Cairo Restaurants

Z Restaurant: Affordable Food in Tahrir Square
Published On: 28/08/2014

Joining the ranks of the smaller and cheaper restaurants in Cairo is Z Restaurant. Located in Tahrir Square, between Hardee's and Ali Baba, Z has very simple decor consisting of wooden chairs and tables, with rows of photographs of food lining the walls. What first attracted us to Z was the decent menu with very cheap prices.  Specializing in mostly fast food plus some localized international dishes. All main courses are the same price, 25LE, and arrive in generously hefty portions sure to satisfy an empty stomach.    We ordered Kofta with Rice (25LE) which was decently priced, considering the large bed of rice and generous portion of kofta; the taste of the rice was a little bland though the juiciness of the kofta made up for this especially when smothered in ketchup. We also opted for the Chicken Fajita with Rice (25LE) from the Mexican cuisine which was much more pleasing to the palette. The chicken had a tangy sauce which, albeit a little too spicy, was a tasty choice.  It was mixed with a little salad and wrapped in a soft tortilla giving a variety of different textures that fit together nicely. From the English cuisine Z restaurant offer the choice of Roast Beef with Potatoes, Scallop with Potatoes or Steak with Potatoes all arriving on large overflowing plates.  In addition to the eclectic main course menu there is a choice of Pasta Bolognaise at 9LE as well as several other cheaper dishes containing much of the same as the main courses. These cheaper dishes are much smaller and make for a decent meal for a child or light-eater. Additionally, there is a small selection of side dishes available, each costing 5.50LE, including baba ghanough, pickles and french fries. Z Restaurant also serves sandwiches in three size options, costing between 5.50LE and 12LE, and a range of cold and hot drinks are on offer, with warm drinks at around 6LE and canned drinks at 4LE. While Z Restaurant isn't the most stylish, it's a good place for a dependable and affordable meal.

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Cuba Cabana: Quality Dining at Reasonable Prices in Maadi
Published On: 26/08/2014

On a quest to check out some of our old favourites on the Cairo restaurant scene, we decided to stop by Cuba Cabana in Maadi. It had been four years since our last review, and many a restaurant have shut down in that time. Located on the quiet Road 7, Cuba Cabana boasts beautiful décor and a spacious, comfortable courtyard. The shades of brown and beige create a subtle contrast that's complimented by touches of greenery and strikingly-coloured cushions. Eager to try some of the higher-end food this time around, we were seated by a friendly waiter at an outdoor table adjacent to a small wooden bridge that leads you from the courtyard to the indoor area. Although we were interested in a hearty launch, Cuba Cabana's menu offers everything from breakfast options like omelettes and pancakes to soups and salads, their signature square burgers, fajitas and enchiladas, all the way through the main courses to desserts and an extensive drinks menu. We opted for a medium-cooked Balsamic Onion Steak (84.99LE) and a Salmon Steak (94.99LE). Both are served with sautéed vegetables and your choice of a second side including potatoes – mashed, baked, wedges or French fries – pasta or a salad. We chose wedges and a baked potato. Served roughly 25-30 minutes later, our food arrived hot on large white square plates. The 250g tenderloin Balsamic Onion Steak was cooked medium as requested. The meat was brown and slightly firm around the edges, while the inside was tender and just the right colour of pink. The steak is topped with balsamic sauce and caramelised onions creating a very pleasant mixture of sweet and slightly tangy. The sautéed vegetables, albeit a little too greasy, were seasoned and topped with butter. Finally, the baked potato, although completely bland itself, was complemented by a ranch sauce that's heavy on the blue cheese which rendered any seasoning unnecessary. The 250g Salmon Steak, seasoned with herbs, capers, pickled onions and ginger was tender and had a crispy crust around the edges. The salmon is topped with a creamy lemon and dill sauce giving it that extra bit of zing. The salmon is served with the same seasoned and buttered sautéed vegetables, plus another side of potato wedges that's seasoned the same as the vegetables. We do wish they were baked to additional crisp though. All round, the food was quite delicious. The atmosphere is very relaxed outside and, should you want, the indoor area has a more intimate vibe. At night, the restaurant features low light yellow lamps that add a nice subtle ambiance. Moderately priced for main courses of that calibre, and with friendly attentive staff, it's no wonder Cuba Cabana has survived for this long.

