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Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Don Quichotte: Old Zamalek Tradition
Like Pub 28 and The Cellar, Don Quichotte is an old Zamalek restaurant considered by the area's locals to be one of the most popular eateries. A superficial glance at its exterior may compel you to wonder why it deserves all its accolades, but like The Cellar, it seems to have garnered an older crowd of faithful followers for its Mediterranean cuisine and slick bar atmosphere.
Inside, the dimly-lit restaurant comfortably fits five or six tables, with a large table next to the solitary window featuring leather booth seating. Generic slow songs play in the background, but were swiftly changed the moment the waiters caught on that we were making fun of Michael Bolton. So instead, they played Kenny G.
The restaurant’s appetisers are a nice way to awaken the palate: the grilled asparagus (around 38LE for 8 pieces) were not overcooked and lightly doused in olive oil, lemon and parmesan, while the grilled calamari (around 40LE) were bursting with a zesty flavour, emphasized by pepper and lime.
The main course of Moroccan chicken with lemon and olive oil (around 65LE) and a side of steamed white rice was simple and tasty, but unfortunately the chicken was just slightly overcooked and the lemon dressing included lemon seeds. The cheese cannelloni (50LE) was also okay, though nothing necessarily to write home about.
The crab gratin (78LE), as tempting as it sounded, ended up being more of an appetiser: three tiny crab shells are filled with crab meat in a béchamel sauce and baked with a cheese layer. Each shell was a meagre portion of barely two mouthfuls; and we resorted to filling up on the complementary toast and spicy pepper dip to feel remotely full.
At around 95LE, the shrimp bonne femme came in a spectacularly large shell, filled with a heavy, creamy sauce and loaded with cheese and butter. The sauce’s heaviness needed a side dish to balance it out a little, which was unfortunately missing.
The steak with blue cheese sauce (93LE) was a more successful dish, with a thick delicious cheese sauce and a side of well-steamed vegetables and baked potato slices. Regrettably, our order of medium-well was mistaken for rare; and the meat came quite raw and bloody. Although the waiters promptly apologised and brought it back a few minutes later; it was only slightly grilled to be medium-rare, with emphasis on the rare side.
For dessert, our party chose the tempting chocolate soufflé, which arrived 25 minutes later and was rather on the burnt side, much to our bitter disappointment. Although it did pouf the way soufflés should, and the waiter did fill its centre with hot, thick chocolate sauce, the chocolate tasted diluted and more like cocoa than actual chocolate and the end result was a rather thick and chewy soufflé that tasted strongly of eggs.
While the meal may not have been an overwhelmingly positive one, the service was fine and the drinks came cool, making this an ideal location for a post-work drink perhaps. We’ve also heard high praises for their steaks and fillets, so perhaps you should stick to that.