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Mohandiseen, Cairo, Egypt.
Cortado: New Lunch Spot in Mohandiseen
Mohandiseen’s latest addition, Cortado, teases us with menu items still unavailable. The carte lists a smorgasbord of continental - mostly Spanish and Italian - classics, surf and turf, full salads, pizzas, pastas, burgers and sandwiches, but since its pre-Ramadan opening more than a month ago, Cortado’s options are limited.
Despite the initial setback, we tasted what they had to offer. For appetisers, we sampled the spring rolls (19.99LE) and the stuffed mushrooms (22.99LE), while for mains, we settled for the Philly steak sandwich (34.99LE) and the Napolitan pizza (44.99LE).
For a new dig typical of mainstream supper clubs and restaurant lounges, complete with duotone themes (in this case, Princeton orange and chocolate brown) and a cheesy fountain display, Cortado surpassed our gourmet expectations.
The spring rolls were light and crunchy, but not too oily and not too chewy. The stuffing of julienned mixed veggies was a bit faint, but the wrap held together well and came with a delectable tangy dipping sauce made from a sweet, spiced mayonnaise.
The highlight of our tour came early on with an order of stuffed mushrooms. Button mushrooms are lightly coated with a crispy, golden batter and packed with minced onion and spinach, then swathed with a blanket of real, melted Parmesan. The appetiser makes the review.
Perfect for a hungry businessman (or woman) on lunch break or on the go, the Philly steak sandwich takes a toasted sub and folds in a generous helping of beef and white cheese and is served with a glove of fries and a soupcon of Russian salad. The tender cuts of meat were well-marinated; condiments are gratuitous.
The pizza, however, could be improved. The toppings of beef ham, olives, mozzarella and marinara sauce met our standards, but the crust fell short. The perfect pizza dough is a balance of sweet and savory, golden with the occasional air pocket and a light, fluffy texture that still retains its form. Cortado’s pizza crust held but was heavy and pale, requiring a few more minutes in the oven.
What's in a name? A cortado is a coffee concoction popular in Spain and Portugal that blends a shot of espresso with tempered milk poured to its rim. So expecting a cortado or a special coffee selection, we decided to wash down our lunchtime review with a choice from its coffee bar. But much to our disappointment, no such drink exists. Instead, we went with a latte (12.95LE) and a marshmallow cappuccino (14.95LE). Both were just fine.
All in all, Cortado makes an acceptable lunch in class. And at least for now, the service is all smiles and shortcuts on quality beef and real cheese are far and few. A dinner review in a month or so is well in order.
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.