Cairo Restaurants

Crave: Revisiting Maadi Branch of Popular Restaurant Chain
Published On: 26/10/2014

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.

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Studio Masr: Wholesome Grills with Nile-Side View in Zamalek
Published On: 23/10/2014

While many restaurants in Cairo open to great fanfare and hype, it's the test of time that often sends the unsuccessful off to restaurant heaven - being inconsistent is the Cairo's most consistent trait. Powered by Amer Group, Studio Masr has built quite a reputation over the years and has expanded to over fifteen branches, even including a couple abroad. But there's one location in particular that remains somewhat special. The Nile City Boat branch located in Zamalek boasts both a great view and a special mixture of kitsch and Oriental memorabilia. While most of the Nile-side boat venues are pretty crowded on weekends, we decided to have a midweek lunch, opting to sit in their open air terrace-like area, especially in between seasons when there's just the right amount of sun and breeze. The menu hasn't changed much over the years, offering standard Oriental cuisine and grills including kebab, kofta, veal, lamb and chicken, as well as tagens and appetisers. Feeling particularly hungry we decided we would order a couple of mezzas, Hummus with Meat and Pine Nuts (32LE) and Chicken Liver with Garlic and Lemon Sauce (32LE), as well as the Studio Masr Grill Shawaya for two (160LE). This kind of cuisine isn't generally served very fast, so it was no surprise it took upwards of thirty minutes to arrive. The appetizess arrived first accompanied by fresh bread baskets. The Hummus was smooth and freshly made rather than canned. The meat was hot off the skillet and the pine nuts were roasted with the meat.. Similarly, the Chicken Liver was nice and zesty and, along with the fresh warm bread, left us eager for more food. The Studio Masr Grill (160LE), featuring Kebab, Kofta, Veal Cutlets or Lamb Chops, Chicken Breasts and Shish Tawook, was a very decent in portion for two. While the seasoning was delicious all around, the kebab, veal cutlets and chicken breasts were slightly overcooked. The all-around experience was pretty good, if unspectacular. With a pleasant atmosphere in both this and most of its branches, plus food that needs no market education and that Egyptians love, it's no surprise a restaurant like Studio Masr has flourished so well over the last few years.

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Piccolo: Decent, if Unspectacular, Italian Diner in Maadi
Published On: 22/10/2014

Cairo isn't exactly an easy city to navigate, especially when trying to find a place in unfamiliar terrotory. Every now and then, you'll see a random menu or neon sign that you haven't seen before and you'll either be instinctually intrigued, or completely put off. In one such case, we came across a neon backlit sign that said Piccolo. Looking through the glass the restaurant had decent decor with cushioned chairs and plant pots with spotlights at the entrance. A waiter greeted us at the glass door and led us to an empty table, laid out the menus, and retreated. Upon inspecting the menus, which is heavy on Italian dishes. Historically speaking, there have been many that have labelled themselves as an Italian restaurant, only to dissapoint; they don't necessarily have to be high end to serve good pasta, but generally, the odds are against them because of how localised most of Italian cuisine has become. The menu offers salads, sandwiches, pizzas, pastas, a few mains and desserts. We started with a Pollo Salad (22.50LE) and moved onto a Piccolo Pizza (42.5LE) and Piccolo Meal 1 (45LE) from the main courses. The Pollo Salad featured grilled chicken, arugula, cucumbers and tomatoes with balsamic dressing; while the chicken was cooked and seasoned to decent flavour, the balsamic dressing, sadly, overpowered all other flavours, giving the arugula even more of an undesired kick. The Piccolo Pizza, which is topped with salami, chicken, turkey and sausage plus vegetables, olives cheese and basil sauce, was very disorienting as a pizza. The crust was very thick, while the tomato sauce was minimal, with the cheese taking up most of the flavour. We appreciate the use of oregano, but it was more of a turkey and cheese sandwich than a pizza. The Piccolo Meal 1 consists of a grilled chicken breast and pasta. We opted for their Napoli pasta which is simple spaghetti with tomato sauce, basil and oregano. The chicken breast was, one again cooked and seasoned well, but rather plain in taste. The pasta, on the other hand, was surprisingly better than we expected, albeit a little greasy. The use of oregano really adds to the complexity of a tomato sauce and the restaurant's use of both basil and oregano extends across much of the menu. While the food, especially the pizza, could certainly use some revision, the venue is clean, the waiters attentive and the prices are very decent.

