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Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Lessa Faker: Elegant Egyptian Restaurant in Zamalek
A smart waiter, dressed in a charming waistcoat with beaded detailing, brought over the red leather menus, made to impersonate thick vintage books. Along with traditional mezzas, the restaurant boasts an interesting mix of meats and main dishes including grilled and stuffed pigeon (80LE/85LE), molokheya with roasted rabbit (63LE) and orzo casserole (56LE).
They offer a small but ample selection of hot and cold drinks including fresh juices (27LE), hot, fresh ginger (20LE) and cinnamon (13LE). We went for a fresh lemon juice (25LE) which turned out to be a bit heavy, tasting strongly of bitter lemon which we requested to be watered down.
Not feeling too adventurous food-wise, we stuck to what we knew. For starters, we ordered a selection of nibbles; hummus (19LE), balady sausages (39LE) and a mixture of meat and cheese sambousak (40LE). To follow, we decided on one fattoush salad (26LE) and the waiter recommended shish tawouk (55LE) – even though this doesn't appear on the menu – with a side of rice (20LE).
A basket of the best tasting, warm, fluffy, fresh, white and brown balady bread was brought to our table, which went exceedingly well with the smooth, deliciously creamy hummus. The sambousak were fried to a golden brown; both the meat and cheese were rich in flavour, although the cheese and herb mixture was a little oily.
Unfortunately not all the starters were brought out at the same time; the sausages arrived at around the same time as our mains but were most certainly worth the wait. The small sausages were marinated in a full-bodied tomato, onion, green and red pepper sauce.
Despite being overloaded with herbs, the fattoush was pleasant; fresh and crunchy with a powerful, delectable vinaigrette. The shish tawouk was a little on the dry side, but had an agreeable, herby aftertaste. To top it all off, the rice was yummy and not in the slightest bit stodgy.
Throughout the meal, the waiters attentively hovered nearby, re-filling our water glasses before we had time to reach for the bottle (17LE).
Lessa Faker sits well amongst the other esteemed restaurants on the Blue Nile Boat and although the food might not be impeccable, it provides a romantic, intimate setting with fabulous Nile views and an excellent dining experience that you're not likely to forget.
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.