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Maadi, Cairo, Egypt.
Genghis Khan: Affordable Mongolian Cuisine in Maadi
You won't often come across a restaurant that serves Mongolian cuisine in Cairo. Having once seen a travel program about Mongolian cuisine and finding out they eat marmots, we were seriously hoping that this wasn’t the case at Genghis Khan in Maadi. The restaurant is located on Road 233, which has a high density of Asian restaurants and pet shops - not that we're implying anything here.
The entire front of the restaurant is made of glass, providing lots of daylight and a view of the street. There are just four tables laid out that seat a maximum of five people. On the walls we saw some interesting yet peculiar art pieces that are best described as Asian soft porn; naked ladies in titillating poses.
The menu is written in English and Mongolian; immediate relief followed when we didn’t find marmot on the menu. We tried to distinguish which dishes were specifically Mongolian but found it difficult since most dishes on the menu were just well-known Chinese ones.
As soon as you order you receive a kettle of green tea. Genghis Khan also offers soft drinks and beer; Heineken, Stella and Sakkara available ranging between 10LE and 20LE. While nibbling on fried peanuts with salt (15LE) we browsed through the menu and eventually opted for the sweet and sour chicken (35LE), beef with potato (35LE), tofu with soy sauce (25LE), rice with eggs (10LE) and noodles with shrimp (18LE).
The food arrived at our table within approximately five minutes and all of the plates were filled to the max; especially the dishes with rice and noodles – which you can easily share with two or three people. The tofu with soy sauce was a bit disappointing unfortunately; the taste of the soy sauce was lacking and the consistency of the tofu was spongy.
The beef with potato on the other hand fared better. The baked potato pieces were deliciously flavoured and it took us about three minutes to devour all of them. The beef was very salty but nevertheless tasty; combined with the potatoes, it’s enough to be a meal on its own.
The sweet and sour chicken plate was also huge. The succulent chicken pieces were drenched in a sauce that was a perfect balance between sweet and sour. The rice with eggs was good but lacked taste; though the stickiness of it made it perfect to combine with the sauces. The noodles on the other hand were slightly undercooked and tasteless.
Genghis Khan’s strongest point seems to be their potato and beef dishes. The portions come huge and are very affordable; we paid 160LE for five plates and some beverages. However, we were still left wondering what Mongolian cuisine truly is.
While restaurants in Cairo open in all corners of the city, there continues to be a concentration of creative, original eateries at the city’s many shopping malls. One such example is Chef’s Market, located in the new Mosaique Dining area of Heliopolis’ Citystars.
The spacious venue is split into three stylish seating areas, with bare brick walls and contemporary-chic decorations overlooking an open kitchen area. One of the brains behind the operation is Wessam Masoud, who aside from being a notable chef, is also host of Kitchen 101 on CBC.
His experience in gastronomy is reflected in the menu; complex and varied, the dishes - and the general mis-en-scene - are inspired by the bustling food markets that are a cornerstone of cooking with our Mediterranean neighbours.
The menu is concise, firmly emphasising quality over quantity, and offers salads and appetisers, along with a selection of beef, poultry and seafood dishes. Fresh juices and hot drinks are also available, along with two types of desserts – as we highly recommend the freshly squeezed tangerine juice (21LE).
The herring, shrimp and roasted beetroot salad (48LE) was fresh, flavourful and overall delicious. Served in a deep bowl, the beetroot was diced along with cuts of cucumber on a bed of lettuce. The herring was plentiful, along with three fresh shrimp, drizzled with a light lemon dressing. Though it’s rare to find dishes across Cairo’s restaurants that use beetroot with anything other than feta cheese, the sweetness of the vegetable balanced the seafood elements perfectly, maintaining both the integrity of the herring and the shrimp.
From the beef section we opted for the tenderloin steak (96LE); perfectly cooked cuts of beef that really did have a melt-in-your-mouth quality. Wrapped in strips of beef bacon and sweet caramelised onions, a remarkably well-suited lemon dressing added a dash of acidity. Served on the side was a portion of spinach and chickpeas, along with a freshly baked potato and zesty pickled tomatoes.
At the recommendation of the waiter, we also enjoyed the unusual pairing of duck breast with fereek and red pepper relish (70LE). The cuts of duck were cooked perfectly – a rarity in Cairo – and the fereek was infused with aromatic spices that made a great canvas for the red pepper relish.
After our meal we were served a complimentary dessert of heavenly custard topped with konafa crumbs, cinnamon and raisins; this signature dessert has mustered quite a reputation, with patrons coming from all over Cairo to Citystars just to enjoy it.
The idea of dining at a mall conjures up images of noisy food-courts and the location doesn’t exactly work in the restaurant’s favour. But despite this, Chef’s Market has exceeded all the expectations its ambitious team set forth on what has been a long, hard, but ultimately fruitful, road.