Cairo Reviews

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Bua Khao: Wavering Thai Favourite in Maadi
Published On: 17/09/2014

Some restaurants in Cairo get by just serving good food. They have neither a view, nor a particularly fancy venue. It's just good quality food. Bua Khao is one such restaurant, but the popular Thai eatery has been quite inconsistent with their food as of late. We wanted to see for ourselves how our meal would go so we stopped by the small venue on Road 151 in Maadi. Still ever-so-slightly shabby, the small flight of stairs will take you up to the modest restaurant. While bearing in mind that at Bua Khao the emphasis is on the food, not the aesthetics, we sat at a small table while the waiter showed us the menus. We opted for a Tom Ka Gai soup (32LE) and Vegetable Spring Rolls (20LE) from the appetisers. The soup, consisting of chicken, galangal shoots and coconut milk, was warm and tasty with a certain light creaminess from the coconut milk. The Spring Rolls, unfortunately, weren't as good as we remember them, tasting a little stale, while the accompanying sweet sauce was bland. For the main courses, we tried the Crispy Chicken with Chili and Garlic (48LE) from the conveniently named "Something New You Must Try" section of the menu. Main courses aren't served with rice or noodles, so we opted for a Pad See-Ew Gai (40LE) which is basically fried soya rice noodles with chicken and vegetables. For the second main course we opted for Duck with Pineapple Sauce (75LE) and for the side an order of Jasmine Rice (18LE). The Crispy Chicken was the best dish of thenight. Ordered mildly spicy, the chicken cubes were deep fried with a spicy, crispy layer that hits the sweet spot right between tender and crunchy. The Fried Soya Rice Noodles, although tasty, were a bit of a soggy mess. There was little chicken to be found, but still, together with the Crispy Chicken, we were both full and satisfied. The Duck, however, was a whole other story. Floating in a pungent stew with veggies and pineapples, the duck was greasy, smelly and tasted like it hadn't been cleaned properly - so much so that we had to ask for it to be taken off the table. The Jasmine Rice was decent, but there's little that can salvage the duck experience. It's sad, really; we remember Bua Khao with a nostalgic fondness but it seems quality control over there is failing, and has been for quite some time.

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Cottonball: Simple, Quality Egyptian Cotton T-Shirts in Zamalek
Published On: 17/09/2014

Shopping in Cairo isn't always easy. In fact, it can, occasionally, be a nightmare. While many international brands and chain stores are readily available and more arrive by the month, finding quality, reasonably-priced basics can be somewhat of a challenge. Like so many things in Egypt, the difference between the best and the worst is immense. Cottonball in Zamalek, however, has gone some way to fulfilling that need, stocking an extensive range of simple, plain Egyptian cotton-made t-shirts. Having recently opened, the shop's stock is reflected in its decor; simple and unfussy. The light grey and white walls allow the vast amount of colours to standout. At the heart of the shop's concept is supporting local industry and each of Cottonball's lines is named after a different Egyptian governorate; for example, a line of v-neck t-shirts is named Aswan – a very cute touch by the owners. Though there is a healthy amount of men's t-shirts, the ratio definitely swings towards women's, in models, fits and colours – as is the case usually in Cairo. Speaking of which, the colours covered by Cottonball's products are seemingly infinite – you'll find everything from loud neon lemon yellow, to demure rose pink. Though not available for purchase as of yet, Cottonball is currently displaying samples of handmade accessories, too, though no definite date of when the full range will be in store has been locked down as of yet. When it comes to prices, everything about Cottonball suggests that it will be expensive; the focus on the fact that it's all made with Egyptian cotton as a gimmick and its location on the 'high-end', 'upmarket' island of Zamalek being two potential indicators that this place isn't going to be exactly cheap. However, quite refreshingly, prices are rather reasonable. Across both the men's and women's lines, long-sleeved t-shirts are 135LE, regular short-sleeved t-shirts are 125LE and tank-tops are 99LE. In addition, you can by any three t-shirts for 300LE. Despite the simplicity of its product – plain t-shirts – the quality of the merchandise makes it sturdy and comfortable. It's a t-shirt – what could go wrong?

