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Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Hassanein: New Zamalek Street-Food Eatery Leaves Much to Be Desired
The island of Zamalek is still very much the epicentre of dining and loitering in Cairo – although Maadi residents might suggest otherwise – and there's never been any shortage of variety when it comes to satisfying a craving, with some of the city's hippest food and beverage brands setting-up shop there, the latest of which is Hassanein. Located on Taha Hussein Street, the quirky eatery offers the best of Egyptian street-food, though – at the time of our visit – the small restaurant didn't show many signs of becoming a Zamalek favourite.
Much like other Zamalek eateries including Manoushe Street and Mr. Wok, Hassanein has no room for seating, but does offer over 75 different on-the-go options, including hawawshi, oven-baked macaroni, Alexandrian liver, sweet and savoury feteer and more. The place itself is impossible to miss, boasting a bright yellow facade, with cartoon figures of two rural Egyptian men – lush moustaches and all.
After a quick skim through the gigantic menu, we opted for a mishmash of foods that included Chicken Shawerma Wrap (18LE), Oriental Sausage (sojok) Sandwich (20LE) and Nutella and Hazelnut Feteer (18LE).
Firstly, the service is prompt and friendly; no more than fifteen minutes after placing our order, our food arrived hot, though we couldn't help but be a little disappointed.
We kicked things off by trying the sojok which – unlike most fast food restaurants – came un-mashed and in generous amounts; however, in spite of its appetising smell, it was surprisingly quite flavourless with an obvious lack of seasoning which, even its white sauce –a combination of garlic and mayonnaise – couldn't save.
Served in the good old Shami bread, the shawerma, meanwhile, did impress. The chicken itself was tender and retained much of its juices and, with the addition of pickles, garlic sauce and the traditional seasoning, it was a far cry from the sojok in terms of flavour.
Unfortunately, our dessert was underwhelming; wrapped in what was a quite greasy feteer, was a very petite amount of Nutella and burnt roasted hazelnuts, which left us with mixed feelings as we left Hassanein; on the one hand, both the service and the prices were great, but then two out of our three dishes fell down on some very basic things.
A cynic might dismiss Hassanein for jumping into the elevated street food market – one that was once championed by the likes of Zooba, but with reasonable prices and the fact that it has opened only recently, there's still hope for Hassanein.
Despite the influx of foreign cuisines on the ever-growing Cairo restaurant scene, Oriental food is still one of the most sought after in the city and one of the latest to promise that wholesome, authentic taste is Waraa Enab in Mohandiseen.
Located inside Italian restaurant, Gabriel, Waraa Enab boasts a spacious and colourful setting with comfortable chairs and sofas amidst a chilling musical ambiance. Guiding us to our candlelit table, the staff promptly served us with a bottle of water and menus.
Going over said menu, with its diverse Oriental eats from appetisers, soups, grills and tajins, we were already drooling and we could hardly wait to order.
For our appetisers, we opted for a hummus (12LE) and cheesy mince pasta tajine (44.90 LE), while grilled kofta with a side of mixed rice (59.90 LE) jumped out at us from the mains.
Smooth, creamy and topped with chickpeas, the hummus salad was the ideal starter to our meal. The minced pasta tajine, meanwhile, worked well with its melted cheese layer, which perfectly complemented the pasta, minced meat and the pike of basil and made it all the more filling and tasty. Meanwhile, grilled kofta came with brown rice rather than the mixed one we were promised, but the dish was satisfying nonetheless; served as four large pieces, the kofta was cooked to a perfect tenderness, while the grilled vegetables were particularly well-cooked, too.
When it comes to desserts, there are just two options at Waraa Enab; Couscous with sugar and nuts (24.90LE) and Om Ali (19.90LE); we opted for the latter, but couldn;t help but feel that an Oriental restaurant could and should have so much more.
Coming warm out of the oven, the Om Ali flattered to deceive. Despite being pleasingly creamy and the pastry retaining a level of flakiness, it was completely unbalanced; the first few layers had a distinctly bitter flavour, though as we dug more into it towards the bottom, it became overly sweet.
We washed our dinner with a cup of Turkish coffee (13.90LE) and some Grape-flavoured shisha (36 LE) which, without being spectacular, went some way to making up for the dessert. And so despite the mishaps, our visit to Waraa Enab was still satisfying enough – it just needs some kind of x-factor.