Abo Youssef El Soory: Unassuming Syrian Restaurant in Mohandiseen
Ahmed El Dahan
Rapidly diversifying, Cairo’s restaurants and cafes now offer up an increasing plethora of different cuisines. A power cut in Mohandiseen gave us the unexpected pleasure of a candle lit dinner at authentic, Syrian restaurant, Abo Youssef. Standing on the marble floor, we were relieved to step in from the cluttered and busy Hegaz street. Surrounded by wallpaper, barely visible in the darkness, we were greeted by a friendly-faced waiter who led us through the spacious restaurant to be seated on sturdy wooden tables and chairs. We were left for moments in the dark before he quickly returned with another two candles for our table.
Sitting alone in the restaurant, it was clear that Abo Youssef is well equipped to handle large groups and still have space for smaller company. Even without electricity to power the flat screen TV on the wall, we can’t say we were uncomfortable.
The menu was vast and included oriental classics such as shawerma (12LE – 120LE), hawawshi (17LE – 19LE), shish tawook (13LE – 125LE) and fatta (17LE – 26LE). In addition, there is also whole grilled (55LE – 60LE) or fried chicken (60LE). An interesting option – rarely found in typical Oriental restaurants – was fish, available as a fried fillet (26LE), grilled skewers (25LE) or in a sandwich (12LE).
Abo Youssef also boasts an assortment of salads and appetizers; lentil soup (8LE), hummus dip (8LE), garlic dip (9LE), seasonal salad (8LE), taboula (8LE) and fattoush (9LE), as well as raw kibbeh; a Levantine mezze originating from Aleppo, made from bulgur wheat, diced onions and spices served with meat (20LE) or olive oil (10LE). Surprisingly, for a Syrian restaurant, they don’t offer stuffed vine leaves.
We learned that dessert is freshly made in the Abo Youssef kitchen including konafa (50LE/kg), basbousa (60LE/kg), and Syrian biscuits (50LE/kg). Although we relished at the thought of ordering a kilo of konafa with cheese, at the time of our visit desserts were unavailable.
Squinting to read the menu in the candle glow, we ordered a variety of salads; hummus, taboula, fatoush, tomeya and raw kebbeh with olive oil. We couldn’t skip the Arabian style shawerma (28LE) along with a mixed grill platter (42LE). We also indulged in Rayeb Airan (6LE); a traditional dairy drink made from curdled milk with added garlic, believed to aid digestion.
We almost felt full from the salads and dips alone; they proved to be meal-worthy in themselves. Eaten with shamy bread, the raw kebbeh was particularly well made, slightly bitter and complimented by the added olive oil. The hummus was the highlight of the dips with a rich flavour and very smooth texture. The fattoush and taboula were both made using fresh, crispy vegetables and were garnished with a little olive oil. Despite cooking in the dark, the food’s presentation was impressive.
The Arabian shawerma gets its name from the manner with which it’s cut; the sandwich is made with crunchy bread, stuffed with chicken and then cut into symmetrical slices. The slices were laid out to surround a centre of French fries and a small tub of garlic dip. The chicken was succulent, perfectly marinated, and well-cooked. The mixed grill consisted of kofta, chicken skewers and cooked kebbeh, all of which were flavourful, juicy, brilliantly spiced and boasted a subtle, smoky taste. The meat was accompanied with light, grilled tomatoes and onions alongside shami bread lined with parsley and tomato sauce.
Next time you’re around Mohandiseen, pass by Abo Youssef and treat yourself to anything in the restaurant – it never fails to impress.