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Maadi, Cairo, Egypt.
Crave: Revisiting Maadi Branch of Popular Restaurant Chain
Dining in Cairo is as unpredictable as anything else in the city and a visit to an old favourite is always a pleasure; but with recent mixed reviews of Crave, we had to put suspicions to rest and find out how it racks up against our first review.
Crave's Maadi branch is more spacious than the one in Zamalek and is, unanimously, thought of as having and overall better atmosphere. The restaurant was as clean as we remember it, and our favourite decoration item remains the light hangings decorated with cutlery over the tables.
Upon entrance we were greeted at the door by a friendly waiter who leads you to a table of your preference in either the smoking or non-smoking section. The menus are laid out on the table, and the waiter retreats unless you have any questions.
Among our favourite dishes at Crave were the Zombie Burger with Mushroom and Cheese (48.95LE), the Beef Teriyaki (86.95LE) and the Shrimp Konafa. We wanted to check on the rest of the appetisers as well so instead we opted for a Combo Platter (68.90LE) and substituted the Fish Fingers for Shrimp Konafa.
Arriving around thirty minutes later, the Combo Platter featured fried mozzarella sticks, stuffed mushrooms, chicken strips and shrimp konafa; surprisingly, the oil was drained particularly well as nothing felt greasy, though the mozzarella was average and lacked flavour and the chicken strips were a little on the dry side. The stuffed mushrooms, on the other hand, were cooked and seasoned well, while the shrimp konafa was exactly how we remember it - delicious and fresh.
The main courses arrived shortly after. A good rule of thumb we employ when ordering steak is, who asked for the cooking? If they ask you, you're probably safe, but if you have to mention that you want your steak cooked medium, you're probably going to be served well done. Thankfully, at Crave, they asked, we said medium and that's what we were served.
The Beef Teriyaki was perfectly cooked, beautifully seasoned and an absolute pleasure to munch down. While a little scarce, the glass noodles that are served with the dish were similarly tasty, but clumped together a little more than it should.
The Zombie Burger, sadly, didn't quite match-up. While the patty itself was flavourful and seasoned well, it was really overcooked - to the extent that parts of the inside were almost black. Otherwise, the burger was very well put together, decently sized, and had a very good bread to patty to toppings ratio.
Crave's prices are slightly expensive for their portions in comparison to other restaurants, but they do serve much better food - especially in the steak department. Crave's popularity is understandable, but closer attention to the small things could make what is a good restaurant into a great one.
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.