Everybody loves a takeout restaurants in Cairo, especially an affordable one serving decent food. With some cuisines naturally being more expensive than others, seafood is a long standing staple of Egyptian cuisine, and one that people are willing spend good money on.

Seafood in Cairo is diverse, in that it can be eaten at a price point as low as a couple of pounds for a sandwich, all the way up to a lavish dinner at high-end restaurant. Most people, however, prefer a comfortable range in between, and if there's no sea-side view, they also prefer to eat it at the comfort of their own home.

With that said, Maadi greets a new player that meets that exact demand, Sheikh El Arab Zahran; a medium sized restaurant just next to the Total gas station on Autostrad.

Having just opened, we browsed through the menu for some filling options we'd imagine people at home would want to try. We landed on the casseroles.

We opted for a Seafood Pasta Casserole (44LE) and a Fish and Calamari Casserole (43LE) in addition to two rice options, Sayadeya Rice with Shrimp (26LE) and Sheikh El Arab Rice (12LE). While browsing for possible appetisers, we were intrigued by the Shrimp Spring Rolls (48LE) and Seafood Cannelloni (48LE).

When the food arrives you'll be amazed by the sheer amount. The Spring Rolls, bigger than any we had ever seen, came in a boxed paper plate. While definitely crunchy, the filling – which contained shrimp, calamari and bell peppers – were a little too greasy, making it much heavier than any appetiser should be. The Cannelloni, served in a clay pot containing shrimp and calamari generously soaked in cream, was quite tasty, but at this point in the meal we were already feeling almost full.

The Seafood Pasta Casserole, also served in a clay pot, contained spaghetti pasta with white sauce, a lot of shrimp, a few mussels and occasional calamari, all covered in a layer of cheese that had slightly hardened from the over. While extremely filling, it was rather unremarkable in taste; in fact, the distinction between the Cannelloni and the white sauce pasta was minimal.

The Fish and Calamari Casserole, made in red sauce with bells peppers, was interestingly different in flavour because of the missing cream element. While the calamari was generous, the fish was a little scarce.

The two rice platters we ordered were also more generous in size. Served in a round foil plate, the Sayadeya Rice had almost too much shrimp, though this may have been a blessing in disguise; the rice itself was devoid of any flavour. As for the Shiekh El Arab rice, it was the exact opposite, with no shrimp whatsoever and a really intense and spicy seasoning on the that's not for the faint of heart.

While the food could have fed another four people, we must comment on the freshness of the seafood. Across the table, all the shrimp and calamari tasted a little stale. One can forgive not being able to serve the freshest of seafood in any coast-less town, but you have to make up for it in either seasoning or cooking; seafood should never, ever, be chewy.