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Maadi, Cairo, Egypt.
T.G.I Friday's: Good Service, Questionable Food at Ramadan Fetar in Maadi
T.G.I Friday's has been a long-time family favourite among Cairo's restaurants. The combination of food with a Nile-side view and a play area for kids makes it a convenient option for parents.
During Ramadan, where tensions and hassles of getting food are multiplied tenfold, this convenience is of the utmost importance.
To streamline the process of dining out for Ramadan, Friday's offers a Ramadan menu where you can pick between choices of soup, salad, appetizers, main courses and desserts, all for 130LE. Call in ahead, make a reservation and tell them what you want to eat from that menu; fairly simple stuff.
If you notice while you're at a place like Friday's, the smallest table will have a party of 5 or 6. The biggest table will go up to 20. A long list of problems can arise from big parties so our review was very concerned with how the staff would tackle that situation.
When we arrived, the soups and salads were already on the table, and the service was quick and helpful, and completely prepared to switch out anything you didn't like - more on why that's not necessarily a good thing shortly.
Our party had 15 people, who ordered almost everything on the menu. We opted for Minestrone soup, Steak Veggie Soup, Caeser Salad, Summer Garden Salad, Fried Mozzarella, Buffalo Wings, Combo Fajitas, Fisherman's Platter, Oreo Madness and Apple Caramel.
The soups were unfortunately bland, but that could be remedied with a pinch salt and a squeeze of lemon. The salads, meanwhile, tasted like they had been made hours ago.
The appetisers were a little inconsistent; while the Buffalo Wings were tasty and quite spicy, the mozzarella wasn't served hot enough and lost its molten texture.
The main courses were served promptly after the appetisers, with the waiters eagerly clearing the table of plates and glasses. The Fajita Combo, with both beef and chicken and served with a plate of guacamole, sour cream, cheese, pico de gallo, yellow rice and tortillas, was equally disappointing. The meats were overcooked and the guacamole was stale.
The Fisherman's Platter didn't spend five minutes on our table before we returned it for smelling extremely pungent. The waiters were more than happy to replace it with our choice of Mushroom Steak.
Average tasting and most certainly overcooked, the Mushroom Steak didn't fare any better than the Fajita Combo. It was served with cheese mashed potatoes, which were cold, and sautéed vegetables.
The desserts are served after coffee and tea. The Oreo Madness – giant ice cream cookies topped with caramel and chocolate fudge – was decent, but served completely frozen, crystallised and hard to dig into. The Apple Caramel was completely unappealing and somehow managed get the usually reliable combination of apple and caramel completely wrong; the fact that the apple was allegedly roasted added nothing to overall flavour and it was rather bland in taste – in a pre-packaged supermarket kind of way.
While the food was extremely average, the service was excellent. As mentioned earlier, staff very willingly offering to switch out any of the entrees seems like a nice gesture as far as the service is concerned, but with regards to the kitchen, it means you're mass producing every single dish and they are all average or sometimes even sub-par.
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.