Cairo Restaurants

Scalini: Poor Food at a Great Location in Maadi
Published On: 17/08/2014

There's a constant back and forth with restaurants in Cairo; some choose a prime location, and others choose prime food. Rarely do you find both, especially when importing ingredients is not only expensive, but requires special licensing. The newest contender falls into the prime location category. Located on a corner spot in Maadi, Scalini boasts a comfortable outdoor seating area, decent shisha and a menu that is dominated by, but not exclusive to, Italian cuisine. The restaurant has nothing even remotely related to Italian décor, however; instead it usesa brown and beige colour scheme across tiling, plastic tables and chairs.  Already popular amongst football fans, the restaurant can get very crowded on match nights but is generally comfortable on a normal night. A waiter escorted us to an empty table and handed us menus that offered all the regular options of starters, salads and main courses, but also included breakfast and bakery items. We opted for a Mexican Salad (32.5LE), Beef Stroganoff (75.5LE) and a Steak & Cheese with Mushroom sandwich (33.5LE). While serving time was average, the sitting outside in the summer may prove to be a bit much. Keep that in mind if you're going in the day. The Mexican Salad arrived first, supposedly containing fried chicken, mixed cheese, corn, red beans, lettuce and bell peppers. What we received was cucumbers, tomatoes, olives and white cheese with fried chicken and a side of Thousand Island dressing. We're unsure if this was a mix-up in the kitchen or if they were missing some ingredients, but either way, the flavours didn't blend, and the salad wasn't very good. Next came the Beef Stroganoff main course and the Steak & Cheese sandwich. The Stroganoff comes with your choice of two sides; we opted for sautéed vegetables and mashed potatoes. We had previously never seen pickled cucumbers floating around this dish, but there's a first time for everything no? While the portion was big, the flavour just wasn't refined enough. The meat, along with the gravy, tasted bland at best. Even the sautéed vegetables had more flavour than the meat, while the mashed potatoes were nice and creamy. The Steak & Cheese sandwich was a disaster. The meat was bland, the mozzarella cheese was dry, there were hardly any mushrooms and, although the menu doesn't say so, there were plenty of olives and bell peppers. To top it all off, the sandwich was cold and just downright unappealing. All in all the experience was poor. While the staff was swift and friendly in seating us and taking our orders, and the venue itself is a decent atmosphere for drinks and a shisha, the food was a major disappointment.

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Barbacoa Mexican Grill: New Restaurant Brings Mexican Cuisine Back to Maadi
Published On: 13/08/2014

Cairo has seen many Mexican restaurants come and go. While certainly delicious, it never quite seemed to sit well with the Egyptian demographic, maybe it's combining beans, rice and meat in the same dish that puts us off-despite our love of dishes like koshary. Whatever the case, a new contender in Mexican cuisine, Barbacoa Mexican Grill, recently opened its doors in Maadi, taking up the space where La Gourmandise used to be. Retaining most of the spacious interior of its predecessor, the seating areas include couches and wooden chairs and are relatively comfortable. The décor is confused and not quite what you would expect when going out for Mexican food, a little reminiscent of a breakfast buffet at a hotel lobby. The waiter escorted us to our table and handed us our menus, which sadly offered no explanation of the dishes – written in Spanish, or the ingredients they contain. The waiters seemed puzzled by our questions and didn't seem very familiar with the food which then prompted the manager to come to his rescue. After some fuss we had made up our minds. We opted for Guacamole de la Casa (45LE) and Nachos (40LE) from the appetizers, and from the main courses we opted for Barbacoa de Cordero (120LE) and Pescado a la Veracruzana (65LE). The Guacamole comes in a wooden bowl with an accompanying bowl of warm and tasty tortilla chips. While the mix was tasty, the guacamole's lemon zest overpowered all the other ingredients. With the Nachos, the toppings of pico de gallo and sour cream made the tortilla chips soggy, which was unfortunate because the ones served with the guacamole were excellent. The restaurant's namesake, the Barbacoa de Cordero, is a dish of slow cooked lamb wrapped in banana leaves and served with tortilla bread, salsa, onions, limes and coriander. Wonderfully tender, juicy and tasty, this dish is definitely worth a try. The second main course, the Pescado a la Veracruzana, consists of grilled fish topped with olive oil, capers, green olives, diced tomatoes and coriander. The dish is accompanied by spiced Mexican rice and tortilla chips. Our only reservation about the fish was that we expected it be spicier or more flavourful. While Barbacoa is relatively new to the restaurant scene, Maadi has seen a bunch of Mexican restaurants come and go, most of which had excellent food so the bar is already set pretty high. While the food was good, the restaurant itself is a bit of a disorienting experience, so we hope better attention is paid to the customer's experience at the restaurant.

