans Jambalaya (80LE) and the Black Fire New York Strip Steak (130LE), amongst others.
We called on the waiter, who instantly came and took our order. Our soft drinks arrived in a matter of seconds and our food arrived about 20 minutes later. Our Double Combo Fajita (75 LE), comprised of grilled chicken and beef strips atop grilled vegetables, came with sides of spicy rice, tortilla bread, sour cream, cheese and salsa dip. The fajita arrived sizzling and both the chicken and the meat strips were cooked to perfection.
The Parmesan Chicken Pasta (65LE) comprised of penne pasta topped with fried chicken strips and Swiss cheese drizzled in creamy parmesan sauce was, as its description suggests, sumptuous but oh-so-heavy. We found the mixture of cheese and creamy sauce to be a bit too hefty for our taste.
The service at the eatery, we must say, was on point, with the waiter coming by towards the end of the meal to check that everything was alright.
In a nutshell, Ruby Tuesday is still going strong, thanks to its alert, efficient waiters and its occasional new additions to the menu. The fajita was everything we had hoped for, but the same cannot be said for the pasta- it is definitely not for the faint of heart.