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Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Cairo Kitchen: The Ramadan Edition
Ramadan is in full swing and we’re seeing a lot of our favourite spots swiftly adapting to the holy month by offering exclusive fetar menus sure to satisfy your pressing hunger. With rumbling stomachs in tow we made our way over to Zamalek’s Cairo Kitchen to check out what their special menu had to offer.
The balady-chic restaurant offers a set menu (110LE) depending on the day. Check out their blog for a full list of their daily dishes. Visiting on the third day of Ramadan, our fetar consisted of lentil soup, a mixed salad plate, a choice of either well-being koshary, okra with beef or fireek with chicken liver, as well as the daily serving of sambousak, dolma (rice-stuffed vegetables) and kobeiba.
Arriving just as the sun finally set, the place was already bustling with hungry Cairenes. We were quickly seated, where our soup and starters arriving promptly after. The lentil soup was light but it lacked a bit of flavour and needed salt and pepper, as well as some cumin. The salad plate was a bit of a disappointment seeing as so much was missing, such as the beetroot, green beans and spinach tehina, which were promised on the menu. The green salad wasn’t very fresh with cucumbers that were a bit soggy, but the labna was refreshing and the couscous with khalta (almonds and raisins) was flavourful. The spicy potatoes were also enjoyable though a little heavy on the garlic.
The side dish that is served daily had pepper and aubergine dolma, where the former was perfectly moist and tasty but the latter was a bit tough to chew. The cheese sambousak finger was crunchy and soft in all the right places, while the spinach sambousak triangle was equally enjoyable with a well-seasoned filling. The kobeiba was especially good; it had a superb crunch to its outer layer as well as a lovely hint of cinnamon.
The staff were most attentive and very efficient; constantly moving around from table to table, they made sure nothing was left to desire. Bringing us karkadeh before our main course was served, the juice was absolutely delicious with a satisfying tang and a perfectly subtle hint of sweetness.
The well-being koshary was well cooked but we found it to be lacking in punch and needed to add a considerable amount of da’a, the traditional garlic, lemon and vinegar dressing. The okra came with a generous piece of meat and was served with white rice. With a slight hint of lemon, the dish was satisfying and the meat tender, with a melt in your mouth quality.
Towards the end of the meal, milk with dates was passed around to whoever craved the sugar and there was also a dessert counter with konafa, basbousa, meshmesheya and vermicelli pudding. The sweets were pretty basic, indifferent to most you'd find in Cairo, except for the vermicelli, which definitely got our vote.
The atmosphere at Cairo Kitchen for fetar is very warm and welcoming. The service is top notch and the food was delivered to tables in ideal time. So if you’re the type that likes to eat a lot for fetar and feel like going somewhere different, then Cairo Kitchen should be on your list of stops.
With plenty of new restaurants opening as fast as lightning and raising the bar for fine dining in Cairo, the interest in fast food venues is waning – even burger and pizza places are putting more focus on being gourmet. But, located on Zamalek’s busy 26th of July Street, roasted chicken specialist, Chick Shack, proves that the fast food concept is still popular in Cairo.
Not to be confused in any way with popular American chain, Shake Shack, the eatery’s name attracted some negative attention, but it all played into its publicity. The name is where the similarities end, though; Chick Shack stands out with a unique interior and playful vibe of its own. Some of its standout features include its ringed chandelier, an interesting choice of cold colours and a wall made of A-Treat soda boxes, not to mention the quirky staff uniforms made-up of buttoned-to-the-top shirts, grey trousers, suspenders and hats that Michael Jackson would have been proud of.
The menu is quite simple, with roasted chicken as the main attraction, though other items include Lasagna (34LE), Potato Wedges (8LE), or Tropical Salad (18LE) and can work as side dishes.
We started our meal with Shack Salad (28.50LE) as an appetiser, and as our mains, we went with Half Chicken Meal (55LE) and Chicken Cannelloni (27LE).
A mixture of grilled chicken, green apple cubes, corn, bell pepper, pomegranate and mayo dressing, the Shack Salad was an interesting concoction. We loved the tart taste from the green apple which worked well with the pomegranate and the sweet-corn, but the chicken itself was overcooked and very tough.
Now, let's move to what we actually came for: roasted chicken. Served with sautéed vegetables which had a remarkable garlicky flavour and possibly the best spicy basmati rice, which was cooked to perfection and bursting with Mexican spices, the roasted chicken was well-marinated and had a zesty flavour which popped in every single bite. However, the chicken itself was a little bit undercooked but definitely not raw, and even though it was very tasty, the skin wasn’t as crispy as we would've hoped.
We were worried about the ready-to-serve Chicken Cannelloni, but it was surprisingly tasty. Stuffed with chicken and peppers which had flavours similar to fajitas, the cannelloni was well-cooked and had a generous amount of cream parmesan cheese sauce. Sloppy presentation aside, the cannelloni made for a great vehicle for the chicken.
Overall, there was little to complain about at Chick Shack. The venue stands out as one of the healthier fast food places in Cairo; one that also boasts fantastic service, great staff and a friendly atmosphere. The only downside is that there are no desserts to speak of – but with the concept built on a ready-to-serve approach, maybe a soft serve ice cream machine would be a perfect fit. But that’s just us.