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Ovio: European Artisan Restaurant in Sheikh Zayed's Galleria40
Published On: 11/08/2014

The Cairo restaurant scene is, by and large, disctated by trends and fads, but occassionally, a restaurant comes out of the blue and knocks your socks off. This is not one of them, but Ovio - the first venue to open up in the still unfinished complex, Galleria40, in Sheikh Zayed - serves European cuisine and targets fans of the exceptional. Immaculately clean and stylish, there's an outdoor area separated from the indoor area by a clear glass façade revealing an open kitchen, the fridges with cakes and sweets, trays of freshly baked bread and a salad bar. The décor is elegant and simple with subtle lighting reminiscent of a European artisan café. We had a very helpful and friendly waiter explain the menu to us, which is divided into breakfast, salads, sandwiches, soup, main courses, bakery and pastry. We opted for a Beef Tenderloin (112LE) from the main courses section, made with caramelized onions and served with sautéed vegetables. You can order additional sides including Ovio's Mashed Potatoes with nutmeg, garlic bread, basmati rice or French fries. The second main course was recommended by the waiter; Italian dish, Chicken Saltimbocca (58LE), which consists of thinly-sliced chicken breasts cooked with sage leaves and topped with bresaola – air dried and salted beef. It was served with a side of sautéed spinach and we ordered another Mashed Potatoes side (24LE). We also opted for an Apple and Chicken Salad (56LE). After we placed our order, we were served a gorgeous fresh bread basket with butter. The salad was served shortly after, consisting of thinly sliced chicken and green apple slices, topped with olive oil, slices of parmesan cheese and arugula. The mixture was light, delicious and an excellent start to our meal. Both main courses were then served promptly and cooked medium-well as per our request. The beef was very tasty, a little hard on the outside, but soft, juicy and full of flavour on the inside. The side of sautéed vegetables was fresh and similarly tasty. What really surprised us, however, was the Chicken Saltimbocca. Four thin slices of chicken topped with sage leaves and bresaola leave you with, the aforementioned, exceptional flavour. To top off the great experience, the waiter took us to the pastry fridge where we could view and pick for ourselves from the large and unusual collection. We opted for a Chocolate Mousse Cake (22LE) topped with a Vanilla Ice Cream (16LE). While the cake was flavourful, it was equally dense with chocolate and, perhaps, too rich, though the ice cream cuts through it a little.  While the dessert didn't top off the experience off the way we had hoped, the newly opened restaurant insisted we couldn't leave without a complimentary box of pastries and another of freshly baked bread. Who doesn't love free food? Ovio was indeed a great experience, and one we're sure we'll rave about to friends and family.

