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Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Ali Baba: Döner Kebab Now in Zamalek
Maybe it was because we were really looking forward to the opening. Maybe it was because our previous döner experience at Adam’s & Blend was so good. Maybe it was because all the previews looked so delicious. Either way, we skipped along to Ali Baba with high hopes.
Recently opened on Taha Hussein Street next to Munch & Bagel, Ali Baba comes from the same folks behind Top Dawgs. It seems like these youngsters are rapidly taking over the Egyptian fast food market.
A relatively small venue, Ali Baba works on a take away basis; there is no seating, just a pick-up counter for orders. The kitchen is visible so there’s no room for skepticism since you can keep a close eye on the food’s preparation.
The menu isn’t very diverse: there is either Döner Kebab (19LE) or Durum Kebab (16LE). For 10LE extra you can convert your single sandwich into a combo with fries and a soft drink.
We started off with the Döner Kebab, which came in thick bread with lots of lettuce, tomatoes and sauce. There was also tehina in the mix, and that added to an overall dryness which made it difficult to eat without excessively chewing. It’s a pity because the meat on its own tasted very good.
Coming in a wrap, the Durum Kebab fared better. The best thing to do here is design your own and we suggest eating it with tzatziki or garlic sauce, as it makes for a delcious combination with the meat. Add some harissa to the mix as well if you like your food spicy. The fries were good but could’ve used some more salt and they tend to get soggy after a little while in their packaging.
The staff at Ali Baba are very nice, however communication was a bit difficult due to the huge window. We understand the kitchen has to be closed off from the street to secure hygiene but it does make it difficult to order. You basically have to scream at the window in order for the staff to hear you and vice-versa.
Having said all that, the meat itself is very tasty where we found ourselves picking it out of the bread to enjoy it on its own. For that alone, we foresee many more visits to Ali Baba.
With Mcdonald’s and Pizza Hut pretty much monopolising Dokki’s Messaha Square – just look at the always empty Papa John’s – it’s always a surprise when something new opens there. However, that didn’t stop Wienerwald from opening a new branch next to the ill-fated Papa John’s.
With the apple-green ceiling, wood floor, random cartoonish chicken silhouettes, the interior of Wienerwald pretty much follows the same colour scheme of the international branches. There are very limited number of tables and chairs, though.
Wienerwald’s menu is all about different variations of chicken, salads, sides and a lonely hot dog item. After checking the menu, we opted for Half Rotisserie Chicken Meal (50LE), Schnitzel (47LE) and Backhendl (36LE).
Served with perfectly cooked French fries, the rotisserie chicken had a beautiful golden brown crispy skin, exquisite seasoning with a unique smoky flavour to it and was all-round tender – plus, it didn’t have the bad poultry odour you usually find with roasted chicken. Despite a second side of bland rice, it was a flavourful and affordable meal served in a generous portion.
Moving to the Schnitzel, the German classic dish was served with a mini bowl of unremarkable coleslaw and a cold mashed potato that was otherwise very creamy and tasty. As for the schnitzel itself, it was breaded perfectly and had a perfect crust and the chicken very tender, but it wasn’t as thin as schnitzel should be, though a simple squeeze of lemon on top added a great zesty flavour.
Meanwhile, the Backhendl was rather disappointing. Coming with French fries, coleslaw,and 3 pieces of fried breaded chicken – a traditional Austrian dish – was, unlike the previous dishes, very dry, lacked seasoning which and tasted bland, while the crust was super oily.
We finished our meal with a German Apfelstrudel (19LE). The pastry is stuffed with an apple-cinnamon mixture, topped with powdered sugar and a drizzle of chocolate sauce. Though it sounds great on paper, it turned out to be another disappointment. Even though the pastry had perfect layers it was very tough and while the apple had a spot-on tender consistency, the cinnamon flavour was far too strong – we felt like we were being tricked into taking the cinnamon challenge.
All in all, our visit at Wienerwald had its ups and downs. For a fast food chain, their food is clean and feels homemade. At the time of our visit, though, we experience the classic fast food problem: inconsistency. Some items were great and others had their flaws – a few too many.