Cairo Restaurants

Dragon House: Old Asian Restaurant in Maadi Isn't What it Once Was
Published On: 24/02/2015

Asian restaurants are in no short supply in Cairo; in fact, Asian cuisine has actually flourished in recent years, with the lesser known Thai and Korean cuisines coming to the forefront in the capital. With the emergence of so many new Asian restaurants, we dropped by one of the older competitors to see how they fare with new challenges. The Dragon House Group, founded in 1993, operates a number of branches around Egypt, including Alexandria and Sharm El Sheikh, and a sister restaurant called India Corner. Surviving for over two decades in the Egyptian restaurant scene is no easy task, so we went over to Road 9 in Maadi and took the difficult-to-find staircase up to Dragon House, where we found it still retained the red and gold Chinatown colour scheme paired with bright green carpets. Is the décor a bit much? Perhaps. Is it any different from any other Asian restaurant? Hardly. A pleasant waiter greeted and seated us and then proceeded to place the different menus on our table. We were in a particular mood for Chinese, so we opted for Fried Won Tons (16.25LE) and Steamed Fried Dumpling (16.25LE) from the appetsers. For our mains, we opted for the Spicy Fried Chicken with Garlic (48.5LE) and the Beef with Broccoli (55LE), in addition to Fried Rice with Eggs (15.5LE) and Handmade Noodles with Beef (32LE). Despite being something akin to sambousak, the won tons boasted crispy golden outer layer and a chicken stuffing that was actually quite tasty. The Steamed Fried Dumplings weren't as interesting, because only the underside was fried and the stuffing was the same as the won ton. Unfortunately, things went south from there. Our previous review of Dragon House praised the Beef with Broccoli highly, but we found it to be bland in seasoning and the beef overcooked and, basically, chewy. The handmade noodles with beef suffered exactly the same problem; the beef was chewy and flavourless, pulling down the equally flavourless noodles. The Spicy Fried Chicken with Garlic was slightly better than the beef – but not by much. Masking the same kind of blandness with chilli, the chicken was cooked better, though, once again, there was a distinct lack of flair and flavour – something that Asian cuisine is loved for. The Fried Rice with Eggs was decent, but only just. Despite being an institution of Asian dining Cairo for the last two decades, Dragon House has failed to keep-up with the more modern restaurants across the city and seems to have forsaken authenticity. What was left during the time of our visit, was forgettable – even objectionable – food that is now easily found at better quality.

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Taboon: Zamalek Restaurant Relaunches as 'Urban Lebanese Kitchen'
Published On: 22/02/2015

Almost a year ago, Cairo 360 reviewed Lebanese restaurant, Taboon; a review that raised every question there is to be raised when it comes to assessing a restaurant and found it lacking. Since then, however, the Zamalek restaurant has been through a major transformation that claimed to have tackled the previous review's many issues. Naturally, a revisit was in order. Relocated to Abul Feda Street, the new Taboon – described as an urban Lebanese kitchen – boasts a more cheerful setting with sunflower yellow walls with a number of turquoise shelves, scattered framed mirrors and a wide LCD mounted across them. The indoor tables are made of light wood, while the outdoor tables are black. with both areas populated with orange and black metal chairs. The menu has a wide selection of items to choose from.  There are several breakfast options such as hummus and yoghurt fattah (22LE), fava and falafel (35 LE) and eggs (35 LE). Other than that, the rest of the items are exactly what you'd expect; cold mezzes (10L–25LE), hot mezzes (8LE–30LE), salads (25LE–35 LE) and, of course, grill items. Unfortunately, there were several items unavailable at the time of our visit, including desserts and shawerma. With other options plentiful, however, we opted for fatayer bel jebneh (20LE) as a starter; white cheese rolled in sambousak pastry. Though the dough was light and crispy, the cheese filling was devoid of any seasoning, while the sharp taste of black seeds didn't add much as they were only present on both ends of each roll. For the main courses, we opted for sish tawook and Kofta orfaly (55LE each). Each meal is served with Basmati rice, batatah harra (spicy baked potato cubes), pickles and Lebanese bread. The shish tawook was cooked to perfection; the chicken pieces were juicy, flavoursome and sufficiently soaked in the well-balanced marinade of olive oil and lemon juice. Unfortunately, the other main course was the exact opposite; said to be grilled with a special mix of green pepper and onion, the kofta barely had any flavour thanks, once again, to an almost complete lack of seasoning. It's a shame, because it was cooked very well. Of the included sides, the spicy baked potato cubes were a success; soft and tender beneath the crispy crust, the cubes were well-seasoned and subtly spicy without being too hot. The Basmati rice didn't fare as well, however; it was bland, tasteless and under-cooked. Though there was plenty to be displeased about, Taboon has improved in terms of service and hygiene; yet with small mistakes ruining the dishes, there's little to make the restaurant stand out amongst the increasing number of Lebanese eateries in Cairo.  