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Dietlicious: Low-Calorie Meals & Snacks from Delivery-Only Cairo Eatery
Published On: 10/08/2014

Across the electic Cairo dining scene, the city's emerging obsession with health, fitness and nutrition has led many food and beverage entrepreneurs to go out of their way to offer healthy options for the calorie-counters among us.  Dietlicious, Cairo's newest delivery-only healthy food restaurant, has just joined the health craze, with a seemingly well-put together menu of low-calorie meals that claim to offer your dietary needs wrapped in sandwiches, tossed in salads and baked in desserts. We opted for the Dietlicious specialty, oil-free Air Fried Fries (11.95LE), their 399-calorie Chicken Caesar Salad (26.95LE), a Grilled Chicken Wrap (19.95LE) and their miniature 150g Rib Eye Steak (69.95LE). One can't help but be intrigued by 'air-fried; fries, but they were a complete disappointment; flavourless, limp, mushy. The Caesar Chicken Salad consisted of lettuce, croutons and grilled chicken. Lacking seasoning or any real flavour, the salad was bland at best, even with the salad dressing which wasn't nearly enough to give it a flavour boost. When it comes to steak,  you expect to to be asked how you would like it cooked - which was overlooked by Dietlicious. Opening up the secure plastic containers, the Rib Eye looked appetising, but in reality, the steak was overcooked beyond belief, leaving chewy and hard to swallow. The accompanying side of steamed vegetables was well cooked, but like so much of the food we ordered, it was bland in flavour. The only enjoyable experience was the Grilled Chicken Wrap. Wrapped in toasted Tortilla bread, the leanly cooked grilled chicken is topped with just the right amount of cheddar cheese, tomatoes, lettuce and a good quantity of light mayonnaise which, surprisingly, did not lead to soggy bread. Overall, the sandwich was ideal in portion, packed with flavour and held itself together. Of the three-item dessert menu, we opted for the Flourless Honey-Almond Cake, (7.95LE) which is said to be just 260 calories. Although soft and spongy on the inside, the cake was rather dull and tasteless, salvaged only by the sweetness of a side of side of honey-syrup. Any new restaurant or food service that makes a conscious effort to produce healthy food should be applauded; but when it comes at the expense of flavour, you can't help but wonder, "What's the point?"

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Lucille's: Can Maadi Favourite Still Boast 'Best Burger in the World'?
Published On: 05/08/2014

Ever since its mention in Time magazine as the 'Best Hamburger in the World', Lucille's has been the point of comparison for all other burger vendors in Egypt serving the diner style fat patty. It's been almost seven years since the review in Time, and four since our own, so we decided to drop by the small restaurant on Maadi's Road 9 for a much due reevaluation. Still as popular as ever, you should call ahead and reserve a time for your party if you don't want to stand outside and wait for one to clear up. The warm and cozy diner packs about a dozen booths and tables, and has looked practically the same for at least a few years back. Our last review was mostly about the second thing Lucille's is famous for – the all day breakfast menu – so this time we decided to go burger. We decided to share a Sample Platter (145LE) which consists of regular Tex-Mex starters like Onion Rings, Potato Skins, Cheese Quesadillas and Deep Fried Mushrooms. From the burgers, we couldn't resist the Outlaw Burger (149LE); a goliath 600gm patty topped with six slices of cheddar and Swiss cheese, grilled mushrooms and beef bacon, served with deep fried zucchini and onion rings. Serving time at Lucille's is quite average, landing somewhere between 25-35 minutes. The Sample Platter arrives with several dips including sour cream and BBQ sauce. The starters are plentiful and fried well, with the Deep Fried Mushrooms and Chicken Strips standing as the tastiest of the bunch for being topped with melted cheese and the latter boasting a perfect crunch-to-tender chicken ratio. The Outlaw Burger, easily shared by two people, is about as wide as a small pizza. The bacon, mushroom and cheese toppings blended perfectly on top of the patty to offer a delicious grilled flavour. As for the patty itself, it fell a little short. We love the sheer size and thickness of the patty, and we also loved the slightly charred edges, but it was definitely overcooked – it had no juice. It's very apparent that it was overcooked especially when it had no juice releasing toppings – like tomatoes – to balance it out. Some might find that okay, especially when we're a population notorious for overcooking meats, but we maintain that a burger should not only be juicy, but slightly messy. Definitely delicious and definitely a diner you will visit, or at least order from, multiple times, we're sorry to say, calling it the 'Best Burger in the World' in 2014 is a bit of stretch.

