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Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Benissimo: New Italian Restaurant in Zamalek
It seems licenses to open up a restaurant are given out for free lately by the government. Everywhere you look, new restaurant and cafes are blooming, especially in Zamalek. One of the latest venues to open is Italian eatery Benissimo. Located by Kafficho and Hardee’s, this once quiet corner of Zamalek is rapidly gaining more and more popularity and foot traffic.
Benissimo’s interior is fairly plain; modern and slick, but lacking ambiance. The walls, tables and ceiling are all the same colour and the lamps are very bright giving a slightly uncomfortable feel to the place. The menu is just as boring as the décor.
There were only four starters to choose from; two soups and two salads. Because of this very limited choice we decided to skip the appetizers and instead focus on the pizza and pasta. While browsing the menu we received complimentary bruschetta with fresh tomatoes, olives and cheese. It turned out to be very good and we are sure this would be a popular item if it were added to the appetizers on the menu.
After the tasty bruschetta, expectations were high and when we received the food we couldn’t help but dig in. The blue cheese and walnut pasta (21LE) came without the walnuts, the blue cheese sauce was surprisingly tasty and not overpowering, but the pasta was undercooked and difficult to chew.
Despite this, it fared better than the steak with mushroom sauce (48LE). The meat was of very low quality and lacked the tenderness one looks for with steak; it was tough and riddle with fat and tendons. Even just cutting the meat proved to be difficult. The mushroom sauce was way too salty while the mashed potatoes on the side were plain and overall lacked in taste.
The chicken barbeque pizza (29LE) hit the spot without being spectacular. The barbeque sauce that topped the pizza overpowered the chicken but at least it wasn’t drowned in cheese, as is the case with a lot of pizza in Cairo.
To their credit, staff members were helpful, pleasant and prompt despite our gripes. As with all new restaurants, Benissimo shows promise, but the restaurant is in esteemed company in Zamalek and will need to improve drastically to compete.
Home to some of the most unique bars and restaurants in Cairo, the Four Seasons First Residence has long been considered one of the best hotels in the city. Its latest culinary addition comes in the way of STRADA; a chic Italian restaurant that goes all out to deliver a fine dining experience.
Located on the third floor, STRADA is hidden behind a vintage wooden door, engraved with Tuscan designs. Boasting an impressive Nile view, the setting is chic, creating an undisturbed, sophisticated mood. The venue is wide and spacious, with several different seating arrangements; we were seated alongside the window at a round, modern wooden table, with refined leather chairs with patterned backsides.
Designed with an urban-Tuscan interior, the restaurant gives off a rich, deluxe ambience. While the bright yellow shade of the walls brightens up the restaurant, the massive circular centrepiece is an Italian, stained glass window, which floods the space in natural light.
The food menu offers a variety of refined Italian dishes, covering soups, risotto, pastas and pizzas, alongside a section for fish, and another for red and white meats. The wine menu was also vast, with a selection of local and imported wine included.
For our starters, the Caprese Di Bufala (80LE) was rather standard in taste, yet ideal in portion to start off a meal. Served on a round platter was six pieces of rubbery buffalo cheese, topped off with a slice of crisp tomato, some Zucchini Linguini and a dash of Parmesan.
Moving on to the main dishes, the Salmone Arrositio (170LE) – roasted salmon, coated with glazed fennel and lemon sauce, served alongside sautéed vegetables – was flawless. Maintaining the balance between being impeccably grilled and perfectly marinated, the salmon had an external thin layer of crust, whilst remaining soft and pink on the inside.
The Risotto Porcini (120LE) transpired to be a light creamy mushroom risotto with Parmesan cheese. The dish was a little on the small side, and the risotto itself seemed rather bland and undercooked. In spite of this, the creamy mushroom sauce was impressively light.
We ended our meal with a traditional Italian dessert, the Cassette Gelato (40LE). Served with two full scoops of ice cream, and mixed with ground nuts, dried fruits and chocolate, the gelato brought a refreshing end to our three-course meal.
Though as a whole dining experience, STRADA delivers what you’d expect from an international hotel chain; however, at the time of our visit, the lofty prices simply didn’t justify the food served at the time of our visit.