Sign in using your account with
Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Donermania: Donating Discreet Deliciousness
This is not your friendly neighbourhood shawerma stand. A Doner kabab may look like a Levantine meat sandwich, but take one bite and you’ll taste the difference. Your garden variety shawerma consists of layers of beef or chicken slices, which is vertically roasted and shaved off with a machete.
However, Donermania grinds the beef on site, mixes in their unique spice mix, shapes it on the spit and roasts it vertically. The technique is not what changes the name; it’s the flavour. And judging by flavour alone, Donermania delivers. Oh, and they do actually deliver– they offer home delivery to Zamalek, Giza, Mohandiseen, Downtown and Dokki.
But one visit is not enough, and Donermania has a quality not unlike illegal substances– it’s insanely addictive. Other than the doner kabab sandwiches, they also have a divine shish tawouk sandwich, marinated in yoghurt and grilled to order. Wrapped snugly in thin bread, the nuggets of succulent chicken send one message to your brain: take another bite. Yes, it’s that good, folks.
It doesn’t stop there; like any self-respecting fast-food emporium, Donermania has French fries on the menu, but these potatoes are lifted to gustatory greatness by the seasoning added to the potatoes.
There are a few caveats: there really is no seating area to speak of, since there is only a single table set out in the alleyway, and a narrow bar in front of the kitchen area. Then again, you’re not meant to languish there long– get your sandwich, get your fill, and get out. It’s fast fast food.
Thankfully, the afterglow is one of delighted contentedness, and not one of a regretfully bloated constitution. Fans of frugality will be happy to learn that a full combo meal can set you back no more than 20LE– just add 5LE to your sandwich order to make it a combo.
The only thing that prevents this from being the perfect work lunch is the powerful garlic and red onion flavour of the sauces and garnishes added to your sandwich. However, Al Green said it best: ‘If it’s wrong/ Then I don’t want to be right.’ Spend the extra money saved on a box of breath mints, and tuck in greedily.
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.