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Grand Cafe: Comfy Outdoor Dining in New Cairo
Published On: 16/09/2014

Some outings are just about chilling out, kicking back and enjoying a meal. After a long stressful day all we wanted was a no-effort required dinner and that's how we wound up at Grand Cafe. Located on the ground floor of the relatively new food complex Americana Plaza, Grand Café offers spacious outdoor seating and comparatively limited indoor seating. We opted for the outdoors as it boasted comfortable couches and had an overall better feel to it. Our waiter immediately laid out our menus, misleading us into believing the place had decent service. Upon inspection, we concluded the menu offered Lebanese-inspired dishes along with a few international dishes that you could find at any other restaurant.  Mezzas like Tehina and Baba Ghanoug, alongside Greek and Caesar Salads, and pretty standard soups. The Mini Shawerma and Hawashi platters caught our eyes. The restaurant plays it safe with its main courses, offering ordinary pizzas, sandwiches, Manakeesh, pastas, and the usual grilled meat platters; nothing particularly imaginative or creative. Our waiter was nowhere in sight when we were ready, so we had to wait for a few minutes until we spotted him to place our order. We opted for the Shish Tawook platter with a side of sautéed veggies and Basmati rice (41.99LE) and the Boneless Grilled Chicken platter with a side of French Fries and also Basmati Rice (44.99LE) and awaited them patiently. The food took quite some time to arrive and was disappointingly cold by the time it got to our table. Nevertheless, we dug in. The Shish Tawook and the Grilled Chicken were marinated, but not enough for any flavour to stand out. The same can be said for the rice, fries and vegetables; nothing had any distinct flavour. Wanting to salvage the boring dinner, we ordered the most intriguing item we found in the dessert menu; the Chocolate Chip Pie (27LE). We certainly did expect a lot from it, and all we can say is, it sure did make up for everything else. The pie resembled a thick, chewy chocolate chip cookie, had a big scoop of Vanilla ice cream on top of it and had chocolate sauce drizzled all over it; how could it be anything but delicious? In a nutshell, the slow service and cold, somewhat flavourless food were made up for, to some extent, by the comfortable seating and the Chocolate Chip Pie; the highlight of the whole experience, really.

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Tutti Matti: Another Italian Restaurant, Another Disappointment in Maadi
Published On: 16/09/2014

Having been mpressed by the décor, but not so much the food, during our first visit to to Tutti Matti, we decided to see if the restaurant had stepped up its game. Situated on the busy Road 9 in Maadi, the location could be a pro or a con depending on your preference. If you're a fan of the younger café-going, shisha-smoking crowd, this is the place for you, but if you prefer a quieter venue, with less hassle in parking, you may find coming here a bit of an inconvenience. When a venue explicitly labels itself as Italian restaurant, it's probably cause for concern; Italian cuisine is the single most badly executed in Egypt. Our previous review tried the pizza and a sandwich, so we thought we would go for some main courses to really judge their potential. We sat in the relatively small indoor area, as the outddor area is rather loud. As mentioned earlier, the decor is very aesthetically pleasing with white-washed brick walls and wood panel floors. The waiter handed us our menus and we were left to decide. Everything on the menu is written in Italian. This is another bad sign.  After some browsing, we opted for Bruschetta (22LE) from the appetisers, Pollo Ricotta e Spinaci (64LE) and Pan di Salmone Scottati (119LE) from the main courses. Served first, the Bruschetta didn't particularly stand out. The olive oil caused the pretty average bread to become soggy, and the diced tomato toppings didn't really add anything to the mix. The Pollo Ricotta e Spinaci consists of two chicken breasts stuffed with spinach and ricotta cheese, and is served with a side of spaghetti with a pink sauce. First, the stuffing was quite scarce. The chicken itself was unevenly cooked leaving some of it hard and chewy and the rest slightly raw. The spaghetti with pink sauce was simply regular red tomato sauce that was very greasy, and not particularly tasty. The Salmon, served with vegetable tagliatelle and crushed potatoes with herbs, was a little on the dry side. What should be thin, coloured tape-like pasta was instead shredded carrots and zucchini. The green coloured mashed potatoes, while looking strange, didn't quite taste like anything. Thinking there would be pasta with the salmon dish, the main course left us hungry so we made the mistake of ordering dessert - Tiramisu (39LE) to be exact. Far from ladyfingers or mascarpone cheese, the tiramisu was basically cake, whipped cream and an almost inedible coffee syrup; absolutely terrible. No particular part of our meal was good. As feared, the strongly forced Italian identity and subpar execution of even the simplest Italian dishes isn't inviting to another visit. As our last review stated, this is just another cafe. Calling it a restaurant is a bit of a stretch.

