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New Cairo, Cairo, Egypt.
Chipstix: Fried Potato Snacks at Downtown Katameya Mall, New Cairo
Fast food restaurants in Cairo are aplenty, drawing in crowds of hungry customers. As a world-wide franchise, Chipstix have found success from offering various, fried fast food snacks; including their signature Chipstix skewers (10LE) – deep fried potato chips, spiralled and skewered on a stick.
In addition to their branch at Zamalek's El Gezirah Club, one of their bright orange kiosks has recently joined the ranks at New Cairo's Downtown Katameya Mall, offering shoppers carb-heavy goodies while they're on the go. Set amidst the abundance of casual eateries, with no seating, takeaway is encouraged; eating while walking around a shopping mall struck as a little impractical, whilst sloppy packaging makes it difficult to carry home, should you wish to do so.
The member of staff serving us was unfortunately quite surly and unenthusiastic, taking his time to prepare our order. Notably, the staff were kitted out with disposable gloves, though neither the grills nor the deep fat fryers looked particularly clean.
According to their paper menus, the seeds for the potatoes used in their Chipstix skewers and fries are imported from Holland, negate the oil-absorption, therefore making them less greasy than usual potatoes after frying. Also on their menu is corn on the cob (12LE), fried chicken (14LE) or beef (11LE) corn dogs, and sweet options of baked chocolate (12LE) or waffle stix (11LE). Drinks are limited to sodas (3.50LE) and water (3LE).
The Chipstix skewers come in sixteen unusual savoury flavours, including seafood, Portuguese peri-peri and Worcester sauce. We opted for a more regular salt and pepper flavour (10LE), and watched as the staff liberally sprinkled the powder mix over our potato skewer. Fried with the skin left on, the potato was well-cooked to a golden brown with a strong salt and pepper taste. Promises aside – given the cooking method – a predictable amount of oil could still be tasted.
We also ordered a portion of crispy, thin-cut Chipstix fries (8LE) and delicious, fresh corn on the cob (12LE) doused in butter. Due to the unavailability of baked chocolate, we went for a waffle stix; prepared with a thick batter, the lashing of Nutella created a tasty, but unremarkable, sweet treat.
If you're really hungry and need a quick, cheap snack, Chipstix offers an interesting, but unexceptional, twist on usual fried potato products.
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.