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Antique Khana: Traditional French Bistro in Zamalek
Published On: 21/02/2015

The increasing number of noise-polluting, sidewalk-encroaching cafes and restaurants in Zamalek has been an issue for some time. The island that was once known to be home to the capitals wealthy is n over run with loiterers and the bored. There are few places in Zamalek that completely shield you from the hustle and bustle of the streets, though Antique Khana on Brazil Street does just that. Located on the first floor of the building opposite Mobinil, the bistro – which also functions as something of an art-space – has a distinctly nostalgic vibe to it. As you step in, you're met by a drinks counter that sits under a brass and stained glass dome. Across from the counter are four seating areas, each of which carries up to four people. The tables are made from white marble and the chairs of dark brown wood. To the left of the counter is an old piano with bookmark (15LE) displayed on top of it for sale. The second and bigger dining hall features lighter coloured walls and a bigger number of tables. There are antiques on sale here, too, including a porcelain vase (3000LE), a collection of paintings (500LE/piece) and an old radio (300LE). We seated ourselves at a table and were not greeted by a waiter. In fact it took fifteen minutes before one eventually placed menus on our table. We opted for a Caesar Salad (32.95LE) Chicken Antique (75.95LE) and a Steak Fillet (99.95LE). We were not asked how well we wanted our steak cooked. After a long wait, we were served the Caesar Salad; the lettuce tasted fairly fresh, the dressing was just enough and it was all topped with two well cooked and marinated chicken breasts. The chicken contributed greatly to the general flavour of the salad, but the fact that there was no parmesan, but instead black olives, took away frm what could have been a perfect Caesar Salad. The Steak Fillet, served with sides of mashed potatoes and sautéed vegetables, definitely looked the part. As with most French restaurants, the portion is smaller than usual, and while the steak was well overcooked, the fillet was drenched in its gravy and pepper sauce which made it much more bearable. The Chicken Antique dish consisted of chicken breasts stuffed with pesto sauce, cheese and slices of carrots. The chicken breasts were thick and cooked consistently without becoming dry and the pesto sauce was delicious without the basil becoming too sour, but there was a distinct lack of cheese. The mashed potatoes were creamy and of a tasty consistency, and tasted even better when mixed with the gravy from the main courses. The sautéed vegetables, while well cooked, just didn't wow us in the flavour department. Though the service – or lack thereof – has us a little miffed, the manager very graciously, without us raising the issue, apologised with an on-the-house Crème Brûlée. Funnily, it was the highlight of the meal; it was delicious in flavour and the satisfying hard layer of caramel was executed almost perfectly. Overall, Antique Khana's food isn't quite as grand as the restaurant's aesthetics demand. Don't get us wrong; it's a charmingly unique venue that swallows you into its world of nostalgia, but several small , but crucial, missteps took the shine off of an otherwise pleasingly subtle dining experience that you'll keep coming back to for more.

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Mokai Sushi: Sushi Restaurant in New Cairo Falls Short of More Established Competitors
Published On: 18/02/2015

