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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.
American food has won over Egyptians a long time ago, and our love for all things fried and smothered in sauces and dressings has encouraged the evident boost in number of new diners offering American cuisine around the capital. Some chains, however, have long withstood the turnover of venues and have remained an echoing name in the fad-loving capital, one of which seems to be Fuddruckers.
Heading over to the chain’s latest branch in New Cairo’s street-long food court, aka Concorde Plaza, we had our minds and stomachs set on devouring hefty burgers. The venue offers two floors of bright coloured indoor seating, as well as an outdoor seating area, but the chilly weather caused us to settle inside. Leading us to an immaculate window-side table, our waiter was quick to offer us menus.
From classic appetizers, to salads, soups, burgers, steaks, chicken platters, wraps and desserts, Fuddruckers delves deep, as it has always done, into all our favourite American dishes. Going for the 1/3 pound Tumbleweed Burger (47 LE) with Extra Mushrooms (8 LE) and the ½ pound Hot Rocks Burger (52 LE), alongside a regular coke (17 LE) and a diet coke (17 LE), we placed our order and headed over to the complimentary salad bar.
Our waiter offered us a couple of plates, which we gladly began to fill up with veggies. The salad bar was noticeably smaller than usual with lesser variety than most, but still boasted a few favourites including potato salad, coleslaw, pickles, pepper diced tomatoes and guacamole, all of which tasted fresh. Right by the salad bar was the condiments station, in which we loaded up on BBQ sauce, mayonnaise, and scorching melted cheese.
By the time we were halfway through with our salads, our mains had made their way to our table, looking enticingly delicious. The Tumbleweed Burger, with extra fresh mushrooms and without cheese and tomatoes as requested, was grilled to well-done perfection, also as requested. The Hot Rocks Burger was medium done, and dripping with ranch dressing. Both were juicy, and had an ample amount of toppings. The wedges, which came as a side with both, were soft and well-seasoned yet came in a limited portion.
All in all, Fuddruckers has managed to stand strong, despite fierce competition of new and glossy, hyped up burger venues and diner joints. This is perhaps thanks to its satisfactory service, delicious dishes and complimentary additives here and there that give customers value for their money.