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Just Falafel: Creative & Customisable Falafel Sandwiches in Cairo Festival City
Published On: 21/10/2014

In-between-meal snacks are the best, aren't they? They're light enough for you to enjoy without you feeling the heftiness of a full meal weighing you down. Falafel, our own Egyptian ta'amia's Lebanese sister, is one perfect snack to chow down whilst going out and about in the middle of the day. Hard to miss, with its giant green JF logo, Just Falafel is one amongst the many other fast food outlets in Cairo Festival City mall. Having launched in Egypt last year with its first branch in Maadi - and recieving a mixed review - we were curious to see how this branch measured up. The waiter who greeted us was quite amicable, giving us a menu, pointing to the types of bread offered and letting us know that we can add or remove any toppings, pick the type of falafel we want and totally tailor our sandwiches to our heart's desire. The menu offers set sandwiches, which are all inspired by international flavours, with prices ranging between 9LE to 16LE and meals ranging from 18LE and 25LE. The 'Italian' sounded quite appetising, as did the 'Original', and the 'Greek'. The menu also offers healthier options, with baked instead of fried falafel (add 4 LE to the original price) and brown instead of white tortilla bread (3LE extra). You can also add extra toppings, including mozzarella and cheddar cheese. Some extra sides and dips also caught our eyes, including the Falafel Bites (8LE), the Tzatziki dip (5LE) and the Coleslow Salad (7LE). The final item on there was the only dessert option available: the delicious sounding Just Nutella Toastie (14LE). Our order was up and ready within twenty minutes, and the 'Original', which we had ordered with baked falafel and brown tortilla bread, was bursting with flavour, particularly the hint of mint that ran through every bite. The 'Italian' (16LE) was quite the delight, too; yes, mozzarella cheese does, in fact, go well with falafel. The Ciabatta bread was fresh and the the pesto-mayo sauce was delicious, despite it being a little too scarce. Just Falafel also offers a Toasted Halloumi Sandwich (16LE), which we ordered in brown bread; though it was in no way offensive, it was a little plain tasting and perhaps some herbs could've been added to the cheese to jazz it up a little.  In a nutshell, Just Falafel offered us light, semi-filling options to get through the day amidst meals. The whole internationally-inspired falafel sandwiches concept is a novel approach that works surprisingly well in terms of the slightly random flavour combination.

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O.Liv.O: Charming Pizzeria & Bar in Zamalek
Published On: 20/10/2014

Certain types of food are often – and almost systematically – corrupted in kitchens across Cairo restaurants, with that seemingly simple thing called a pizza suffering more than most. The eternal, and often unfruitful, quest for authentic pizza in Cairo has seen a rise in restaurants claiming to offer the real deal, with the latest being O.Liv.O in Zamalek – which also doubles up as a bar. Located at the New President Hotel on Taha Hussein Street, the restaurant is almost hidden but for a sign above a white door to the left of the entry to neighbouring watering hole and sister venue, Bar D'O. There are no windows to peak through – the windows that do exist are frosted and obscured by greenery outside – and it adds to what is a pleasantly secluded dining experience. If O.Liv.O is going for authenticity, it's not reflected in the interior – and it needn't be. Instead, O.Liv.O. is a pastiche of different visual quirks. Andalusian-style tiling coats the bar behind which the brick-oven is placed and various pieces of contemporary art hang from the walls; the music at the time of our visit, meanwhile, swayed between Spanish and jazz covers – it was a little too loud for the hushed colours and lighting, too. Seating across the small space is divided between long high-tables for larger groups, with a couple of smaller tables able to accommodate groups of four or less, giving the place the feel of a bar more than a restaurant – the influence of Bar D'O is evident. Aiming to recreate the classic Neapolitan style of pizza, what comes out of O.Liv.O's brick-oven certainly looks the part. Unfortunately, at the time of our visit, the pizza was riddled with small imperfections, the most affective of which was the sauce; although pleasingly plentiful, it was too salty.  This was a particular problem with the pizza bufala (75LE); despite being topped generously with arugula  (of the big-leafed, local variety) and cherry tomatoes, the saline sauce dominated the otherwise rich mozzarella – maybe an extra pinch of sugar during the sauce cooking process would have helped to neutralise it a little. The same comments can be applied to the bresaola pizza (85LE), too. The imported bresaola – a cured beef – was draped in generous strips across the pizza alongside cherry tomatoes, arugula and (a little) basil. Though the combination of flavours is excellent on paper, the bresaola itself was lacked its subtle sweet and musty tang. To the kitchen's credit, though, the base is well made and surprisingly light. Bar-wise, we're told that Bar D'O's popular cocktails will slowly but surely make their way over and the evening called for a pitcher 'Nigeria' (210LE); white wine, white rum and pineapple juice, with plenty of sliced fruit, a la sangria – but, confusingly, it's not a Nigerian Chapman, which is our Nigerian brethren's version of sangria. Call it what you will, once again the influence of Bar D'O is evident; after a brief moment of confusion and a staff team huddle behind the bar, the pitcher was quickly made, delivered to our table and then very quickly devoured. Heavy on the rum and wine, it was a refreshing and lighter alternative to red wine-based sangria. Of the concise dessert options, the lemon sorbet with limoncello (50LE) is the most intriguing. Unfortunately, however, it bore little resemblance to sorbet and was more like crystallised ice cream. Served in a tall Martini glass, the portion is small but suitably sized and its saving grace was that it was full of flavour; truth be told, it was eaten up all the same. O.Liv.O is a welcome addition to Cairo and has certainly succeeded in riling up Cairo diners. The pizza is by no means offensive, and actually makes for a decent bar snack, but behind the posturing, the pizza ends up almost as a side-note to what was an overall novel venue.

