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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.
When we think of comfort food, our minds usually go to a place where pastas, pizzas and burgers rule – which might explain why we have endless burger joints and Italian restaurants in Cairo. Caruso’s American Cafe fuses those two things – burgers and pizza. It’s an idea that could be a solution to world peace, but sadly it was “nightmare dressed like a daydream.”
Newly open at Galleria Moon Valley in Heliopolis, Caruso’s is divided into two areas; the indoor space is pretty small and feels like a kitchen with wooden units hung on the wall. Besides the seemingly out of place French windows used in the facade of the cafe, the outdoor area didn’t have anything special to it – just a simple generic seating arrangement.
We started our meal with Chilli Cheese Fries (30LE) as an appetiser, but only because the rest of the appetisers weren’t available at the time of our visit. The fries were cooked-well, but the cheddar cheese didn’t melt enough and the Texas chilli wasn’t really Texas chilli, as it had red beans in it – Texas chilli is all about the beef and spices. This was just the beginning of what was a pretty disastrous meal.
We then ordered the Bacon Cheese Pizza Burger (65LE); served with fries and coleslaw, it’s made up of a beef patty topped with lettuce, tomato, bacon, a slice of cheese and a little bit too much of their special sauce – which had a strong mayo flavour – all filled between two mini pizzas. The concept of mini pizzas as a bun is great, but the dough was thick and chewy and the pizza sauce didn’t work at all with the ‘special sauce’. The beef patty on its own, meanwhile, didn’t have any remarkable flavours and was slightly overcooked. You can’t eat it without making a mess and it dishonoured the great legacies of the pizza and the burger.
We also tried the Skyline Hot Dog (43LE), which is topped with chilli, an unnoticeable amount of shredded cheddar cheese, diced onions, peppers and tomatoes. Suffering the same problems as the chilli cheese fries, the spices in the chilli were overwhelming and the cheese didn’t melt, making us wonder what was so special as to make it the signature hotdog, as mentioned in the menu.
Sadly, we had higher expectations for Caruso’s rather un-American Cafe, but the service was poor, the digital tablet menu was very slow (what’s wrong with printed menus?) and a lot of items were unavailable, including all desserts. The pizza burger might have worked as a publicity stunt, but the biggest problem is the confused identity; the food may seem American on paper, but it certainly isn’t American in flavour.