With sushi as popular as ever across Cairo restaurants, the newest eatery to join the pack is Mokai Sushi at Concord Plaza Mall in New Cairo. Competition in the area is fierce, with Sushi Bay, Mori Sushi, Makani Sushi and a soon to open Fuego all in fairly close proximity. Mokai doesn't stop at sushi, however; the menu also features various items covering fast-food and main courses, and you can even grab a shisha. The venue is located on the outside of the mall and is essentially divided into two separate – they have different entrances – sections; one for sushi and the other for main courses and fast-food, as well as an outdoor area with fire heaters, shisha and LCD televisions. We entered the sushi bar and sat on two opposite sofas as traditional Japanese music played in the background. The warm orange interior, dim lights and Japanese wall engravings give the place a calming atmosphere and the seating arrangement gives you privacy. After checking the menu, we opted for Tempura Mariowase (50LE) as an appetiser, and a selection of Nigiri Sushi (10.5LE-12), Ebi Oshi Sushi (34LE/3 pieces), Salmon Sashimi (35LE/4 pieces), a Salmon Temaki (32/piece), and Maki Rolls (23LE – 90LE). The Tempura Mariowase arrived first and was a plate of fried fish, squid and shrimp along with vegetables. Both were covered in a light, crunchy fried batter that tasted delicious with the accompanying Tempura dipping sauce and everything was fresh tasting, but the amount of vegetables far exceeded the amount of seafood. Soon afterwards, we noticed that our sushi order was ready to be served; there was no waiter and the platter sat on the sushi bar for quite some time – sushi isn't something that waits for too long. The first of the sushi that we tried was the Sensei Maki (74LE/6 pieces) – one of Mokai's special rolls. Delicately and attractively topped with salmon, caviar and sesame, they looked fantastic and tasted just as good, with the tuna, avocado, cream cheese and salmon working perfectly together. The Philadelphia Rolls (34LE/half portion) brought cream cheese, avocado and cucumber together, which are all wrapped in smoked salmon and topped with teriyaki sauce; a simple combination of ingredients which made the roll light and tasty. Another of Mokai's signature sushi, however, didn't fare as well. The Paradise Roll – tempura, cream cheese and avocado, topped with smoked salmon and sweet yuzu sauce –lacked the flavour of yuzu and ended being very similar in taste to the Philadelphia Rolls Sitting in the centre of the dish were three pieces of Ebi Oshi; blocks of pressed sushi topped with bite size shrimp. Again, the pieces lacked any distinguishable flavour, while the Salmon Sashimi suffered similarly despite being noticeably fresh – the marinated sashimi might have been the better option. The Salmon Temaki cone, meanwhile, was every bit as good as it looked. Stuffed with fair amount of salmon, lettuce, cucumber and avocado coated with rice and nori, it held together perfectly and wasn't the mess one might think. As for the Nigiri Salmon, again the fish lacked taste compared to nigiri we've tried at other sushi places around Cairo. As a venue, Mokai is generally inviting, though when if compared with the more establishes names such as Mori and Fuego, the restaurant comes up just short. Most of our order was satisfactory, but we left remembering the bad more than we did the good.

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Tanoureen: Wholesome Lebanese Restaurant in Maadi
Published On: 17/02/2015

Lebanese food; Cairo just can't get enough of it. We love their grill, their pastries, their appetisers, and their sweets and the Cairo 360 troops are overwhelmingly pleased at the number of Shami restaurants across the city – a number that continues to grow. In Maadi, one of our favourite Lebanese restaurants is Tanoureen. Sharing the same venue as its sister restaurant, Cuba Cabana, the outside courtyard is set up perfectly for a disntinctly laidback and relaxing dining experience. The wooden furniture is complimented by comfortable coloured cushions and the lighting is never too much. Cuba Cabana ticked the boxes when it came to food, so we felt good about our odds at Tanoureen. Luckily, at the time of our visit, the weather was pleasant enough that we were able to sit outside and both menus were promptly laid before us by a pleasant waiter. We opted for the Makanek in Pomegranate Molasses (44.99LE), Hommus Beiruti (20.99LE) and Kebbeh Labanyeh (37.99LE) from the appetisers and Kofta (69.99LE) and Fatet Dajaj (50.99LE) for our mains. After a short wait, a fresh bread basket was served with our appetisers. The Hommus Beiruti was the biggest surprise; topped with olive oil, lemon, tehina, parsley and chopped onion, it had several extra dimensions of flavour and is, hands down, one of the best that this reviewer has tasted in Egypt. The Kebbeh Labanyeh featuring generous sized kobeba drenched in a delicious garlic yoghurt sauce was also a hit; perfectly cooked, served hot and using a noticeably good quality of meat. The Makanek, better known to us as Sogok in this part of the world, didn't fare as well; what is usually a sweet and sour overload of a molasses sauce was unfortunately diluted and didn't pack as much flavour as it should have. The Kofta meal, which came with our requested French fries, saj bread and 350g of kofta was certainly filling, but we the kofta was a tad dry and found ourselves constantly dipping it either in the molasses, tehina or garlic yoghurt dip. The Fatet Daja, however, had no such problems. The chunks of chicken breast were perfectly cooked and seasoned, and topped with yoghurt, olive oil, crispy bread and white rice; it was a delicious dish that excelled in both flavour and texture. All in all, Tanoureen offers a great atmosphere, wholesome filling food and provides an all around pleasant experience. The staff is friendly and attentive, and should you have leftovers, the food is packaged into super-convenient microwavable boxes. Excellent.