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Yum: Sweet & Savoury Pies in Maadi
Published On: 04/08/2014

When on the hunt for something new and quirky to eat, Maadi is your safest bet; the area is home to several international cuisines that are quite uncommon amongst restaurants in Egypt, because of a strong foodie community. Of the most recent of these cater-to-foodie venues is Yum; a small little restaurant right behind Nola on Road 9, that bakes both savoury and sweet pies, pastries and rolls. We saw a picture of the beef pie floating around the internet and, quite frankly, couldn't resist. So we dropped by and were greeted by one of the partners; a very friendly lady who had earlier taken our order over the phone. Our orders were hot and ready when we arrived thirty minutes after our call. We had opted for a Chilli Beef and Bean Pie (25LE), a Pepper Steak Pie (25LE), Spinach and Feta Roll (20LE) and an Apple Pie (28LE). The pies certainly looked fabulous, boasting a crisp golden layer on the outside but maintaining a certain chewable quality. The Chili Beef and Bean filling was steaming hot and tasty, but quite mild in terms of spiciness, which could either be a good or bad thing depending on your preference. The Pepper Steak had a much stronger kick, the meat was tender and melted in your mouth, while the sauce was every bit as peppery as you would want it to be. While both the pies looked relatively small, they are surprisingly filling yet light on the stomach. The Spinach and Feta Roll was quite delicious, with hot cheesy spinach wrapped in a very crumbly and light pastry, we only wish we ordered more of it. Thoroughly satisfied at this point, we took a slice out of the Apple Pie. While tasty and featuring a cinnamon and a little lemon zing, we expected the inside to be warmer and the apples to have been cooked longer. All in all, a pretty refreshing and, indeed, 'yummy' experience. Yum don't deliver yet but are planning to in the near future, but they do sell pre-cooked frozen pies ready to go in the oven for the many people without enough time to work up a meal in the kitchen.

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Tatbila: Traditional Tajins at Modest Maadi Restaurant
Published On: 02/08/2014

Located on a typically quiet street in Maadi Degla is little-known restaurant, Tatbila – Arabic for 'seasoning'. The exterior of the restaurant is as ambiguous as its name and gives not even the smallest hint to what type of cuisine it serves, but for two words plastered above the shopfront – tajins and grills. The interior of the small Middle Eastern eatery is small and square, housing six tables. The area is clean and has a plain sophistication about it, bar the customary television screens. One thing that was immediately obvious during the time of our visit was the warm and genuine hospitality of the staff. Tatbila's menu features the expected classics of Oriental cuisine, including some from the Gulf. Some of the more popular items on the menu are the okra tajin, molokheya and moussaka, all of which range between 30LE and 65LE in price. As is the case with most similar restaurants, grilled meats are ordered by the kilo, with kebab at 140LE per kg and kofta at 95LE per kilo.  On the poultry side of things, grilled chicken, pigeon and stuffed quail sitting between the 40LE to 50LE range. In terms of appetizers and side dishes, classic Egyptian and Lebanese dishes are offered including balady salad, tehina (5LE each), as well as taboula and fattoush (7LE each). Hot appetisers are plentiful, too, with the 45LE 'Oriental Mix' platter (45LE) dishing up servings of Egyptian-style liver and kidneys, grilled Oriental sausage and Lebanese favourites, kobeba and sambosek. The standout items of the platter were, by far, the liver and the accompaniment of sliced bell peppers with the sausage, while the kobeba stood out as the ugly duckling of the selection – it was both bland in taste and generally out of place amongst the other foods on the platter. Overall, though, the platter is a fine option that is big enough to be a full meal in itself and excellent value for money. From the various tajins on offer, we went for the ox tail with onions (65LE), which unfortunately was heavy on the onions, light on the ox tail. Despite that, the meat was cooked and seasoned perfectly and is amongst one of the best preparations of an often mistreated delicacy. The grills, however, were a little disappointing. Though the kofta was decent, the tarab – minced meat wrapped in sheep's stomach lining – was well-seasoned, but overcooked; a theme that seems to apply to the restaurant's grilled items. Though it is by no means perfect, Tatbila does excel on several levels; the service is friendly and fast and the quality of food is generally high across a menu that offers a lot of dishes that might otherwise be difficult to find in an area like Maadi.  

