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Zooba: Refined Egyptian Sohour in Zamalek
Our sampling started with some exotic drinks including mango with rosemary (13LE) and hibiscus with lemon (10LE), which were an interesting yet pleasantly surprising treat and respite from the Cairo summer night heat. Our sampling also included a number of dishes to share. We first started off with an olive labna dip (22LE) as an appetizer, served in a sleek mason jar. Paired with the Zooba’s freshly-baked baladi bread that is stored in baskets lining the restaurant, the dip brought out the perfect combination of olive with a hint of garlic.
We also ordered traditional Egyptian dishes that, albeit their higher prices, were well worth the cost both from flavour and presentation. The classic taamia (5LE) was crispy and not greasy, which was paired with tehina and oriental salad. Egyptian staples also included beef liver (28LE) which was cooked to perfection, combined with sautéed peppers and tehina. The liver was tender and was rendered well without the typical gritty taste that sometimes accompanies liver preparations. We also ordered egg basterma (9.50LE); however, the scrambled eggs were overworked and lacked their fluffy potential. The seasoning redeemed the eggs though, with the right mix of salt and pepper paired with the basterma. Foul with basterma and tehina (8.50LE) rounded out our traditional sohour mainstays. The sandwiches were wrapped in mock Egyptian newspapers living up to Zooba’s festive setting and presentation. The homemade potato chips offered a great side with a nice crunchy note, without the oily and salty taste.
Zooba also offers bucket gift sets that we opted for as our desserts. Zooba’s Ramadan treats included rice pudding and qombela jars, a Zooba dessert box, a konafa bites jar, and zalabya (for 95 LE for a small bucket, which can also be delivered). We opted for sampling each of the desserts, artfully put into chic mason jar containers. Our sweet favourite was the rice pudding with orange zest that had the perfect consistency yet tartness from the citric notes. It was a tasty end to our sohour meal.
Is there no end to new restaurants in Cairo? Feteera opened at the beginning of March and like many of the brand new eateries which pop up out of nowhere in Zamalek, it looks to be a hip joint from the outside. However, Fateera avoids being pretentious; its walls may be adorned with indie pop art images, but its main feature is a huge stone oven at the back – which, far from being a mere gimmick, turned out to be a wonder when it comes to cooking pies.
In Egypt, feteera can translate into anything from ‘pie' or 'pancake' to 'pizza' – balady-style – so those new to the dish may be curious as to what they'll receive. Although the menu reads ‘pie’, the selection of toppings suggests pizza, and as we waited for our ‘feteera’ to arrive we were further perplexed as we watched the chef sculpt the dough into an assortment of shapes, looking suspiciously like a pancake.
On offer from Feteera’s menu are vegetarian, cheese, seafood and chicken or meat dishes, plus additional toppings which are available for between 2LE-11LE.We ordered a Chicken and Pesto Pie (52LE) and a Mushroom Roll (25LE).
When the food arrived, it was piping hot, but we were still none-the-wiser about what to call it. We can best describe it as a crispy pancake stuffed with pizza-style fillings, so the best word for this creation may indeed be: pie. The Chicken and Pesto Pie was creamy and delicious, offering a good balance of flavour with plenty of chicken to fill the 12 inch dish. The pastry was cooked beautifully and formed a light flakey casing for the chewy cheesy center. Slightly worrying were the grease stains left at the bottom of the dish and after our cutlery failed to live up to the job, using our fingers to eat the pie turned out to be messy business.
The roll was a crispy pancake wrap, such as to rival Lebanon’s manouche. It contained roasted peppers, which despite not having been specified on the menu were a warming addition to what was otherwise a very plain snack. The mushrooms were slightly undercooked and hadn’t properly infused with the other flavours and despite the encouraging chunks of garlic and olives, all were tasteless. The roll proved to be too doughy and plain, losing all its taste despite the crunchy chewy texture we bit into at first boded well.
For dessert we treated ourselves to the Mars wrap (28LE) and a Banana and Peanut Butter wrap (29LE). Feteera could have been more generous with the amount of chocolate but the peanut butter and banana combination was a triumph, if we do say so ourselves. It tasted buttery and soft, filled with just the right amount of ripe banana.
Though feteer with toppings is nothing new, this Egyptian pie house gets the thumbs up from us for bringing a traditional Egyptian dish up to date, allowing diners to fill up on an authentic dish with a modern Zamalek twist.