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Bulls Burger: Heliopolis Restaurant Enters Cairo's Competitive Gourmet Burger Scene
Published On: 17/02/2015

One of the latest food fads to be embraced by the Cairo dining scene over the last few years is undoubtedly the concept of the 'gourmet burger'. In the grand scheme of things, many are overpriced and the fast-food alternatives are, well, barely food. The most recent addition to the Cairo gourmet burger scene is Bulls Burger, which opened its doors this year in front of El Shams Club's main gate in Heliopolis. The venue has an outdoor seating area and a spacious indoor area split over two floors. The décor is quite hard to take in, to say the least, with bright, almost nerve-wracking colours adorning an otherwise basic setup - think lime green walls, neutral tiling and terracotta orange ceiling. The menu is relatively generic, featuring an assortment of fried appetisers, six traditional beef burger options and a few chicken burgers. In addition, each order comes with a refillable plate from salad bars conveniently located on both floors. Diners are also welcome to refill their sodas and their dipping sauces from the taps. The patties come in four sizes; 150g, 225g, 300g, or 450g. We opted for the Appetiser Platter (55LE), My Burger 150g (35LE) and the Monster Burger 225g (42LE). The friendly waiter took our order and came back after just ten minutes with an eye-popping appetiser platter and an array of all possible sauces and cheese dips along with some plastic gloves so we can get as messy as we want. The platter was a comfort food haven featuring onions rings, chicken strips, mozzarella sticks, chilli cheese wedges and spicy chicken wings. All the items were fried to a perfect crunch served blazing hot, complemented best by a delicious ranch sauce. The salad bar includes a range of different options including potato salad, coleslaw, apple-mayo salad, sweet pickle relish, salsa, green beans salad, pickles and coarse-cut veggies; all were fresh, with the green bean salad standing out, while the salsa was deceptively spicy – you've been warned. The burgers arrived shortly with a side of well-seasoned thick wedges and flavoursome sweet corn. The My Burger featured a thick beef patty topped with sliced bell peppers, cheddar cheese and deliciously crunchy onion rings, all tucked in a butter toasted bun, while the hefty Monster Burger was topped with a slice of fried mozzarella, fried mushrooms and fried onion rings. Needless to say, the latter was incredibly heavy and while both burgers were filling, the patties were overcooked, somewhat dry and under-seasoned, striking out the otherwise enjoyable combination of the toppings during our visit. And herein lies the problem; you can have all the creative combinations in the world, but if the soul of the burger – the patty – isn't up to standard, then you have a burger that isn't up to standard and a meal that isn't up to standard. Granted, the appetisers and salads are worthy of attention, but Bulls Burger, as things stand, are trailing behind in what is already a very competitive market.

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Manoushe Street: Popular Lebanese Chain Impresses at Heliopolis Branch
Published On: 16/02/2015

