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Maadi, Cairo, Egypt.
Abou Shakra: Hearty Food Fare
There is nothing astounding about an Egyptian restaurant in Cairo that serves up a wealth of grills, kofta, mezzas and more. There are a few notable restaurants that rise above the rest, and Abou Shakra is one of them. Lauded in the past as a high-quality venue with traditional Egyptian cuisine, Abou Shakra is today a mid-range eatery with fairly satisfactory local cuisine. The restaurant is an excellent choice if you are craving a substantial lunch; we suggest you bring friends to share your many courses.
Start with an order of their seasonal lentil soup (6LE), which comes with a wedge of lemon to add a kick of flavour. The tehina, baba ganough and fresh salads all fall under 10LE. The tehina and baba ghanough dips are tart and creamy all at once, although you might want to give the hummus a miss; on our last visit, it had a dry and pasty texture, which was nearly impossible to manage with the fresh and steaming bread.
While the kitchen receives considerable praise for its mixed grill and kobeba, we recommend the grilled chicken (23LE). Sizzling and tender, the dish is presented with your choice of potato fries, sautéed vegetables, or rice. For something a little richer, the roast duck arrives atop a plate heaped with cardamom-seasoned rice. For 48LE, the half bird portion makes for a hearty (though pricy) entrée. Also available is a grilled turkey main dish, as well as more moderately priced chicken rolls, meat, and kofta, all in the 30LE to 60LE range.
Abou Shakra’s Maadi branch leaves little to the imagination in terms of atmosphere with its two-story location on El Lasilky Street. Large picture windows give diners a view of the street below. The décor has an air of forced grandeur, with cushions and high-backed chairs crammed onto both floors, in various shades of gold and brown upholstery. Curiously, the elevator transports diners up to the second level, but not down to the exit once you’ve finished your meal.
Another standout feature is the children’s play area, heavily decorated with Walt Disney Lion King wallpaper. The glass-enclosed play area emphasizes Abou Shakra’s position as a family eatery. While we’ve never seen the place full on a weeknight, the restaurant turns into a site for boisterous family gatherings on weekend evenings. It’s no gourmet date-night destination, though it certainly satisfies the average craving for a grilled dinner.
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.