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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.
Many has waxed lyrical about Shakespeare and Co. in Dubai and when news broke that it was to open in Egypt, those same people waited with bated breath – such excitement at the prospect of a restaurant even had us wondering what all the fuss was.
As the first venue to open in Sheikh Zayed’s Capital Business Park, the restaurant boasts a spacey indoor area, offering smoking and non-smoking sections, and a large cluster of tables and chairs for outdoor seating, as well as a kids’ corner.
As for the décor, well your eyes won’t get bored anytime soon. Sporting a classic Victorian look with the modern lick here and there, the design is a feast for the eyes, with looks like an endless amount of lighting fixtures and chandeliers brightening up the many different furnishings – it’s a pleasing mishmash of materials, patterns, colours and shape, though the wood-panelled ceilings is particularly novel, featuring frames and paintings of old European royalty.
Now onto the meaty stuff – firstly, the service was spot on, though the restaurant, at the time of our visit, wasn’t exactly busy; only one other group was present. Not unlike the décor, Shakespeare and Co’s menu is busy and detailed, with a special Lebanese section on offer.
Of the many appetizers, we settled on crispy calamari (39LE), while for mains, we went for a classic Cordon Bleu (80LE) and a beef tenderloin steak (130LE).
After taking our order, our water arrived promptly with a big bread basket with four different types of bread, all of which were noticeably fresh, and delicious herb and garlic butter – a perfect opening to the meal.
Our appetiser, crispy calamari (39LE), arrived soon after with lemon segments and tartar sauce. The calamari itself was under-seasoned and slightly overcooked, giving a slight pull to the bite. But with a sprinkle of salt and pepper, a dash of lemon and dip into the tartar sauce, the different elements came together perfectly to make the dish the highlight of the meal.
The mains didn’t fare as well. Firstly, main dish portions are comparatively small. A beef tenderloin steak (130LE) was ordered it well done, but it came well, well, well done and had an overly charred flavour to it. The dish came with a side of potato gratin which was under-seasoned to the point of being flat in, and largely devoid of, flavour. Peculiarly, the dish also came with a garnish of wasabi – not wasabi garlic sauce, but just wasabi.
We were compelled to order the Cordon Bleu (80LE) after seeing it – and staring at it for a good ten minutes – on the Shakespeare and Co’s Facebook page. What we saw in that photo and what arrived at our table were to very different things, however. Firstly, what was meant to be a side of sautéed vegetables transpired to be one stick of broccoli, one stick of asparagus and a splattering of diced courgette – that was it. The dish also comes with a side of potato cubes and bacon bits that disappointed, too; the potato cubes lacked a desperately needed outer crunch and didn’t stand up to the flavour of the beef bacon. The main element of the dish, the chicken, was even more disappointing; the first cut into the chicken produced a river of oil and one slice of mushroom inside – no cheese as is customary – while the breaded exterior lacked crunch.
To wash it all down, we tried Shakespeare and Co’s pink lemonade (25LE) which is made at the restaurant by adding pomegranate juice and rose water – it was a resounding success, though a little heavy-handed with the rose water. For dessert, meanwhile, we went for a French classic – profiteroles (40LE). Served as three large pieces, each with ice cream sandwiched between each two halves and drizzled with chocolate sauce, tasted noticeably un-fresh, particularly the choux dough.
And so for all the hype and reputation that carried Shakespeare and Co to Cairo at the end of last year, a string of missteps throughout our meal left us disappointed and feeling that the extravagance of the décor and design was hollow.