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Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt.
Outback Steakhouse: Aussie-Inspired Cairo Dining
Tivoli, Heliopolis’ new self-proclaimed food republic, is the newest addition to the Cairo dining scene. It’s basically one large, outdoor food court filled with international food chains surrounding a large decorative fountain. Most restaurants in Tivoli are chains that Cairo is already familiar with, including Pascucci, Cedar’s and Samurai Sushi. One chain that is new to Cairo that people seem to be flocking to is Aussie-inspired steak restaurant Outback Steakhouse.
The bloomin’ onion appetiser is an Outback original and worth all the damage it could possibly do to your waistline. It’s a large Vidalia onion cut open, breaded, fried and served ’bloomed‘ like a flower. Each of the onion’s petals is easily torn off to be dipped into their signature dipping sauce; a creamy sauce with a kick. It’s a whole new take on onion rings and a fantasy for your taste buds.
The Alice Springs chicken main course consists of two grilled chicken breasts topped with sautéed mushrooms, strips of beef bacon and melted Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese. There’s a honey mustard dipping sauce, although the chicken itself has a very juicy flavour. It’s served with your choice of sides; while the vegetables side includes nicely steamed broccoli and carrots.
The sirloin steak was flavourful and a good cut of meat; it’s definitely one of the best steaks in Cairo we’ve tasted. It wasn’t the juiciest, fattest steak ever; but is sure to satisfy a steak craving. The steak came with a well-baked potato and topped with a traditional scoop of butter, sour cream and finished off with chives.
The chocolate thunder from Down Under dessert is epic. A large pecan brownie is crowned with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream and then another scoop of what tasted like homemade whipped cream with chocolate shavings. Surrounded by warm chocolate sauce on all sides, the brownie had a generous amount of pecans and was served fresh out of the oven.
Don’t miss an opportunity to try Outback’s delicious non-alcoholic drinks. The classic mojito tastes like a limey, minty sprite, and is served with fresh mint. The pina colada was especially refreshing, being the perfect blend of crushed ice and pinapple juice. It’s a great treat for a hot summer day. Both drinks are sweet compliments to the savoury entrées.
The service was terrific. When the steak arrived, the waiter even asked us to test the steak and to see if it was cooked the way we requested. The manager also stopped by our table to ask if everything was to our liking. Appetisers average around 40LE, steaks range between 60LE to 120LE and other entrées cost around 40LE to 75LE. An appetiser, two entrées, a dessert and two of Outback’s drinks cost around 400LE.
Over the last year or so, new restaurants in Cairo have been introducing more and more exotic cuisines to the dining scene, be it Mongolian or even Peruvian with a Japanese twist, leaving classic favourites like Italian and Asian last week’s news. However, recently opened restaurant, Akli, has gone against the tide and specialises in not only one cuisine, but six, across everything from soups to desserts.
Located off Meccas Street in Dokki, Akli is divided into two zones; the ground floor, which has a exposed glass-wall baking room and shawerma station that wasn’t working at the time of our visit, is made for take-out orders, while the top floor is for dining-in. Besides the unfinished ceiling – which doesn’t seem like it will be finished because the AC duct has already been installed - the interior of the restaurant is on the classic side, with olive green, traditional panelled walls behind ruby buttoned couches. The setup of its tables is also pretty basic, but it actually has a cheerful view of a mini garden. If we were to compare it to another restaurant, Akli has the same spirit of everyone’s favourite, Bon Appetit.
Now let’s talk about the food. Our first flight was to Italy with Spicy Arancini Di Manzo (25LE). Starting from the spot-on creamy texture and the scrumptious golden brown crust, to the melted mozzarella cheese and minced beef, which was bursting with Italian herbs flavours, those four fried Italian rice balls were rather tasty.
Our second stop was at our beloved country with Sojouk (42LE). Lying on a bed of chopped parsley in true 90’s style, the grilled sausage was seasoned well, but it was a bit tough and dry. Overall, though, the appetiser seemed incomplete and needed some kind of a sauce or a dip with it.
Moving to the mains, we opted for the Greek Shrimp Saganaki (120LE). Made of perfectly cooked jumbo shrimp in tomato sauce and topped with feta cheese, the dish was a good one, but it wasn’t Saganaki. There was too little cheese to the flavour and the tomato sauce didn’t have any Greek flavours and tasted like Egyptian vegetable stew. One the other hand, the side of lemon rice added a good zesty flavour to the dish.
We also tried Adana Kebab (89LE) from the Turkish side of the menu. Two pieces of kofta laying on Lebanese bread and served with tahini dip and basmati rice topped with nuts, the dish didn’t capture anything particularly Turkish. Although the kofta was seasoned well and the rice was light and fluffy, the dish was overpriced – it’s almost exactly the same as Shawarmaister’s Kofta Halabi Platter which costs 45LE.
We finished our meal with the French Nougat Glace (27LE) for dessert; a rectangular slice of flawless vanilla ice cream filled with mini bits of pistachio and dried fruits. It was served with sour cherry syrup with a very sticky consistency, but the dessert as a whole was light and well executed.
There’s something about what Akli is trying to do that you can’t help but appreciate – but it’s not an easy job to perfect six different cuisines in one kitchen. The ambiance of the restaurant will take you back in time when you used to dine in a sporting club with the family and the food was, overall, good but there’s nothing remarkable about it.