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Buffalo Burger: Lip-Smacking Burgers with a View in Maadi
Published On: 19/10/2014

What can beat a plush fast food experience? One with a picturesque view, of course! We can never ever say no to burgers, and when presented with the opportunity of healthier burger options, we're definitely game. Located in Maadi's Nile-side food complex, the Platform, Buffalo Burger offers both outdoor and limited indoor seating options, but who would want to forego the beautiful sight of the Nile and sit indoors, right? Upon arrival, we could tell the place was filled to its brim with customers and so we knew what was coming; our waiter sat us down indoors until an outdoor table was available. Once seated, we were presented with both the Buffalo Burger and FIG Lounge, its sister restaurant chain, menus. We, however, were only determined to sink our teeth into burgers. The beef burger patties come in three sizes: 150g, 200g and 250g. Chicken burgers and "Lighter" burgers are also offered with all kinds of toppings. Of the beef, the Hawaii Waikiki seemed the most intriguing. Its ingredients included Swiss cheese, Buffalo sauce and pineapple rings (28LE-37LE depending on its size).  The Animal Chicken burger (28LE) also sounded delicious boasting a grilled chicken breast drenched in cheese, onion rings and a mixture of sauces. Add 10LE-12LE and you can make your burgers into either medium or large combos. We opted for some of the lighter options, which had their calories listed on the menu - to put our consciences to rest. The 200g Baby Boomers burger  (32LE)  caught our eye first, as well as the Skinny Chicken burger (28LE). Having made healthier choices with our burgers, we decided to order them as combos so we can enjoy some crisp fries. Our waiter swiftly took or order and just a measly twenty minutes later, our food was steaming hot on our table waiting to be devoured. The Baby Boomers was delicious; with fresh multi-grain buns holding together the grilled beef patty, it was topped with mushrooms and light mayonnaise. The Skinny Chicken, a simple plain grilled chicken breast topped with cheddar cheese, wasn't as spectacular and lacked cohesion in flavour and was a little dry. The fries, however, were the true surprise; a perfect combination of French fries, chips, and onion rings of which none were greasy or soggy. They were, however, quite sparse and we yearned for more. To wrap up, Buffalo Burger is a win-win spot, offering both delicious food for all tastes and an awesome view. The place, however, was incredibly crowded at the time of our visit, making us think we should probably order our food from the comfort of our couches at home to avoid all the unnecessary hustle and bustle.

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Prosperos: Simple, Yet Ultimately Unexceptional, Restaurant & Cafe in Maadi
Published On: 15/10/2014

Amongst the many restaurants in Maadi, many have come and gone, trying in vain to stand out with all manner of experimental cuisine. There are some restaurants, however, whose longevity and popularity ore owed to keeping things simple and unfussy when it comes to the food. Tucked away on a quiet road in Maadi, lies a flashy two-storey venue by the name of Prosperos. Yellow and red neon signs aside, the tiled walkway into the restaurant from the garden is decorated with stylish vases, ornaments and ball lights. The outdoor area has become home to football screenings with simpler tables and chairs setup to face flat screens. As you step inside, a friendly waiter greets you and shows you to a free table. The indoor area is more stylish, with comfortable cushioned chairs and a white-versus-stone colour scheme. The menu doesn't feature anything exceptional, with the restaurant offering standard international dishes such as steaks, pizzas, sandwiches, salads and desserts, as well as Tex-Mex items. We opted for a Prosperos for All (44.95); an appetiser platter featuring spring rolls, fried mozzarella, onion rings and chicken wings, to get a sense of how well they handle their frying. From the main courses, we opted for a Fillet Tex-Mex (74.95LE) and a Grilled Chicken with Fresh Mushroom (49.95LE). Our food appetiser platter arrived about twenty minutes later accompanied by ranch and marinara sauce. The food was adequately drained of oil after leaving the pan and didn't seem overly greasy, but nothing stood out exceptionally in terms of flavour. The main courses arrived shortly after. The Fillet Tex-Mex was ordered medium, and it arrived just slightly overcooked. The mushroom based sauce had a bit of a peppery kick to it and it, all in all, kept the meat tender to an extent. The sides of corn on the cob with butter and seasoned sautéed vegetables were pretty decent as well; cooked and seasoned nicely The Grilled Chicken with Fresh Mushroom was similarly tasty and generous in portion. The seasoned mushrooms were delicious and the chicken was nice and tender. The creamy mashed potatoes were topped with a deep gravy, while the aforementioned sautéed vegetables completed the dish. With some room left for dessert we decided to give the Strawberry Cheesecake (19.95LE) a whirl. The cream cheese layer rested on a thick biscuit crust and was topped with tasty strawberries.While it was by no means a classic New York cheescake, it was a decent attempt in the contect of Cairo dining nonetheless. While the food itself was satisfying but ultimately forgettable, the restaurant as a whole provides a comfortable dining experience and would be an ideal spot for a casual family lunch, with reasonable prices and decent value for money.

