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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.
The Cairo dining scene is notorious for its quick embracement of food fads; the cupcake, macaroon and sushi trends are just some examples that have occured over the last few years. The latest craze swooping through the nation seems to be that of gourmet junk food with new chains popping up almost every other week.
Mince, one of the strongest contenders in that category, recently opened a second branch in Heliopolis. Needless to say, we had to check out how it compared to the original Zamalek branch.
We instantly fell in love with the simplicity and cosy feel of the venue. Taking the American diner theme and putting a modern spin on it, less tacky fixtures and furniture and an easy-on-the-eyes platinum colour scheme ensures that Mince looks the part.
The menu, which was laid down on our chosen table in the outdoor seating area within a few minutes, is anything but boring or cliché. With breakfast specials, starters, salads, burgers, hotdogs, main dishes and dessert options, Mince seemingly has it all. The burgers come in two patty sizes: 170g and 250g. A few unique, not to mention delicious-sounding, options definitely stood out including the Calamari Crispy (44LE), the Smoked Burger (38LE/50LE), featuring raspberry jam as one of its toppings , the Mexican burger (42LE/55LE), with guacamole and sour cream as toppings, and the Veggie sandwich (36LE).
Upon making up our minds, our waiter came by to jot down our order and made sure to ask about how well we wanted our patties to be cooked. Twenty minutes later, our food was laid before us asking to be devoured. The Fries (12LE), which came in an ample amount, were delightfully crisp and non-greasy.
The 170g Mozza Burger (36LE), which consisted of a beef patty topped with fried mozzarella cheese, pickles, tomatoes, onions, lettuce and Mince’s signature sauce, was, despite having so many toppings, lacking in any strong flavours. We did however, love the taste of the fried mozzarella added to an otherwise basic burger. The 170g BBQ Special burger (40LE) was, on the other hand, bursting with more flavour perhaps due to its excessive toppings of caramelized onions, bacon, BBQ sauce and American cheese. It’s worth noting, however, that the beef patties, in general, needed more seasoning and/or marination.
The service, on an ending note, was notably stellar all throughout our visit, with the waiters always being around to offer refills. The burgers, despite their undeniably good quality, seemed to lack distinctive, hard-to-forget flavours and did come in a limited portion. There's always a danger with small, local restaurants when they expand into other branches; quite often, the elements that made the original so popular are difficult to replicate. In the case of something like the burger patties, however, that shouldn't be the case; a recipe is a recipe. But at the time of our visit, they just simply didn't live up to the expections set by the Zamalek branch.