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Downtown, Cairo, Egypt.
Kazaz: Downtown Cairo’s Hub For Cheap Fast Food
It’s easy to get discouraged by cheap baladi food in Cairo, where sometimes a taameya sandwich for 2LE can be a huge, regrettable mistake. If you’re looking for a dependable baladi restaurant that delivers up Cairo’s yummiest fast food that’s also always affordable, however, then what you’re looking for is Kazaz.
Aside from offering every variety of taameya and foul that exists, Kazaz's shawerma sandwiches are Downtown’s finest. The meat is fresh and sautéed with tomatoes, onions and peppers. The sandwiches come in three sizes, the smallest of which is served in a semi-sweet, sesame seed Kaiser bun and drizzled with tehina sauce. The medium and larger sizes are served in classic, long shawerma rolls. Baladi burgers are another Kazaz classic that can hit the spot. In between a sesame seed roll, a perfectly sunny-side-up egg sits on a beef patty with cheese and all the fix-ins.
A review on Kazaz wouldn’t be complete without mentioning their terrific lentil soup. Although not quite suitable for warm weather, you might find yourself ordering it anyway; it’s just that irresistible. The lentil soup has the perfect thickness and is served with raw onion, fresh lemon and tiny pieces of crunchy, fried bread.
Conveniently located next to Ahwa Bustan and Stella Bar, many regulars pick up something quick before heading to a nearby hangout. Although Kazaz is mostly known for its fast food service, there is a seating area upstairs if you’re looking for a sit-down meal. Try the 1/4 chicken meal, which is served generously with chicken soup, rice, mixed vegetables and fresh salad. There are other Egyptian goodies and they’re all pretty delicious, including molokheya, mahshi and fresh okra in tomato sauce.
Kazaz’s take-away section stays open until the very early hours of the morning, so it’s a perfect place to satisfy a midnight craving or to hang out after a long night. Kazaz delivers in the Downtown area, so if you live in the neighbourhood; you’re in luck. They’re generally quite fast, but they definitely have their off nights.
Kazaz is living proof that delicious food in Egypt can be affordable. Foul and taameya varieties never exceed 2LE to3LE, shawermas cost between 4LE to 9LE, and lentil soup costs 4LE. Full meals, such as the 1/4 chicken meal, cost around 20LE to 25LE.
Since opening its first branch in Sheikh Zayed’s Arkan Mall, Baladina has come to foster a reputation for serving truly authentic Egyptian dishes – a reputation that is made all the more impressive when you consider the number of restaurants in Cairo that claim likewise.
The restaurant’s success has led to the opening of additional branches, including one in Maadi’s the Platform, with the most recent finding a home in Beverly Hill’s Westown Hub. The new branch replicates the restaurant’s rural Egyptian aesthetic to a tee; the waiters donning traditional galabeyas is the most striking of the eatery’s trademarks. As a venue, Baladina offers both indoor and outdoor seating as per all of the venues in Westown Hub and as soon as we were seated, we received two menus – one for food and the other for drinks, with the latter offering everything from teas and coffees, to juices, smoothies and even traditional Oriental drinks such as hibiscus, tamarind, et al.
As for the food menu, the set-up is as you’d expect – hot and cold appetisers, salads and soups are available, though the grill and tajin sections are where things get interesting – but let’s rewind.
To begin our meal, we ordered a basic vegetable soup (20LE) – we visited on a particularly chilly day – and rokak with meat (45LE). The soup was, by all intents and purposes, fine; there was nothing to be offended by, but there was absolutely nothing that would pull us to order it again – it was just a very simple, homely soup, though the portion was pleasingly large. The same can be said of the portion size of the rokak; the difference, however, was that we couldn’t enough of it. To those unfamiliar with rokak, it’s essentially a pastry, usually stuffed with minced meat and baked. Said minced meat was seasoned perfectly; it was full of flavour, though if there was one criticism – and it’s a strange one – it’s that there was too much meat and the whole thing was a bit messy to eat, subsequently.
Moving onto the mains, we ordered Circassian chicken (72LE) and a moussaka tajin (35LE), which comes with a side of rice. The former is a dish that uses walnut sauce was nothing short of delicious; the walnut sauce itself was rich and flavourful, while the strips of chicken were cooked to a perfect tenderness. We had few complaints about the mossaka, too; filled with slices of aubergine, onion and pepper, there was a enticing sweetness to the dish as a whole and, even though the onion and pepper outnumbered the aubergine, it was great when mixed with the rice.
Of the desserts, we went for a classic: Om Ali (30LE). The combination of puff pastry, milk and nuts was perfect, with the crunch of the nuts against the softened pastry adding a great textural contrast and it wasn’t blindingly sweet as can be the case among Cairo restaurants.
Washing our meal down with a glass of doum juice (20LE) – made of ginger palm root – we were full, satisfied and actually welcoming that feeling of being anchored down by your food, unable to move in any real way. Baladina’s new branch proved to be as authentic as its others and it should do well in a place like Westown Hub .