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Mohandiseen, Cairo, Egypt.
Porta D'oro: Disappointing Italian Restaurant in Mohandiseen
Italian cuisine is among the most popular amongst restaurants in Cairo. Unfortunately, it's also one of the most poorly executed in terms of authenticity, so in our trek for that authentic cuisine, we stumbled upon Porta D'oro.
The wooden façade and bright green artificial plants induce a feeling of serenity. The lighting is subtle and most of the interior is decorated in wood. The downside of the interior isthe large collection of cheap-looking, mass-produced paintings hung along on the walls.
We were greeted by a friendly waiter who showed us to our seats, but also by shockingly loud music, blaring across the restaurant.
The covers a range of different dishes, offering soup, pasta, risotto, beef and chicken dishes and, of course, pizza. We started with a chicken cream Soup (15.95LE) which wasn't as thick as one would expect; in addition, the chicken pieces were sparse. We also tried a tomato soup (15.95LE) which was perfect in texture but average in flavour.
Next, we opted for a seafood risotto (49.95LE) which, sadly, was the possibly one of the worst we've had on our travels; it was literally uncooked rice covered in broth. In addition, the seafood was stale, leaving the whole dish completely and absolutely unappetising.
Hoping for better luck, we also ordered the Steak in Blue Cheese (74.95LE). Cooked exactly as ordered, the sauce was exceptional; the cream took some of the sting out of the blue cheese while preserving its rich taste. The second main course was a Cordon Bleu (64.95LE). The chicken breasts were tender and generous in size, but sadly, the cheese wasn't. In fact, there was so little cheese that all that remained after cooking was grease. The sides were French fries and sautéed vegetables which were served with it were bland at best.
From the dessert menu, we opted for Tiramisu (20LE). Possibly the best dish of the meal, the mascarpone cheese was light and the ladyfinger biscuits were soaked in just enough coffee to become rich but not bitter. The biggest downside, however, was the incredibly small portion.
For the prices charged, we expected better food, because there are simply far too many restaurants that serve the same dishes both better and cheaper.
Even though we have an endless amount of Italian restaurants in Cairo, we can all agree that only a few are able to do it justice – to make it truly authentic. Not only does Tavolino achieve this, but it goes a step further.
From the outside, the Zamalek restaurant, which is located off of Aboul Feda Streey, might seem very small, but it’s surprisingly spacious. Interior wise, it has a very simple yet chic appearance; white brick walls with a touch of wood, black and white frames, and triangular mirrors stand out, despite the almost overly yellow lighting.
Moving to food, we started our meal with Cannelloni (70LE) from the restaurant’s ‘New Italian Cuisine’ menu, which adds twists to Italian classics. Six pieces of perfectly cooked cannelloni are stuffed with chicken and spinach, covered with melted mozzarella cheese and then topped with marinated tomato – similar to marinara sauce – and pesto sauce. A side of creamy gorgonzola sauce added a nutty flavour with a fantastic deep aftertaste and the dish showed Tavolino to be masters of art of flavour matching.
Another item we tried from the ‘New Italian Cuisine’ menu was The Tenderloin in the Wood (235LE); a perfect medium-well tenderloin steak laying on a phyllo-like pastry that’s filled with sautéed mushrooms, spinach and onions, and served with sweet garlic sauce and an exquisite sweet and savoury blueberry-and-onion jam. This dish left us speechless; not only was the steak on its own bursting with Italian herb flavours, but the addition of the crunchy texture from the mushroom pocket with the unique sweetness of the jam merged with the sweet garlic sauce created an outstanding dish.
Deciding to go back to the basics with our last choice, we went with Risotto Alla Pescatora (120LE). Rich, creamy, and well-seasoned, it had spot-on al dente texture; mixed with well-cooked shrimps and mussels, the dish was close to perfect, but for the overcooked, mushy crab and rubbery calamari.
Another thing that kept Tavolino from getting a perfect score was the fact that, at the time of our visit, only the Ice Cream & Sorbet (50LE), which is 3 scoops of Movenpick ice cream, was available.
But that was just a side note to a great meal; we were surprised by Tavolino’s one-of-a-kind flavours, particularly those on the ‘New Italian Cuisine’ menu, which certainly helps separate it from the crowd with a unique identity. Tavolino isn’t just another Italian restaurant.