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Maharaja and Zenzen: Modest Venue, Great Food in Maadi
Published On: 31/07/2014

There's not many Indian restaurants in Cairo, sadly that can be attributed to the fact that it's one of the lesser known cuisines in Egypt. The comparison between the restaurants that serve Indian cuisine is also strange, with some in hotels and others hidden on smaller roads, there's no clear cut demographic that they serve. What we do know, however, is that Indian cuisine is pretty delicious, so we decided to drop by one of our favourites and see how it's been doing. Maharaja and Zenzen is a collaboration of Indian cuisine plus all things Asian, including Korean, Thai and Chinese. We had previously visited the whacky coloured venue in El Gazaer Square in Maadi, while the decor is certainly misleading, and not the most comfortable, you will quickly forget about it when you're served your food. We opted for Fried Dumplings (12LE) from the appetizers, Beef with Black Mushroom (50LE) and Chicken Makhani (48LE) from the mains and Vegetable Fried Rice (21LE) for the sides. The Dumplings, while a small portion, were fried to perfection with a tasty chicken and veggie filling. The Beef with Black Mushrooms came steaming hot in oyster sauce. The beef was juicy and tender while the mushrooms were large, plentiful and bursting with flavour. The Chicken Makhani, better known as Butter Chicken, was exceptional. Served extremely hot, the portion of chicken was filling while the butter sauce was thick and unbelievably delicious. We wished we had ordered some Naan bread to dip in the sauce. Both dishes are complimented greatly with the Vegetable Fried Rice with Eggs which left us with a thoroughly hearty and filling meal that's worth every penny. It's tough to assume the food would be so good by the look of the restaurant with its generic Asian decor and not-so-clean marble floors. It may not be the best place to take someone out to or hold a business meeting, but if you've never had Maharaja and Zenzen it's a surprise waiting to happen and we really recommend you drop by, or order to your home, if you haven't already.

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Mori Sushi: Sushi Chain Still One of the Best in Maadi
Published On: 27/07/2014

Of the many trends that have boomed across restaurants in Cairo, sushi seems to be one that is here to stay. Having expanded into almost every Asian restaurant, Cairenes' lust for sushi is as strong as ever. Located on Road 9 in Maadi, Mori Sushi is one of the local favourites. In other branches, Mori offers both a sushi menu and a grill menu, but in Maadi, the grill menu is unavailable. Mori has built a substantial reputation for itself in serving fresh and tasty sushi, and we were determined to put that to the test of time. The stylish black, white and orange theme slaps you in the face as soon as you step foot inside the restaurant, where a waiter greeted us at the door, showed us to our seats, and even offered to go through the menu with us. Mori's sushi selection is vast, so be sure to have a good look through the menu. We opted for three main types the Uramaki – also known as inside out rolls - Hot Rolls – the more filling, fried sushi - and Oishii – or Oshi sushi, the rectangular shaped sushi. From the Uramaki we opted for the Calamri Roll (40LE per 4 pieces), Crispy Shrimp and Avocado Roll (72 LE per 8 pieces), Hanami Roll (46LE per 4 pieces) and Togarash Roll (37LE per 4 pieces). From the Hot Rolls we opted for Dynamite Salmon (77LE per 8 pieces), Spicy Lemon (82LE per 6 pieces) and New Hot Roll (54LE per 6 pieces). We also opted for Shrimp Tempura (36LE per 3 pieces) from the Oishii Sushi section. The presentation was gorgeous; the colourful rolls are all placed in either black or white ceramic serving platters and are swiftly prepared. Digging into the cold sushi first, the Crispy Shrimp and Avocado is a no-brainer and executed perfectly, while the Hanami and Togarash rolls, combining salmon, avocadoes, shrimp and either cream cheese or mayonnaise, tasted fresh and creamy, but the Calamari Roll wasn't the best, tasting a little bland in comparison to the others. The Oishii Shrimp Tempura, topped with cream cheese, chives and Tabasco sauce, was an interesting mixture of flavours, but a little unusual. From the Hot Rolls, the Spicy Lemon - one of Mori's most popular orders - lived up to its zesty reputation, the Dynamite Salmon was delicious as the whole roll was fried allowing for the salmon to cook, and the New Hot Roll - topped with teriyaki sauce - was easily the most filling of the whole batch. A wholesome and enjoyable experience at Mori Sushi may cost you a little extra when compared to other restaurants, but it makes up for with swift service, a clean and warm atmosphere and delicious food.

