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Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt.
El Sit Hosneya: Ramadan Fetar at Downtown Katameya Mall, New Cairo
Katameya sticks out like a sore but state-of-the-art thumb in New Cairo, defiantly jutting out of the otherwise incomplete city-sized construction complex in all its stainless steel and polished glass glory. It's hard to believe the number of people already frequenting the mall, despite the fact that much of New Cairo remains an empty shell.
One of many clean and modern restaurants, El Sit Hosenya lies on the edge of the complex. The upside to this is the sound of trickling water from the mall's elaborate water-features, however it sits close enough to the highway that you may find your meal interrupted by the honking of the more impatient motorists passing by.
If this bothers you, move inside and sit on the same faux red-white-and-purple leather chairs in the cosy wooden interior, where sitting upstairs will give you the same nice view of the foliage, streams and fountains. Two menus are available during Ramadan, one with Stuffed Chicken at 135LE and one with Fattah at 150LE. Both include dessert.
Of the four soups, Orzo , Vegetable, Knuckles and Lentil, only the last, which was a little unseasoned, was available. However a thick chicken soup was added to the menu for variation. Along with these came Baba Ghanoug, Tehina, and a yogurt salad with cucumber and mint; the dishes looked good and tasted great with the wonderful Beladi bread, but with the exception of the yogurt all were a little over-spiced. Not a problem for those with tongues of steel, but in our case these were left unfinished.
Although the Karkade closely resembled Ribena in taste, the Vine Leaves from the Mezze menu rocked my socks. However until the second request we had no plates to eat from; being so hungry it was almost as though our food was taunting us across the table, and the resulting frustration couldn't help but taint our meal.
Nonetheless we had a magnificent main course; imposing stuffed chickens excited my taste-buds, while the Okra with meat at was an enjoyable introduction to a previously un-tasted dish. The lamb Fattah was dry but we were content to stick to the seemingly never-ending chicken with its fragrant stuffing (find the occasional raisin that explodes in your mouth) and succulent, flavoursome skin.
We had another problem with service during desert, where we asked several times for spoons and individual plates. Eventually giving up, we had to rely on the four serving spoons that came with the admittedly delicious rice-pudding between our party of ten.
Despite the pleasant setting, good presentation, and food that's well worth a try, we couldn't help but feel a little forgotten. To ask for spoons or plates so many times that you give up should never be the case in a restaurant, particularly one with prices like this; perhaps the El Sit Hosenya staff need reminding that the very best of food may as well be the very worst if you can't eat it.
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.