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Maadi, Cairo, Egypt.
Sizzler Steak House: Giant Portions at Steakhouse in Maadi
In recent years, the Cairo dining scene has seen in an influx of unusual and sometimes even exotic flavour palettes from around the globe, but sometimes, it's the stuff you know and love that needs the occasional revamping.
In Maadi, the most recent addition to the restaurant scene has been Sizzler Steak House. While the concept of a steak house is not new, the general awareness of meat cuts and cooking in Egypt is relatively low.
With a staircase leading downwards into a dimly lit, entirely dark wood basement complimented with cream coloured couches and bright red lights in partitions contrasted against some form of decorative glass. It's not easy on the eyes, neither was the clichéd playlist of flamenco music on the ears.
The restaurant was relatively empty on our arrival and, as you are led inside, you'll realize the restaurant is about four times the size you thought it was when you first walked in. The waiters were very attentive, but after about ten minutes we realised it was too much and crossed into hovering.
The menu will look very familiar if you've frequented restaurants like Steak Out, Roastery or Specta, with Tex-Mex appetisers, soups, salads, burgers, pastas, main courses and desserts – nothing signature or particularly unusual.
We opted for a Mini Sizzler Combo (39.95LE) from the appetisers and a Cream of Mushroom Soup (12.95LE). For the steaks, we original wanted a New York cut, but were told it was unavailable, so we opted for a Classic Trio (129.95LE) and a Fillet Lover (129.95LE) – more on them later.
Never had we seen a restaurant more on point with when they serve the different courses of the meal. The soup was served first coupled with a complimentary warm bread basket and butter. Featuring fresh mushrooms, but far too much cream, the soup was a complete misbalance of the simple elements.
Next came the Mini Sizzler Combo, featuring two chicken rolls, fried mozzarella, chicken strips and spring rolls with honey mustard and sweet and sour sauces. The frying process left the appetisers crunchy and not as greasy as you would expect, but unfortunately, nothing stood out in terms of flavour.
No later than a minute after the appetisers were removed off our table, the main courses were served. Reminiscent of the same previously mentioned restaurants, the portions were massive. The Classic Trio featured a fillet topped with creamy mushroom sauce – almost identical to the soup in consistency – a well cooked grilled chicken breast and shrimp in creamy garlic sauce alongside very tasty French fries and decent sautéed vegetables. The fillet was ordered medium and that's exactly what we received. Everything was cooked and seasoned very well, but the shrimp stood out thanks to a very good garlic sauce.
The Fillet Lover, featuring two fillets – one topped with pepper sauce and the other with mushroom – and sides of mashed potatoes and sautéed vegetables. Unfortunately, these fillets were ordered medium as well but were served rare. While the staff was happy to solve the problem, the result was a well done steak – a very common problem with steak houses in Cairo.
Overall, it's difficult to describe Sizzler as anything more than decent, or even safe. While the value for money is great in terms of portions, it doesn't wow in terms of flavour or appearance. The latter feels like a cookie-cutter job.
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.