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Chili's: Family Dining in Maadi
Published On: 27/07/2014

Some restaurants in Cairo have developed a following of families who dine at the establishment every Friday – like a family ritual of sorts. The thing with these restaurants is, since the people keep coming back, it leaves room for the quality of food to fall. One such case is Chili's in Maadi; seemingly a pioneer in overcooked steaks. You'll find it packed with families every Friday, despite its location in the terrible Bandar mall, and it has somehow managed to survive the economic crash and the uproar in Egypt, all while serving subpar food. The venue itself has the usual cluttered Tex-Mex diner feel, with an additional outdoor area that's far too hot in the summer. Seating will take you quite a while if it's the weekend, and you can also expect long serving times. Much to our dismay, we sat down after waiting for fifteen minutes. We dived straight into the menu to shorten our waiting time. From the appetisers we opted for a Fajitas Trio (82.99LE). Arriving on a sizzling hot plate with onions and bell peppers, the dish contained beef, chicken and shrimp, accompanied with small tortilla wraps, sour cream and pico de gallo. Fresh off the bat, the chicken and the beef were so over cooked you couldn't bite through them; the shrimp, on the other hand, tasted like it had been defrosted and, similarly, hard to chew. From the main courses, we opted for a Southwest Ribeye (114.99LE) and Crispy Honey-Chipotle Chicken (52.99LE). Served with mashed potatoes with cheese and bacon bits, as well as sautéed vegetables, the Southwest Ribeye is said to have southwest seasoning and topped with seasoned butter. The steak was ordered medium rare, but what we got was a good two stages past well-done. So well-done, in fact, that you could taste neither the seasoning nor the butter; just charred, terrible tasting meat. The chicken, however, was much better. Served with French fries and the honey chipotle sauce, it too was overcooked, though in a roundabout way, it worked to the dishes favour. The chicken had pleasing crisp to it, albeit a little too chewy, and the sauce was very tasty. To top off a sad experience, we hoped a dessert could salvage the situation. We were wrong. We ordered the Brownie Sundae hoping to get to some cold vanilla ice cream melting over chocolaty goodness. Instead, we got a stale, barely warm brownie. The vanilla ice cream wasn't bad though; don't be alarmed by its yellow colour though; that's just the egg whites in the French vanilla recipe. One can understand the appeal of Chili's; a big menu of unfussy, filling food. But how it continues to enjoy such a level of popularity, unaffected by the country's economic woes, is a mystery.  

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Cairo 360 Takes the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge!

The Cairo 360 team has today taken on the ALS Bucket Challenge and we've challenged a few of our good friends to follow suit. A group of our bravest souls were on hand to make a donation and contribute to an online craze that has seen people from across the world dump buckets of ice and water over t