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Win! Brunch for Two at Napa Grill's New Friday Jazz Brunch
Published On: 13/10/2014

Luxury Cairo hotel, Fairmont Nile City, is home to some of the best restaurants and nightlife venues in Cairo – a wild claim, maybe, but a previous Cairo 360 review of Saigon Restaurant & Lounge, the hotel's weekly events schedule and the fact that the hotel's Sky Pool is many an event organiser's preferred location pay testament to that – even the hotel's Willow Stream Spa scored well with Cairo 360's discerning reviewers. It is, afterall a Cairo 360 Editor's Choice winner. This month, one of the hotel's most popular venues is opening its doors to diners every Friday for a new, weekly brunch concept. What? Win an all-inclusive brunch for two at Napa Grill on Friday 24th of October, where a buffet of eclectic international cuisine awaits you! Why? Because brunch is totally awesome – it's brunch! Where? As one of Fairmont Nile City's most enduring restaurants, Napa Grill serves up an array of foods from across the world. How do I get my hands on it? It's easy! Just answer this simple question: How many 'themed buffets' does Fairmont Nile City and in which restaurants? Now what? Send your answers to freestuff@cairo360.com, with your full name, contact details and Napa Grill Competition in the subject lines. The competition ends at midnight on Wednesday 22nd of October 21st 2014; so hurry up and send your answers in! Terms and Conditions apply.

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Pomodorino: Quiet Courtyard Restaurant in Maadi
Published On: 13/10/2014

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.

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Gringos Burrito Grill: Mexican Delivery-Only Restaurant Back in Maadi
Published On: 09/10/2014

Mexican cuisine is scarce amongst Cairo restaurants, so losing one of the only places that churns it out was upsetting, to say the least. After a hiatus that left many of the Maadi foodie community in desperate need of a good burrito, Gringos -  everyone's favourite Mexican delivery-only restaurant - has reopened for service to the relief of many. After much anticipation and a social media countdown, we called up Gringos to place an order. We opted for a Grilled Steak Classic with Guacamole (52LE), a Machaca Shredded Beef with Guacamole (54LE), a Chicken Taco Salad (28LE) and Nachos with Cheese and Jalapenos (16LE). Our food arrived roughly thirty minutes later in some newly designed packaging. The food was hot on arrival and we were also sent complimentary Chips and Salsa dish with Black Bean Dip on account of their re-opening. The Chicken Taco Salad, consisting of lettuce topped with pico de gallo, corn chips, grilled chicken and Gringos garlic dressing, was full of flavour, although the pico de gallo dominated a little. The corn chips created an interesting texture mix while the garlic dressing fused all the flavours together. The Nachos with Cheese and Jalapenos was generous in portion; the chips were nice and crunchy but, overall, the melted cheese was a little too on the greasy side. The burritos, both filled with shredded cheese, black beans, cilantro lime, rice, pico de gallo and sour cream, only differ in the kind of meat. The Grilled Steak offers slightly chewy chunks of beef while the Machaca has shredded beef that requires no extra chewing but, rather, melts in your mouth. The burritos are very filling, and very delicious, but an important factor we noticed is that the ingredients are layered rather than mixed, which in turn leaves you with uneven bites-some consisting entirely of black beans and rice or sour cream and guacamole, the trick is to ask for the ingredients to be mixed when you place your order. Needless to say, Gringos has been sorely missed; maybe nostalgia is playing with our stomachs, but - dare we say it - it's even better than we remember.

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Cairo Weekend Guide: Halloween, Arab Music Festival & Conference, Brunch & More!

Hello Cairo! Halloween weekend has arrived and boy, are there a lot of options! On Thursday, Cairo Jazz Club ends the week on a ladiback note with Jazz Cabaret featuring the Riff Band and a 1920s theme, while renowned Egyptian musician Yehya Khalil takes the stage at the Cairo Opera House. VENT hos