It's become a Cairo 360 cliché, but it's true; competition amongst Lebanese restaurants in Cairo is tough and new Levantine eateries are opening at a rapid rate. After finding success with its first branch on the North Coast last summer, Man'oushe Street arrived in Cairo with an already established reputation in tow. We visited the Heliopolis branch which was quite small and with no seating options, reinforcing the idea of it as on-the-go street food that keeps things simple. To call the manakeesh a type of pizza would be inaccurate in many ways, but for those unfamiliar with the Lebanese speciality, it's the closest comparison. Traditionally, it is topped with thyme, cheese or ground meat, but Man'oushe Street gets creative while maintaining a relative degree of authenticity. The menu surprisingly boasts a wide variety of manakeesh, bureks, wraps and pizzas, all of which are made with Man'oushe Street's 'special dough'. For a little extra, you can even have your food made with brown dough (4LE) or multi-grain dough (6LE). After inspecting the menu thoroughly we opted for the Lahmeh Bi Ajine with Cheese in a multi-grain dough (28LE), the Turkey and Cheese Wrap (39LE), a couple of Cheese Minikeesh (5LE), and the Chicken Medley Burek (33LE)  with extra cheese (9LE) Our orders were delivered to our car by the friendly waiter after a mere twenty minute wait. The burek came as a sealed pastry made of thin flaky dough with a pleasing crunch topped with sesame seeds and a generous filing of chicken, fresh mushrooms, garlic sauce and pickles, with the rather simple ingredients coming together to create a delicious amalgamation of flavours. The Lahmeh bi Ajine Manoucheh was wrapped in slightly dry multi-grain dough, filled with delicious minced meat in a flavoursome tomato-based sauce topped with cheese. Meanwhile, the Turkey Cheese Wrap stood out thanks to the incredibly soft fresh saj bread.  Once again, the very simple combination – smoked turkey, mozzarella cheese, fresh lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and mayonnaise – came together for an excellent, filling snack. Many Lebanese restaurants in Cairo try, in vain, to find a balance between fine and casual dining, though few fully commit to either. Think of Man'oushe Street, then, as an elevated form of fast-food. Some of the items on the menu are a tad overpriced compared to the portions served, but it isn't difficult to put together a filling mean for yourself from the menu.

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I Mix: Pocket-Friendly, Delivery-Only Meals in Maadi
Published On: 15/02/2015

The eclectic and unpredictable Cairo dining scene can be unforgiving when it comes to value-for-money; while we have plenty of good restaurants across the city, they all come with a rather hefty cheque at the end of your meal. This is a problem at the end of the month, when cash is low – quite often, standards become low, too. In Maadi, the brains behind Cuba Cabana have opened sister restaurant, I Mix. With a menu of mostly generic international dishes, the first thing you will notice is it is significantly cheaper than its counterparts. It's important to note that I Mix is strictly delivery-only – an increasingly common preference for food entrepreneurs in Egypt – and acts as a cheaper alternative to its sister restaurants. Of the seemingly rudimentary options, we opted for a Caesar Salad (18.99LE), as well as a Waldorf Salad (18.99LE), alongside or Beef Escalope (39.99LE) and Chicken Pane (32.99LE) and a side of French Fries (8.99LE). The delivery time was decent and our food arrived satisfyingly hot. The salads came in round plastic boxes with the dressing packaged separately. The Caesar Salad was the usual lettuce and croutons affair, but with the addition of olives, which overpowered everything, including the already scarce lettuce. Unfortunately, the Waldorf Salad wasn't much better. With lettuce, watercress, apples, pineapples, cherry tomatoes, raisins and walnuts, we opted to try one of the restaurant's vinaigrettes – what came was a strange dressing of ketchup and mayonnaise which didn't compliment the salad at all. Without the dressing the salad was far too sweet. So, the salads were a bit of disappointment, but, thankfully, the mains fared relatively better. The Beef Escalope was cooked well, though unremarkable in taste, while the pasta-with-red-sauce side suffered from a flat sauce despite the use of oregano. Coming with tasty white basmati rice, sautéed vegetables – including fresh mushrooms seared in butter – and a creamy lemon sauce, the Chicken Pane was a surprising hit. The chicken itself was well-cooked, well-fried – retaining a pleasing crunch – and packed plenty of flavour. On top of that, the portion was ample, especially considering its more than reasonable price. While the food at I-Mix is unlikely to wow, it'll definitely impress you in terms of buck-for-bang – keep the number on speed dial for when your wallet is thin.

