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Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt.
Chinese Lounge: Eat Well & Pay Less in Heliopolis
Offering food at a budget, it seems that the Karvin Hotel in Heliopolis is rapidly becoming a neighbourhood favourite. We were pleasantly surprised to discover Massala, one of the best Indian restaurants in town, and now their latest addition is the Chinese Lounge located on the ground floor.
The décor is nothing to write home about and looks like your average Chinese restaurant with fans on the wall and a lot of red accents. They have a long banquette on one side of the wall with an ample number of tables. We were initially a bit put off by a fried fast food smell coming out of the kitchen, but the aromas of a glass of wine (25LE) and a beer (15LE) helped us move past this.
We started with the hot and sour soup (18.50LE), which was overly spicy to the point where it completely lacked the sour element. By the end of the ordeal, we found ourselves immediately reaching for tissues to blow our nose and wipe the tears away. The fried potato with garlic sauce (14LE) on the other hand was delicious. The potatoes were fried in little balls and the garlic added an enjoyable, aromatic zest. The beef with ginger and garlic sauce (35LE) was also very pleasant, with the ginger and garlic complementing each other well without either overpowering the other. The beef tasted like it came from a good cut and it fried to a perfect outer crisp. The mixed vegetables (10LE) we got on the side were a bit unexciting but contributed to our daily vitamin intake. There are plenty of rice options but we just settled for the fried rice with egg (26LE) to allow the more hearty dishes to shine. Served with plenty of egg, the dish was too oily and it made it difficult for the garlic and ginger sauce from the beef dish to stick to the rice.
As seems to be the norm with the majority of restaurants in Cairo, the dishes at Chinese Lounge come in huge portions, and so you should keep this in mind if you’re planning a full-on three-course meal.
Overall, the food is commendable, the staff are polite and aren’t over attentive. The best thing at Chinese Lounge, however, is the prices. We ended up paying 260LE for a lot of food and drinks between three persons, which for this city is very reasonable.
The shop itself is incredibly petite, though the kitchen manages to accommodate what seems like an army of stone-faced, ninja-speed chefs. The remaining space allows no more than three hungry patrons to line up in single-file with queues inevitably spilling out onto the street, where a few tables and chairs are neatly organised.
Beef, chicken, smoked duck, prawn and tofu cover the meat options, while everything from cashews and crushed peanuts to broccoli, pineapple and bamboo shoots are available for you to lace into your design, which is then polished off with a sauce – free of charge.
This is not strictly Chinese though. A serving made of jasmine rice (26LE), tofu (15LE), peppers (3LE) and pattaya sauce (Thai green curry sauce) made for a spicy curry delight, although it all felt a bit heavy and dry. The fresh peppers remedied that to an extent, but the tofu was cut up in such small segments that it slowly vanished into the rice with every stir. The lack of sauce and the subsequent extensive stirring to utilise said lacking sauce eventually turned the rice into a dry pulp. It’s a shame because it was ringing with flavour.
This wasn’t a problem for the udon noodles (31LE), which when matched up with beef (8LE), broccoli (3LE), fried onion (2LE) and soho sauce (toasted sesame sauce) went down a treat. The disappointment of the absent cashew nuts and the fact that most of the broccoli came in the form of one large stalk were only further compounded by an excessive amount of the otherwise fragrant toasted sesame sauce.
The cleverly assembled boxes that the food is served in are pretty robust and are designed as to not allow any sort of leakage. Those who aren’t versed in the art of chopsticks are spared the indignity of stain-on-shirt-embarrassment and provided with adequate plastic cutlery.
We have recurring dreams about the ginger and garlic beef