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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.
Overlooking the Nile and Cairo Tower, InterContinental Cairo Semiramis’ Night & Day has it all on paper – a stunning view, live music and a Friday brunch buffet offering a diverse selection of international cuisines. Located by the Garden City hotel’s lobby, the music can be heard all over the place, giving a fun positive vibe, once you enter the hotel.
Greeted at the entrance, we felt welcome and pampered as we were shown to our table, with the lovely sunny view giving a sophisticated backdrop to the culinary experience (290LE per person) we were about to embark on.
As we were still trying to figure out which station to start with, we were first greeted with a welcome drink made up of soda, coconut, lemon juice and a cherry on top; a great refreshing start.
After a buffet tour courtesy of Night & Day’s extremely friendly chefs, we started at the all-inclusive fresh salad bar, where we treated ourselves to an assortment of cold cuts, cheeses, breads and salads that boasted a variety to satisfy every pallet and an all-round freshness.
Our first station into the main courses, we opted for some Mexican sausage – available in regular and spicy – which had a somewhat dry outer shell but great flavourful meaty filling. We also tried the chicken fajita wraps which had a crispy outer shell with a warm and satisfying chicken punch, perfectly complimented by sour cream and guacamole dips.
Visiting Night & Day’s Chinese station, we were served some crispy spring rolls. Fresh out of the oil, with a crunchy golden brown outer pastry, fresh cabbage and vegetables fillings, these were among the best spring rolls we’ve had in some time.
Offering an array of mouth-watering grilled delicacies, our next stop was the grill station where we had a well-done lamb steak with gorgeous grill marks and an incredibly fresh taste, which we couldn’t get enough of. A side of shish tawook on a stick gave a welcome contrast to the steak and tasted just as good.
We wrapped up our grills fiesta with a large grilled salmon steak which had a melt-in-your-mouth pink texture and a sublime taste. We reached the soup station a little later in our tour, where we tried a Taiwanese soup comprised of coconut and mushroom which had a distinct flavour unlike any soup we’ve tried before.
Making our way onwards to other never-ending stations, we stopped by another Asian culinary special which had classic Indian selections, including flavoured rice infused with boiled potatoes and grilled vegetables and chicken curry which had a spicy kick and a creamy smooth taste.
Our last two stops before hitting dessert were the sushi bar; where we tried some tasty and fresh sushi bites and the pasta station where we tasted some over baked pasta which needed an extra kick in its flavours.
Offering both Eastern and Western desserts and an exquisite chocolate fountain, the dessert station was a lounge of its own, with a chef’s special one-meter-long mille feuilles with different fresh toppings and fantastic cream sauce which complimented the perfect crunchy taste. We couldn’t help to leave without trying the red velvet and black forest cakes, which, hands down, were outstanding.
All in all, with a versatile selection of foods, a chic atmosphere, not to mention amazing service, there was very little to complain about at Night & Day at the time of our visit – a visit that we have no qualms making again and again.