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Agouza, Cairo, Egypt.
Sikh Mashwi: Oriental Classics Along the Agouza Corniche
Agouza isn't exactly the first place that comes to mind when dining out, but the Corniche is home to several Nile-side restaurants and cafes, the latest of which has come in the form of Oriental eatery, Sikh Mashwi.
Located in between neighbouring restaurants, Sea Gull and Latino Café, a stretch stairs leads you down to the dining area, which, despite its white furniture giving it a chic aesthetic, is pretty indistinctive, though the street-lamp inspired lighting fixture overlooking each table is a nice touch and the spacious indoor and outdoor areas afford diners a pleasant view of the Nile.
The menu offers classic Middle Eastern dishes, ranging from tajines to grilled platters, as well as roasted dishes including duck and turkey. Going for a starter of hummus salad (13.95LE) and oven-baked pasta (44.95LE), alongside two servings of grilled stuffed chicken served with short-grained white rice and mashed potatoes(64.95LE) as our mains, our food was served a mere twenty minutes later.
Served with fresh-out-of-the-oven Egyptian flatbread and baked pita bread cut into triangles, the hummus was thick enough to be used as a spread and it tasted delicious – a perfect balance of tehina and chickpeas.
Following a classic Egyptian recipe, the oven-baked pasta was comprised of two layers of pasta infused with ground meat and topped with a thin layer of creamy béchamel sauce. Unfortunately, it was a little bland in flavour thanks to a noticeable lack of seasoning and was, overall, a little dry.
The chicken dish, however, fared much better. Comprised of five medium sized juicy and moist chicken breasts stuffed with a thick layer of well-spiced minced meat, the grilled chicken had a refreshing citrus flavour that played off the meats nicely. The accompanying rice was rich in flavour a la home-cooked rice, but the mashed potato serving was undercooked and under-seasoned.
The dessert section offers more Middle Eastern classic, including Om Ali, kunafa and couscous, but served with a number of different sauces – dark, milk or white chocolate, as well as honey or caster sugar – it was the zalabya (36LE) that intrigued us most.
Never ones to say no to chocolate-covered anything, we took our serving with dark and white chocolate and the zalabya was warm, golden, crispy and hot from the oven. We sealed the deal with a kiwi-mango and mint-gum shishas (32.50LE each) which were expertly prepared and tended to – a nice ending to a chilly night by the Nile.
Sikh Mashwi isn't the most memorable of restaurants, but as far as affordability and the Nile-side location, it hits the right notes.
(Photo courtesy of Ehab Hegazy)
Levantine restaurants have blown up over the past few years in Cairo, but finding a good one isn’t always easy; there are so many, including local ones, which end up being a pale imitation at best.
Abu Youssef, on the other hand, is a pure Syrian restaurant, starting from the management to the chefs both inside the kitchen and on the shawerma grill outside, only leaving the waiters as locals. Hidden in Hegaz St in Mohandiseen, the venue is almost always full and even a few celebrities have been spotted dining there.
After taking our seats in the indoor dining area, we looked into the menu and ordered the Taboula (10LE) and Mesabaha (Syrian Hummus paste) (10LE) as our cold appetisers, alongside the Grilled Kobeba meal (35LE),the Shawerma Extra (40LE), Large Tawook meal (45LE), and half grilled chicken (40LE) for our main dishes.
About Twenty minutes later, we saw our waiter coming with almost all of our main dishes, as well as the grilled kobiba which came with fries, tomeyah and pickles, while the grilled chicken came with an extra mesabaha and a green salad.
After being overwhelmed with the number of plates in front of us, we started with the cold appetisers first; the mesabaha, which is basically a hummus paste, was drizzled with some olive oil keeping it light and smooth, while bursting with rich flavour which made us hurry for the next bite.
The taboula, meanwhile, was a green sensation; rich with a zesty and refreshing flavour, the salad had a good mix of parsley, mint, bulgur and onion with some chopped tomatoes topped with lemon juice and olive oil giving it a flavourful taste.
The Grilled Kobeba Meal came as four burger bun-sized pieces with fries alongside some green salad and pickles. The kobiba itself was very well cooked with a slightly crunchy outer shell and juicy minced beef filled interior, which was bursting with flavour, with a light spiciness that gave it an extra kick.
The Shawerma Extra meal comes with a plate of pickles, tomeya and fries, with the tomeya having a great garlicky taste and smooth texture that worked well with almost everything on the table. The fries, too, had a unique homemade seasoning that gave them the push they needed.
As for the Shawerma itself, it was in a rectangular form cut into six pieces; what makes this sandwich unique, however, is the addition of mozzarella and mushroom – the ‘extra’ part – which works strangely well considering it’s almost unheard of here.
The large Shish Tawook meal came with fries, tomeya and pickles similar to the previous plates, but had the addition of bread covered with chopped arugula and a salsa-like sauce which gave the bread an extra punch.
Coming on three skewers and cut into five medium sized pieces, the well-spiced shish tawook is made of chicken breasts rather than thighs, which gave them more flavour. The only downside, however, is that it was a bit dry, though that was easily solved with the pickles and the toumeya.
The Half a chicken grilled, on the other hand came, with almost everything mentioned before, the bread, salad, mesabaha, tomeyah, pickles and fries (with the option to change it to rice if required).
Grilled on coal, the chicken was tender and had an earthy flavour to it with smoky aftertaste; it was cooked well yet remained juicy, while the restaurant’s in-house spices gave it a unique edge over traditional Egyptian grilled chicken.
Although the staff were either hard to find or overwhelmed by the amount of diners, in the end the experience was a great one for one simple reason: great food that left us stuffed and struggling to make our way to the exit.