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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 get excited when a restaurant in Cairo announces the launch of a new menu – don’t judge. When that particular menu is all about steaks, then yeah, we’re sold. Chili’s recently introduced the ‘Chef’s Cut’ menu, and though the quality of steak at the restaurant chain has always been up for debate, wild horses couldn’t keep this steak-lover away.
A pleasant waiter opened the door and greeted us as we stepped into the Bandar Mall branch; we sat outside to enjoy the final traces of spring weather and avoid the annoying American diner pop music playlist.
After browsing the menu, we opted for Boneless Buffalo Wings (59.99LE), and from the Chef’s Cut menu, we opted for a medium-cooked South West Short Rib Fillet (124.99LE) and a medium cooked Glazed Shrimp Fillet (149.99LE). Additionally, we opted for an Apple Berry Cobbler (39.99LE) for dessert.
We were surprised by how quickly our appetisers were served; a generous portion of boneless wings drenched in spicy buffalo sauce and complemented by a heavy-on-the-blue-cheese ranch dip. Falvour-wise, the chicken was flavourful, but, unfortunately, just a tad too soggy causing it to lose the crunch it would normally have.
The steaks were the true highlight of our meal. The South West Short Rib Fillet consists of a fillet resting on a bed of corn salsa, topped with short rib meat and pickled onions, spinach queso and fresh cilantro. The meat was medium-cooked as requested and the combination of fillet and short rib meat was just beautifully sinful. The spinach queso was a fine addition, but quite heavy, while the side of skillet mashed potatoes was surprisingly flavourful.
The Glazed Shrimp Fillet consisted of a fillet on corn salsa, topped with glazed shrimp, spinach queso and fresh cilantro, and a side of skillet macaroni and cheese. The fillet was similarly cooked medium as requested. While a little less colourful in the flavour department than its counterpart, this was still a thoroughly enjoyable main course. The shrimp were delicious, but unfortunately, the macaroni and cheese involved way too much cream and far too little cheese leaving it closer to Alfredo sauce.
The Apple Berry Cobbler, made with baked apples and fresh blackberries topped with cinnamon-nut crumble, a scoop of vanilla ice cream and sweet caramel sauce. The mixture of flavours was very interesting, as was the increased sweetness from the berries. Chili’s also serves an excellent vanilla ice cream, which really brought together the concoction and nicely rounded off the meal.
Frankly, our biggest piece of advice with Chili’s, especially this particular branch, is to avoid the weekends, the holidays and generally any sort of occasion that will involve family outings. They don’t seem to handle the pressure very well and it’s reflected in the food.