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Sheikh Zayed, Cairo, Egypt.
Agina: Zamalek Feteer Restaurant Opens New Branch at Americana Plaza
Feteer is a staple of Egyptian cuisine, and with no short supply of restaurants in Cairo serving it, it's all about the quality. Whether stuffed with sausages and cheese in some kind of weird nod to pizza, or with cream and honey, it's one of those foods that is very difficult to say no to.
With that said, Sheikh Zayed welcomes a new player; Agina. Located right on the sidewalk of Americana Plaza, with a small kitchen, a limited outdoor seating area, a few colourful looking chairs and round white tables.
We opted for a Mix Cheese (29LE), Chicken Shawerma Roll (21LE) and a Hot Dog Roll (18LE). The food did take longer than expected to serve, but that's because the feteer is baked on the spot.
Served first was the Mix Cheese, made with cheddar, mozzarella, rumy and Kiri cheeses, as well as chopped tomatoes and green peppers. Impressively, the Feteer was baked just thin enough not to stuff you on dough, while managing to avoid an overload of dripping ghee.
Unfortunately, the presentation was weak, choosing to serve their feteer on a paper mat in a tray, making it difficult to cut through without ending up with paper in your food.
While the wraps combined the same ingredients and dough used with feteer rolled up into a sandwich, there was nothing original about the ingredients. The Chicken Roll included chicken shawerma, tomeya, parsley and chopped vegetables, while the Hot Dog Roll was topped with mustard, ketchup, pickles, onions and cheese.
Despite the fact that most of the feteer available combined the same mixture of ingredients, the pastry of the rolls is definitely worth mentioning. Perfectly baked with a crispy layer on the outside, a delicate crusty layer on the inside, and, we can't stress this enough, not drenched in ghee, Agina's pastry gives it an edge.
To end our meal, we couldn't help but try the Nutella feteer (7LE), though we were disappointed that it only came with a licking of Nutella.
Overall Agina is a good place to grab a quick bite and go. While purists may point to the fineness of the feteer itself as a betrayal of the classic, homemade version that is so loved, we would point to Egypt's steadily expanding median waist-size.
Levantine restaurants have blown up over the past few years in Cairo, but finding a good one isn’t always easy; there are so many, including local ones, which end up being a pale imitation at best.
Abu Youssef, on the other hand, is a pure Syrian restaurant, starting from the management to the chefs both inside the kitchen and on the shawerma grill outside, only leaving the waiters as locals. Hidden in Hegaz St in Mohandiseen, the venue is almost always full and even a few celebrities have been spotted dining there.
After taking our seats in the indoor dining area, we looked into the menu and ordered the Taboula (10LE) and Mesabaha (Syrian Hummus paste) (10LE) as our cold appetisers, alongside the Grilled Kobeba meal (35LE),the Shawerma Extra (40LE), Large Tawook meal (45LE), and half grilled chicken (40LE) for our main dishes.
About Twenty minutes later, we saw our waiter coming with almost all of our main dishes, as well as the grilled kobiba which came with fries, tomeyah and pickles, while the grilled chicken came with an extra mesabaha and a green salad.
After being overwhelmed with the number of plates in front of us, we started with the cold appetisers first; the mesabaha, which is basically a hummus paste, was drizzled with some olive oil keeping it light and smooth, while bursting with rich flavour which made us hurry for the next bite.
The taboula, meanwhile, was a green sensation; rich with a zesty and refreshing flavour, the salad had a good mix of parsley, mint, bulgur and onion with some chopped tomatoes topped with lemon juice and olive oil giving it a flavourful taste.
The Grilled Kobeba Meal came as four burger bun-sized pieces with fries alongside some green salad and pickles. The kobiba itself was very well cooked with a slightly crunchy outer shell and juicy minced beef filled interior, which was bursting with flavour, with a light spiciness that gave it an extra kick.
The Shawerma Extra meal comes with a plate of pickles, tomeya and fries, with the tomeya having a great garlicky taste and smooth texture that worked well with almost everything on the table. The fries, too, had a unique homemade seasoning that gave them the push they needed.
As for the Shawerma itself, it was in a rectangular form cut into six pieces; what makes this sandwich unique, however, is the addition of mozzarella and mushroom – the ‘extra’ part – which works strangely well considering it’s almost unheard of here.
The large Shish Tawook meal came with fries, tomeya and pickles similar to the previous plates, but had the addition of bread covered with chopped arugula and a salsa-like sauce which gave the bread an extra punch.
Coming on three skewers and cut into five medium sized pieces, the well-spiced shish tawook is made of chicken breasts rather than thighs, which gave them more flavour. The only downside, however, is that it was a bit dry, though that was easily solved with the pickles and the toumeya.
The Half a chicken grilled, on the other hand came, with almost everything mentioned before, the bread, salad, mesabaha, tomeyah, pickles and fries (with the option to change it to rice if required).
Grilled on coal, the chicken was tender and had an earthy flavour to it with smoky aftertaste; it was cooked well yet remained juicy, while the restaurant’s in-house spices gave it a unique edge over traditional Egyptian grilled chicken.
Although the staff were either hard to find or overwhelmed by the amount of diners, in the end the experience was a great one for one simple reason: great food that left us stuffed and struggling to make our way to the exit.