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Peking: Popular Chinese Restaurant Arrives in New Cairo's Downtown Katameya Mall
Published On: 25/08/2014

As one of the longest standing Chinese restaurant chains in Egypt, Peking has long been known as the place to go to satisfy Asian food cravings in Cairo, so when we found out about a new branch in New Cairo's Downtown Katameya Mall, we had to pass by and see for ourselves. Peking holds a unique location in the relatively new shopping complex. Its outdoor seating area is set over a bridge with a few tables aligned next to its rails, overlooking the busy mall. Its indoor seating, however, offers a much quieter and intimate experience with wood-panelled walls and a tranquil colour scheme. Upon entrance, we were greeted by the head waiter who apologetically showed us to our table indoors as the outdoor seating we had requested was already full. Within a couple of minutes we were seated with our menus neatly laid out on our table. Peking offers a range of Chinese delights: traditional Won Tons, Spring Rolls and Dumplings were pretty much the only items we recognised in the appetisers sections. The usual soups and salads were offered, with nothing seeming out of place or particularly Chinese other than the Hong Kong Soup – a mixture of prawns and Chinese spices. The main course section comprised of crisp fried chicken and seafood, some stir fried dishes, noodles and some meat-based dishes, ranging from baked to BBQ to stewed options. Strangely enough, some Paellas, very traditional Spanish dishes, were offered as well. Upon scanning the menu, we decided to go for the Vegetable Spring Rolls (11LE), some Prawn Crackers (9LE) and the Peking Soup (17 LE) for our appetisers. Our choices for main courses included Chicken BBQ (41LE) and Fried Beef Noodles (31LE). Our food arrived earlier than we had anticipated despite how busy the restaurant was. The Spring Rolls and Crackers were both satisfyingly crispy and light. The hot sauce that comes with the dishes, however, was much spicier than advertised.  The soup was creamy, belly-warming and had actual chunks of chicken in it; a feature many 'chicken' soups lack elsewhere. Our main courses were served next, with all dishes arriving in a pot with a lit candle underneath them. The BBQ chicken tasted quite similar to very oily chicken fajita and wasn't exactly the most pleasant thing to try and digest. The Beef Fried Noodles, however, were delicious with the noodles being well-cooked and seasoned. All in all, Peking offered us a pleasant but not particularly authentic Asian experience. Despite the food being well-served and mostly delectable, it lacked any distinct Chinese flavours. The service, however, was adequate and on-point with the food's timely arrival and our waiter pleasantly passing by our table half-way through the meal to make sure all is well and to generally make sure our meal was satisfactory. 

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Tabali: Egyptian Street Food at Balady-Chic Restaurant in New Cairo
Published On: 20/08/2014

We, Cairenes, definitely love ourselves some foul, falafel and hawawshi. Sushi and burgers may come and go and tastes for international foods may vary, but when it comes to some traditional Egyptian cuisine, none can resist. Tabali is the latest addition to restaurants aiming to serve gourmet Egyptian street food. We coincidentally stumbled upon this newly-opened eatery in New Cairo and were lured in by its creative design and colourful outlook. With bright blue and perky green decorations garnishing its doors, Tabali sure looked appealing. The restaurant offers both outdoor and indoor seating. The outdoor seating was, despite its size, way too sunny, especially in the summer.  Thus, we occupied one of only two tables available indoors. The restaurant manager, also working the cashier, was cheerful and quite helpful as he handed us our menus and explained the restaurant's specialties. Our first glance at the menu confirmed the Déjà vu we experienced earlier as we set eyes on the interior design of the restaurant, specifically the pickle jars display area and the chalk boards with food items scribbled on them. The menu boasted different types of foul, falafel and egg dishes. A modest selection of salads is also offered, with the Beetroot and Rocca salads seeming the most interesting. No-fuss cheese sandwiches/platters were listed as well, alongside an assortment of fresh juices and fresh fruit salads. For those looking for heftier dishes, three rather ordinary pasta dishes were available; basically béchamel and spaghetti Bolognese hybrids. Some hard-core Egyptian beef and chicken liver, as well as hawawshi are available. The dessert section was rather stereotypical, with rice pudding and Nutella, creamy halawa, molasses and jam sandwiches being pretty much its constituents. We settled for an Original Falafel sandwich (3.50LE), an Eggplant Falafel sandwich (6.95LE), Hawawshi (14.95LE), a platter of four falafel pieces (4.95LE) and a Baba Ghanough salad (11.95LE). For refreshments, we ordered Lemon Mint juice (12 LE) and Sugar Cane juice (10 LE). Disappointingly, the service was slow and rather staggered; the first two platters of food arrived before the drinks, for example. Thankfully, the food itself was rather satisfactory. Both sandwiches were filled to the brim with large falafel pieces and salad. The individual falafel pieces were light, crisp and not at all oily. The Hawawshi was similarly crisp, non-oily and generous in well-marinated ground beef. The Baba Ghanough was the one item, however, that left a questionable impression; it was too runny, drizzled with way too much olive oil and lacked the distinct smoky eggplant flavour. The drinks, however, were amazing, to say the least. The Lemon Mint juice was zesty, refreshing and had that delightful lemony tinge to it and the Sugar Cane juice was energising and surprisingly not overpoweringly sweet. All in all, it'd be a stretch to say that Tabali offers a unique dining experience. Poor service aside, we did end up enjoying the revitalising drinks, while the food itself was decent, if unspectacular. The place was also easy on our wallets, and despite charging a little more for traditionally cheap food options, it was well worth it for the superior quality.