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Little Swiss: Different Location, Same Excellent Food at Swiss Restaurant in Maadi
Published On: 15/09/2014

There's a certain charm to this restaurant that it carried through from its old venue in Degla. Little Swiss and the charming owner Charlotte have been the centre of Swiss Cuisine in Egypt. Having not seen the new venue that they moved to about a year ago, we decided to pass by for cheesy goodness. Located on Road 18 just past Spectra and Roastery, Little Swiss has taken up a decently sized apartment on the first floor of a residential building. You walk into a courtyard and up a flight of stairs into a very cozy, wooden-cabin-in-the-mountains type of interior, with the charming black and white cow print being the centerpiece of the décor. While the red candles provide dim romantic lighting, the music is unfortunately protruding and works against everything else that sets the mood. As always, Charlotte will stop by your table to greet you and check if you're familiar with Swiss cuisine. We already knew what we wanted, so the friendly waiter, dressed in red to match everything else, took our order. From the appetizers, we opted for Fillet Pfannli (35LE), a small plate with bite sized chunks of fillet baked in the oven. With a strong salty flavour, and very tender consistency, the Pfannli was both delicious and inviting of more yummy food. Next was the Mushroom Cheese Fondue (145LE), which your waiter will ask you if you want with or without white wine. Traditionally, fondue is made with wine and gives it a bit of a kick in terms of flavour, but it's still delicious should you choose to opt out. Little Swiss has always been secretive about what exactly goes into the fondue, our taste buds might be wrong, but we could taste Emmental and Gruyère. Served with a bowl of bread bits that you hook onto the end of a long fork and dip, there's little in life a pot of melted cheese can't fix. Should you have one such issue, the next entrees will clear them right up. The Beef Fillet Table Grill (130LE) consists of raw slices of beef fillet which you can place on a hotplate that's plugged into a nearby outlet. The meat is served with homemade sauces and some herbs you can marinate it with. While this ordeal can seem a little inconvenient, cooking the meat takes very little time and leaves with you with hot, tender and delicious pieces of meat. Still not full? That calls for some Chocolate Fondue (75LE). Available in dark or milk chocolate, the Toblerone bars are melted in a small pot and served with marshmallows, cake, apples, grapes, pineapples and bananas for your dipping pleasure. While the food is certainly delicious at Little Swiss, everything is a little on the expensive side, which makes it a very difficult for this otherwise great restaurant to become a regular dining spot. Otherwise, it's a great place to take a date or to spoil yourself every now and then.

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If I Stay: Fluffy Tear-Jerking Teen Drama
Published On: 14/09/2014

Following in the footsteps of the 2014 teen- tear-jerker, The Fault in Our Stars, R.J Cutler's onscreen adaptation of yet another best-selling young-adult novel explores the perils of young love in the terribly formulaic and melodramatic, If I Stay.      The story is centred on Mia (Moretz); a shy high-school junior who dreams of one day becoming a great concert cellist. Her super-cool, rock-loving parents, Kat (Enos) and Denny (Leonard), are very supportive of her dreams; however, Mia – who constantly doubts her own talent – is not so sure that she will be able to make the cut when she auditions for the Julliard School of Music in New York.   As Mia awaits the news that will determine her future, her relationship with Adam (Blackley), the lead singer of a local rock band, is not doing so well, as his career and schedule begins to take him away from the relationship.  Uncertain what her future holds, Mia's world is soon turned upside down when she and her family are involved  in a horrifying car accident that leaves both her parents dead, her younger brother Teddy (Davies) fighting for his life and Mia in a coma.  Stuck in between the two worlds, Mia begins to undergo a lengthy out-of-body experience and soon finds herself examining and questioning her entire life – through a series of flashbacks – and quickly comes to the realisation that it is up to her whether to let go and walk towards the light – literally – or wake up and deal with the fact that her life, as she knew it, will be forever changed. Scripted by Shauna Cross, If I Stay does very little to break away from the usual patterns of young-adult novel adaptations and once again lends its entire focus on the workings of a romance between two young teens under the burdens of life and big decisions. Weighty subjects are thrown around, but never fully explored and the gaps in the logic – mostly to do with the supernatural part of the tale – are vast and, frankly, a little baffling.   Nevertheless, Moretz proves to be a reliable and capable lead, though the chemistry shared between her and Blackley doesn't really resonate. As her extra-hip parents, Enos and Leonard, came off as a little forced – and a little hard to take seriously – while Keach, playing Mia's loving grandfather, is the only one who brings a bit of sincerity to his role. Told mostly through flashbacks, If I Stay is paced well and there is certain lightness to its step. However, it's all a little bit too cutesy to take seriously.

