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Maadi, Cairo, Egypt.
Pomodorino: Quiet Courtyard Restaurant in Maadi
Among the plethora of restaurants in Cairo that carry the 'international cuisine' label, few stray outside what has become a tried and tested formula. One such case is combining decent food of decent portions with a comfortable outdoor courtyard - maybe even add a flat screen and some shisha.
Of this school is Pomodorino; a villa-sized restaurant opposite Fuddruckers in Maadi. Past the wooden gate is a courtyard occupied by wooden tables with glass tops and orange cushioned chairs. The walls are lined with plant pots and there are a few fans as well for a hot summer's day. Additionally, there's an air conditioned indoor area as well.
We were greeted at the gate by a pleasant waiter who asked about our seating preference; the weather's been good recently so we chose to sit outside. The waiter moved swiftly and placed menus on our table, told us his name and asked if we needed anything right away. When we asked for a minute, he gladly retreated.
We browsed the stereotypically extensive menu that featured all options from breakfast to desserts and drinks. We opted for a Venecian Salad (42.95LE) and a Pomodorino Beef Fillet (74.95LE).
During our wait we realised the venue was relatively quiet and populated by a mature crowd. If you're not a fan of younger, louder venues, a breezy and quiet breakfast or lunch here should be right up your alley. We imagine it's nothing like that during the screening of football matches, though, so keep that in mind.
Our food arrived within about thirty minutes. The Venecian Salad, which should feature grilled chicken, lettuce, pine nuts, raisins, avocado slices and 'orange sauce', in addition to garlic bread slice, was quite the let down. First, the ingredients sound delicious, but in the bowl none of the flavours mixed well. The pine was scarce, no raisins were seen, you could barely find avocadoes and, to our great disappointment, the orange sauce wasn't orange the fruit but rather orange the colour - that being the colour of Thousand Island dressing.
The namesake main course, the Pomodorino Beef Fillet, was ordered medium. We prefer medium rare, but we use medium as a middle ground if we're unsure if the chef knows what he's doing. It was served well-done, of course. The fillet was floating in mushroom gravy which is probably why it retained a tenderness, though it was still far too chewy. The sides of French fries and sautéed vegetables were forgettable.
All in all, this kind of restaurant relies on its set-up and location more than its food to keep it afloat. While the food wasn't terrible, it could certainly be better, but for many, it's more about a nice place to hang out and have a snack and a shisha rather than a full meal.
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.