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Akasya: Serene Breakfast Spot in Maadi
Published On: 19/08/2014

Known for its greenery and quiet, Maadi is host to a number of restaurants and cafes offering breakfast options for fans of the sunny outdoors. Among these is Akasya; a restaurant that takes up the space that was once occupied by Euro Deli on Road 232. Retaining much of the same décor and outdoor area that made Euro Deli so popular, breakfast was in order. Visiting early in the morning makes the August sun more bearable, and the staff are noticeably more attentive when there are less people there. We took our seats garden-side, and dove into a menu that's comprised of a number of breakfast options including crepes, omelettes, bagels and sandwiches. They also offer pizza, pasta and chicken, beef and shrimp main courses if you'd rather come by for lunch or dinner. We opted for Cheese Sambousak (20LE) from the appetisers, Spinach with Cheese Crepe (34LE) and a Roast Beef with Cheddar Baguette (26LE). Serving time can be rather long, though this time around, we'd say it was average. Given that the restaurant wasn't crowded, and our orders were fairly simple to make, they should've been served faster. Eventually, four pieces of Cheese Sambousak arrived on a bed of lettuce at our table; the dough was nice and crunchy, but the cheese was rather bland and was in dire need of some kind of seasoning. The Spinach and Cheese Crepe arrived next; essentially a blob of cheese and oozing with spinach and cream cheese – and not in the good way. The ratio of filling to crepe was extremely off, you could hardly taste any crepe through the ridiculous amount of cheese and the sheer amount of oil spilling out. We hoped the Roast Beef sandwich could salvage the breakfast, but we were wrong. The decently-sized, toasted baguette contained lettuce, mayo, melted cheddar cheese and thick slices of roast beef. While we certainly appreciate the use of real roast beef and not the processed and packaged supermarket kind, it had no flavour whatsoever. The sandwich tasted like cheese, mayo, stale lettuce and a large, very chewy object resembling meat but tasting nothing like it thanks, once again, to a severe lack of seasoning. While the food was disappointing, the cheque was pretty inexpensive and the atmosphere was great. Akasya's outdoor area is perfect for people who work on the go or like to have business meetings outside the office, but maybe try the omelettes instead?

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IKEA Restaurant: Wholesome Scandinavian Dishes at Cairo Festival City's Biggest Attraction
Published On: 18/08/2014

People have raved about IKEA's Restaurant for years. With the Swedish home furnishing giant having landed in Cairo at the end of last year, you can be sure they brought along their restaurant which occupies an entire floor at their venue in Cairo Festival City. IKEA's food market is known for offering Swedish (or Scandinavian) food and groceries including meatballs and salmon. The meatballs in gravy with mashed potatoes might be their most famous dish so we decided to stop by since we were in the area. Relatively easy to get to from the inside, we took a set of escalators up to the restaurant which is spaced out like a cafeteria. The concept is interesting; customers take a tray and are served what they want from the buffet. When you're done, you pay at the cashier. Later you can deposit you're tray in allocated areas. The idea takes from the same corporate attributes that IKEA employ to reduce end user cost. So we proceeded to the buffet and opted for the 15 piece portion of Meatballs with Mashed Potatoes and gravy (35LE) and Herbed Grilled Chicken with Basmati Rice (39LE). We also tested out the Salmon Cake (12LE) and that's what we dug into first. Basically, it's a ball of mashed potatoes stuffed with cooked salmon and covered in a layer of fried breading. The cake is hot on the inside and has a nice mix of textures between the tender salmon, creamy potatoes and slight crunch of breading. While the meat balls were tasty, especially with the gravy, we couldn't help but feel they were a little stale. It might the fact that we knew they were frozen and sent over from Sweden. The mashed potatoes were creamy and similarly complimented nicely by the gravy. The Grilled Chicken, made with rosemary in the marinade, had a strong herby aroma and, along with its sauce, created a good harmony with the Basmati Rice, which has a herby flavour of its own. All in all, a pleasant experience that definitely beats having to go hungry while shopping. Would we ever go there specifically for the restaurant? Unlikely; it's too far out and there's all of Cairo Festival City behind you with countless other restaurants. But for what it is - a decent and relatively cheap meal - it definitely works.

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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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Cairo Weekend Guide: The Citadel Festival, the 'Big Cook Off' & More!

Hello Cairo! It's the last weekend of the August, which signals the end of the summer for many, and if you haven't made it out to the beach yet, you really should. Otherwise, check out what we have in store for you over the weekend right here in the city. On Thursday, CJC kicks off the weekend with