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Lana Del Rey: Ultraviolence
Published On: 14/09/2014

Who can resist Lana Del Rey's free-spirited vibes? Her particular brand of chart-friendly baroque pop has topped the charts, been featured in movies and played all over radio stations around the world. She's become a sensation in next to no time and Cairene music lovers can't get enough of her. The reluctant princess of the modern pop scene released her third studio album this summer and it is, in a nutshell, a true ode to her unique sound. The album kicks off with 'Cruel World'; a laidback track showcasing Del Rey's raspy vocals telling the tale of a broken romance with an edge. The song sets off the mood for the whole album, which generally carries on with a rather melancholic and nostalgic theme. 'Ultraviolence' and 'Shades of Cool' follow in similar style with Del Rey's trademark soft murmurs and slow beat, while Del Rey's love affair with New York once again inspires, with 'Brooklyn Baby'. 'West Coast', released as a single, stands out and breaks the pattern with a more upbeat vibe to it, Del Rey competing to keep up with a noticeably faster drumming action. It also signals a slight break from the heavy melancholy and imagery; the album goes onto, by and large, talk more plainly about a deeply dysfunctional relationship or two – or, well, a dozen – from all angles; long distance relationships, cheating, abuse – you name it.  The lyrics get even more graphic and strong in "F*cked My Way Up to the Top', with Del Rey not holding back and unapologetically mewing "this is my show." The album comes to an end with 'Old Money' which may remind some of Del Rey's contribution to soundtrack of The Great Gatsby, 'Young & Beautiful'. The song seems to hint at another day and age; another time of aristocratic summer nights and indulgent clothing; a Jay Gatsby party perhaps? Ultraviolence collectively sounds as the shadowing, rather than the continuation, of previous album, Born to Die. The subjects she explores are the same and even imagery and references used are rather familiar – her "red dress", for example. But the distinctive flavour she adds to today's music scene is certainly something that will keep her relevant. Does anything on Ultraviolence measure up to early hits like 'Video Games'? No, not quite.

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Chili's: Old Favourite in New Cairo
Published On: 13/09/2014

Sometimes, you just need a quick food fix. No one wants to play Russian roulette with their empty stomach, so we headed to an old trusted favourite, the popular Tex-Mex chain, Chili's. Located in the quite hushed Meeting Point Mall, Chili's offers both indoor and outdoor seating. As our waiter graciously welcomed us and asked for our seating preference, we requested indoor non-smoking seating and were immediately led to our table. The place was, fortunately, not that crowded and unusually quiet, but thrn it was a weekday afternoon. For appetisers, we opted for the Classic Nachos (49.99LE) and the Chicken Crispers (59.99LE) and the Margarita Grilled Chicken (59.99LE) for mains. As for beverages, we decided to be a bit adventurous and try the vanilla flavoured Pepsi (24.99LE). We were particularly hungry, so we also opted for the Molten Chocolate Cake (41.99LE). Our drinks arrived just a few minutes after we ordered them and were everything we hoped they would be; refreshing, flavourful and not too overpoweringly sweet. Our big platter of cheese covered nachos arrived shortly after our drinks and we immediately dove into its deliciousness; who can say no to cheese-covered crispy delights? The main courses arrived about fifteen minutes afterwards. The Margarita Grilled Chicken was perfection, with smooth, juicy grilled chicken breast covered with seasoned, grated tomatoes and two sides consisting of mashed potatoes with gravy and corn on the cob. The Chicken Crispers, however, were quite a let-down; they were too greasy for our taste. The fries and honey mustard that accompany it, however, were quite tasty. Already feeling full and regretting ordering dessert, we weren't really yearning for the Molten Chocolate Cake. As soon as we laid eyes on it and took the first bite, however, our opinions were definitely reversed. The brownie-like cake was warm and gooey and the scoop of vanilla ice cream that topped it was covered in a thin chocolate shell. Chili's, as usual, satisfied our rumbling bellies and left us with no recollection of any feelings of hunger. The service was on point, the place was spotless and the food and drinks were to die for with the slight exception of the oily Chicken Crispers.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Legendary Shelled-Heroes Return to the Silver Screen
Published On: 12/09/2014