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Jared's Bagels & Micah's Grill: American Breakfast Diner in Maadi
Published On: 11/02/2015

In a rapidly growing, fast-paced city like Cairo, you doesn't always have the time to grab the first and most important meal of the day. Thankfully, every neighbourhood has a few restaurants dedicated to solving that problem. In Maadi, one of those venues is Jared's Bagels. A few years ago it moved location from Road 9 to Road 233, and opened up a sister venue called Micah's Grill that expanded on the breakfast menu with lunch options including burgers, hot dogs and other heavy, but delicious food. With a brightly lit venue with mustard-coloured walls and sets of wooden tables with four chairs each, the atmosphere is pleasant and laidback. The servers behind the counter greet you with a smile as you walk in and are happy to explain what they have to offer if it's your first time here. Eager for a light, but filling, breakfast, we opted for a Turkey and Cheddar Sesame Bagel (19LE) and a Salmon and Cream Cheese Sesame Bagel (32LE). We also opted for a side of Nachos with Cheese (14LE) and fresh orange juice (11LE). Served in orange trays after about fifteen minutes, the toasted bagels arrived warm on our table along with Nachos accompanied by melted pepper jack cheese. The Turkey and Cheddar Bagel was topped with lettuce and tomatoes. While the ingredients were fresh and tasty, it was, overall, all a bit dry.  The Salmon and Cream Cheese Bagel was a different story altogether, however. Topped with onions and capers, it's a combination that you can rarely go wrong with. This bagel was both delicious and perfectly balanced. The Nachos were a great side to accompany the bagels, served fresh, warm and crunchy, especially as a lighter alternative to fries. The melted pepper jack cheese was a very nice addition. The freshly squeezed orange juice, meanwhile, is packaged into small plastic bottles and tasted as fresh as orange juice can get. We found Jared's Bagels to be a great breakfast option especially if you need to pick it up on your way to work or in between running errands. The ingredients are all fresh and the service and cleanliness of the venue are on point.

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Caracas: Busy & Vibrant Lebanese Bistro Offers Quality Food in New Cairo
Published On: 10/02/2015

Lebanese restaurants in Cairo are in no short supply, so what could one possibly have to offer to stand out amidst the pool of generic restaurants? Do it better, of course! Located in New Cairo's quickly expanding restaurant complex, Concord Plaza, Caracas seems to have attracted the Eastern Cairene crowd's attention. A pleasant waiter greeted us with the news that he'll have to jot us down on the waiting list, but we were, surprisingly, seated and handed menus within five minutes. Caracas offers two floors of indoor seating alongside a semi-outdoor seating area, all boasting a classic Oriental playlist comprised of Om Kalthoum and Fayrouz hits. Low-hanging blue and purple lamps, plant pots and a generally contemporary Oriental design make up the restaurant's lively interior. Offering all the Lebanese favourites, including hot and cold mezzas, soups, man'ousheh, sandwiches, grilled specials, Kebbeh in all its forms and Fatteh, alongside some sweet delights including an interesting-sounding Chocolate Sushi (35LE), the menu does the Lebanese cuisine justice. A second amicable waiter was quick to take our order and come back within a few minutes with our appetisers. The Falafel (18LE), comprised of five pieces of fried Hummus falafel accompanied with a bowl of Tahini and a bread basket, was crisp, non-greasy and a pleasant start to the meal. The Lebanese pita bread was freshly baked and steaming hot and was promptly refilled the minute we finished it. The Stuffed Vine Leaves (25LE) were drenched in olive oil and bursting with flavour despite lacking an ample amount of stuffing. Next up, the Labnah & Zaatar Manousheh (31LE) and the Halloumi Cheese Manousheh (31 LE) were both light, fresh, and adequately covered with toppings. The minute we were done with the appetisers and were contemplating unbuttoning our jeans, our main courses arrived looking as enticing as possible. The Mini Shawerma Djej (35LE) platter boasted five mini chicken shawerma sandwiches alongside a handful of crisp, non-oily French fries. The Shawerma was heavily herbed, and to say it tasted heavenly would be an understatement. Tasting just as delicious was the Shish Tawouk (65LE), which was comprised of six chunks of chicken, well-marinated in Garlic dip, enveloped in a thin Lebanese tortilla, with a side of fresh sautéed veggies. To wrap up, Caracas has given us more reason than ever to revisit it, with its scrumptious food and friendly, efficient staff. It's also worth noting that our cheque arrived the minute we ordered it and that the overall level of service remained exceptionally high all throughout our visit despite the fact that the place was overflowing with customers.

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RUSH: Egypt & the Middle East's First Eco-Sports Festival

On April 2nd of this year, Egypt is set to host a one-of-a-kind sports festival – an 'eco' sports festival to be exact. The brains behind it are Dune Raider Sandboarding – an adventure-seeking collective of adrenaline junkies that have played a huge part in bringing the sport of sandboarding to