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Nasr City, Cairo, Egypt.
Gandofli: Reasonably-Priced Seafood Specialist in Nasr City
The restaurant in Nasr City is much smaller in comparison to the Maadi brancg. Although the space is made up of two floors, where the lower one is more spacious, the upper floor – more conducive to an intimate group dinner – was out of bounds at the time of our visit, as they didn’t have enough staff to cover both floors. So taking a seat downstairs by a window, we noticed the décor was still heavily drowned in Christmas and New Year decorations, though beneath them we could detect earthy colours and TVs playing foreign films. Thankfully, the tables were not covered with linoleum – a nice change from Cairo's other seafood restaurants.
From the appetisers, we settled on the seafood soup (29LE) – a perfect test for any seafood eatery. Although prepared with a generous amount of shrimp and crab, the broth itself was little on the bland side.
An order of mixed grills (54LE) comes with filet of fish , small shrimp, calamari, fresh clams and fish cakes made with rice and shrimps. The filet stood out most among what was an uninspiring cocktail of starters. The salads at Gandofli are especially recommended; from the basic tehina and tomato salads (6LE), to the herring and peppers salad (7LE).
T the time of our visit, a fridge displayed a limited choice of fish and shrimps, where only the sole (125LE/kilo) tempted us with its dark skin and pure white meat. We requested that the sole be pan-fried and, once again, the kitchen didn't leave us disappointing. The flaky, soft meat was full of taste and the crispy skin added a perfect textural balance.
We also tried the oven-baked shrimp (160LE/kilo) which is prepared with tomatoes and green pepper sauce; by far the best dish, the shrimp was cooked perfectly and soaked up the juices from the tomatoes to maintain a perfect texture and moistness. Even if you finish the shrimp, you can lather up the sauce in bread or add it to some extra rice – it’s that good.
For two people, we ended up paying about 200LE, which isn’t bad compared to the bloated prices of seafood in Cairo. However, we found the service to be slow and carried out with a sense of boredom – am attitude that left us feeling a little uncomfortable. But if you can overlook this hiccup, Gandofli is a safe bet for any seafood cravings.
If you’re familiar with the Egyptian dining scene, you’ll know that sustainability is not really our strong point – quality is hit and miss, and sometimes even restaurants that have solid reputations and have been around for ages can disappoint. Case in point: if you’re a regular Gouna dinner, you may find yourself disappointed with what’s offered these days. However, we were pleasantly surprised – and relieved – to discover that the Smokery at El Gouna Yacht Club lives up to its billing.
Located towards the far end of Abu Tig Marina (on the opposite side of the new Marina to Mori Sushi, et al), the Smokery is situated right next to the marina’s lighthouse, so of course we chose to sit outdoors and admire the view despite the sweltering August heat. Craving something cold and salty, we completely bypassed their mise-en-bouche selection (35LE to 250LE) of cheese bites and fried seafood nibbles, and we went straight for their Salmon Fiesta; a selection of salmon bites including chunks of raw salmon steak, smoked salmon wraps and salmon sushi wrapped in seaweed. By the time we’d finished this generous dish and the tasty smoked fish dip they’d brought along with breadsticks, we all stared at each other in dismay. We were full. And we hadn’t even got to the main course yet.
Ignoring our stomachs and better judgement, we continued forth, and not ones to break with tradition, we ordered more salmon mains: the grilled salmon steak served with veggie nicoise and basil (around 140LE), the salmon carpaccio (85LE) and, for a change, the shrimp tempura. By this point, we were honestly frothing at the mouth from overeating, but you could hardly blame us: the salmon was so delicious and astoundingly fresh, we realised that all the other salmons we’d ever had now paled in comparison. If anything, we found that we could happily eat the Smokery salmon raw or smoked, with barely any garnish or side dishes necessarily.
Not ones to give up easily or wisely, we ordered the chocolate soufflé for dessert, which we spooned – groaning at the effort – into our tired mouths. Despite the suffocating heat, the hot chocolate was a welcome change to the salmon, although the portion could have been better. Yes, despite eating ourselves sick, the chocolate could have been bigger.
With impeccable, attentive service and a lovely outdoor setting, the Smokery makes for a quiet, classy dining destination in Gouna when you don’t want to have the DJ music and Friday night festival bands hammering into your ears. For four appetisers, two mains, one dessert and two glasses of wine, the bill totalled around 900LE; not exactly cheap but nonetheless a quality and refreshing dining experience in Gouna.