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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.
Over the last few years, Lebanese cuisine has continued to take over Cairo’s dining scene at a rapid rate, owing to Egyptian’s love of regional variations of Oriental food. Unfortunately, there’s little outside of that and the standard western cuisines that are rife. That’s why we were immediately taken aback by Yerevan - an Armenian restaurant.
Located on the ground floor in phase two of Heliopolis shopping mall, Citystars, the venue has a simple and casual elegance with neutral colours melding in with dark woods and touches of colour that do a good job from taking you away from the hustle of the mall. Going into the restaurant, we noticed the wood oven where all their bread and pastries are baked.
After going through the menu, we realised that, although Armenian cuisine is similar Lebanese, every dish had a significant twist to it. Despite every Armenian word on the menu being translated, we still had to turn to the helpful staff for guidance. From the appetisers we opted for the Armenian Vine Leaves (35LE), the Armenian Makanek (43LE) and the Mix Mouajanat (40LE).
We were first served some complimentary delicious Baba Ghanoug dip with steaming freshly baked bread. The appetisers then followed shortly after, starting with the cold vine leaves, which were moist and topped with some pomegranate seeds, giving them a sweet taste. Smothered in a perfect sweet pomegranate sauce, the Armenian Maknek, meanwhile, was outstanding and was complimented perfectly by the warm bread. The Mix Moujanat was an array of minced meat kebbeh and pastries including cheese puffs, Pastrami Cheese rolls and Armenian Hats.
Said pastries were all made of fresh tasty dough and a cheesy filling with the Armenian Hats standing out thanks to a stuffing mixture of cheese, olives, onions and spicy sauce topped with yet more pomegranate seeds.
We also tried the Mixed Shawerma (55LE), Mante (70LE) and Fishne Kufte (87LE). The friendly waiters promptly brought the mains after we were done with the appetisers. The Shawerma Plate came as four small sandwiches stuffed with chicken, beef, cheese and soujouk served with French fries and mouth-watering tomeya. The stuffing of the sandwiches was succulent which made up for the dry and slightly burnt bread.
The Mante, a traditional Armenian dish, came as small pastry shells stuffed with minced meat, drenched in tomato garlic sauce and topped with yoghurt. The sauce and the minced meat stuffing were very well seasoned, though the shells themselves were slightly dry and chewy. The Kufte plate featured four pieces of round kofta meat on a bead of crunchy bread bits with Fishne sauce – an Armenian yoghurt sumac sauce – but unfortunately, the over-cooked kofta pieces brought the dish down.
However, the appetisers were markedly better than the mains and the portions of the former are relatively small. All in all, though, Yerevan’s – and Armenian cuisine’s – middle ground of providing discerning Cairene diners familiar dishes with unfamiliar twists suggests that the restaurant should do well and is a unique edition to Citystars.