Careless and seemingly unable to find its own footing, the lack of heart and originality found in the latest reimagining of the '80s comic-book and film series franchise is disappointing and while there are moments of praise to consider, its shortcomings are a little difficult to disregard. The streets of New York are terrorised by an underground criminal organization called the Foot Clan, commanded by an ominous figure known as Shredder (Masamune). At the heart of it all is the ambitious TV reporter, April O'Neil (Fox), who – despite the continuing objections from her clearly-besotted cameraman, Vernon (Arnett) – is looking to break out of reporting irrelevant news pieces and move on to much bigger stories.  Her timing, as it happens, couldn't be better when, while out investigating a lead one night at the docks April witnesses members of the Foot Clan in a hard-hitting confrontation with a group of shadowy ninja-like figures.  Determined to reveal the identities of these so-called vigilantes, April soon finds herself face-to-face with the talking and walking six-foot masked turtles, otherwise known as Leonardo (Ploszek), Raphael (Ritchson), Donatello (Howard) and Michelangelo (Fisher). Raised in the City's sewers by their rat-master, Splinter (Shalhoub), the four turtles have been training for years to stand up to Shredder and they are soon given that chance when they learn of the plans of a poisonous gas being released over the city. There seems to be a lot of uncertainty and ambiguity in Jonathan Liebesman's approach to the subject at hand and the challenge of reviving a thirty-year-old iconic franchise proves to be a rather tricky task for the Wrath of the Titans director.  Written by an army of writers and produced by Michael Bay, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles suffers from an sloppy script , awkward pacing and, despite efforts give the very concept a little more depth the end-result feels shallow and undercooked.  Luckily, the action and the visual effects are pretty refined and while the surprisingly potent violence can be a little bit too much to bear, you can tell that a lot of time and effort went into the digital creation of the mutants themselves and the world around them. Regrettably, the performances are just as unmemorable as the story itself; this applies to Fox most, who seems to be stuck with the same staggered expression the whole way through. The motion-capture translates quite satisfyingly, though the menacing presence of Shredder and the righteous aura of Splinter is never fully realised. The film as a whole is polished but is short on subtlety and complexity, never finding the charm and nostalgia that initially triggered so much interest in the project.

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Le Grand Royal: Outdoor Dining at Porto Cairo
Published On: 10/09/2014

Located in the recently opened Porto Cairo, Le Grand Royal offers two types of outdoor seating; right in front of the restaurant's facade and across from it overlooking the dancing fountain. Being ones who appreciate a nice view, we chose to sit right next to the fountain and were led to our table straight away. Wanting to grab a satisfying meal after a long day at work, menus were nowhere in sight - even a few minutes after we had been seated we still had to call for them. When the waiter arrived, he laid out two types of menus on the table; the food menu and the drinks and desserts menu. Upon inspection of said food menu, it was clear that Le Grand Royal had a lot to offer in terms of food options. Appetisers, with the Shrimp Konafa being the only item that stood out to us, steak and chicken sandwiches, pizza, burgers and all kinds of beef, chicken and seafood dishes. The drinks offered were also extensive, with ice-cream based cocktails, fresh juices, smoothies and coffee. The desserts are exclusively western and consisted of gateaux, cheesecake, crepe and ice cream. We opted for the Chicken Royale Pasta (42.50LE) and the Chicken Florentine (68.50LE). As for our drinks, we picked the Lemon-Mint juice (22LE). The food didn't take  long to arrive and was graciously laid out on our table within a few minutes and we began to dig into our dishes.  This, of course, was the moment the dancing fountain show started and we were sprayed with water - so, don't sit next to the fountain. With very neat presentation, the food certainly looked appetising. The flavour, however, was lacking. Drenched in a creamy mushroom and pesto sauce, the pasta was heavy beyond words. The Chicken Florentine, meanwhile, which is basically fried chicken with a side of pasta all drenched with the same heavy creamy sauce, was even heavier. Given the fact that the chicken was already deep fried, soaking it in such a heavy sauce is just a big no-no. Our Lemon Mint juice, however, was quite the opposite; light and refreshing. All in all, our experience at Le Grand Royal was neither terrible nor amazing; it was, to say the most, average. The overall service was quite efficient, but we couldn't finish our plates, despite the state of hunger we were in, due to how dense they were.

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Cairo Weekend Guide: WANAS Folk Music Festival, Indonesian Culture Week and More!

Hello Cairo! This weekend we have a serious variety of events for you to feast on; everything from exhibitions and cultural events to eating contests and techno parties. On Thursday, The Riff Band, led by Ahmed Harfoush and Noha Fekry, kick off the weekend at Cairo Jazz Club, while the Four Seasons