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Sheikh Zayed, Cairo, Egypt.
Al Dayaa: Contemporary Lebanese Restaurant in Sheikh Zayed
With the hustle and bustle of Cairo life, we often find ourselves venturing out to the less-crowded areas in search of new additions to the Cairo restaurant scene. Lying in the heart of Sheikh Zayed, Al Dayaa serves up Lebanese dishes to satisfy Manakesh cravers and Halloumi lovers alike.
The restaurant boasts both an indoor area and spacious outdoor courtyard, complete with a central fountain. Despite the largely traditional décor, a twist of colour and wooden features interweave to create a more modern feel. And of course, it wouldn't be Lebanese without Fayrouz songs playing in the background or Fayrouz pictures on the walls.
Our menus were quickly delivered, alongside a basket of warm bread to nibble on. The food options are fully-stacked, from traditional Lebanese dishes such as taboula (20LE) and fattoush (20LE) to more unusual items including mint pies (23LE) and crab salad (27LE). We opted for a basic, slightly spicy eggplant salad (19LE), creamy hummus with meat (27LE) and thick, velvety Labenah Maka'zala (22 LE) drizzled with an olive oil and thyme dressing.
Our main course of grilled quail (60LE) was a smashing success; the meat was deliciously juicy and perfectly marinated, infused with an authentic, fresh flavour of thyme, lemon, olive oil and a dash of garlic.
Soon after we'd finished, the waiter brought over a big tray, carrying one of every dessert item from the menu. On the understanding that this was a complimentary gesture, we picked the Halwa Jubna dessert (30LE) which was exquisite; without being sickly, the cheese dessert was soft and spongey from the outside, but creamy from the inside.
Unfortunately, once the bill arrived, it was evident that we had been misled into thinking the dessert – which we never actually ordered in the first place – was free. After debating with the manager for a whole thirty minutes, we almost regretted over-stuffing ourselves.
Al Dayaa is yet another eatery that relishes in the culinary delights of Lebanese cuisine and serves both unique and traditional dishes in a colourful, contemporary setting.
There’s a general rule on the Cairo restaurant scene that suggests when a restaurant opens a second branch, it affects the overall quality of the original, so we were rather worried when we paid the new branch of Hayda a visit.
Recently opened at Galleria Moon Valley Mall in New Cairo, the interior uses the same famous chairs, pink and turquoise colour scheme, posters of Lebanese stars on the walls, and white Islamic patterns, but on a smaller scale. The venue has two separated indoor areas; the first one has only four tables and a linear table-set-up that looks like an open buffet, while the second is more spacious and has a lot more seats.
We kicked things off with Sambosek Spinach (35LE); four pieces of triangular pastry filled with spinach and walnuts. The pastry had a great crispy crust and a soft interior and the spinach was perfectly seasoned and had a terrific zesty kick to it, while the walnuts added a great crunchy component.
Moving to the mains, we opted first for the Kofta Azmeer (80LE), which came as three pieces of grilled meatballs stuffed with mushrooms and served in a huge bowl filled with tomato sauce and then sprinkled with parsley and cheese. Despite its appeal, the dish was just very disappointing. Served with rice topped with a scarce amount of toasted nuts, the meatballs themselves were very dry, the mushroom centre was very similar to the canned variety and was completely untreated which made the meatballs feel tougher and drier. Meanwhile, there was far too much tomato sauce, which was bland, while the cheese didn’t really add anything.
On the other hand, the Sausage Fatteh (65LE) was considerably better, though not perfect. The sausage itself was seasoned well and had a great texture and the rice was cooked perfectly; but the bread at the bottom was a bit soggy and the fatteh was topped with tahini not yogurt sauce as promised on the menu. Overall though, it was pretty good.
We finished our meal with Konafah Naboulsy (50LE) with Nutella and Bananas. It wasn’t our first time to try Hayda’s outstanding Konafah Naboulsy and thankfully it had the same crispy crunch, the same stretchy cheese and the same spot-on sweetness, but with the addition of the Nutella, which made for a good match with the fruity, fresh bananas. But although those two ingredients worked together, we felt it was a bit too much with the cheese. These kinds of desserts are usually a hit with diners, but it wasn;t exactly the most innovative of combinations – the chocolate, banana and cheese just never came together as a trio.
This summed up our visit at Hayda’s new branch perfectly – it had its ups and downs. We loved the service and the cosy ambiance, but it’s definitely not as striking as the Nile-side Giza branch and, at the time of our visit, there were several issues with the food.