Al Khartoum: Solid Sudanese Cuisine in Downtown Cairo
Finding the restaurant itself is a bit tricky the first time. Near Midan Opera, it’s right across the street from Kekhiya Mosque, at the end of an alley that branches off of El Gomhouria Street. The alley’s entrance is flanked by a home lighting appliance shop on your left and an Etisalat shop on your right.
Fortunately, the location was the trickiest part of our dining experience. We were disappointed to find that the items we pointed to on the weathered Arabic menu, including ‘kisra’ – typical Sudanese bread – had run out earlier in the evening.
Regardless, the smiling hostess patiently talked us through the available options, in both Arabic and English, and based off of our preferences she recommended a platter of ‘ghorasa’ – what she referred to as a Sudanese pancake – topped with ‘tagalia’, a minced meat stew made with a tomato base and dried okra (12LE). We also opted for ‘regia’, a dish similar to Egyptian style spinach (12LE), and ‘shaia’, a grilled meat platter (20LE).
The food was served quickly and came with a basket of Egyptian baladi bread, a side of cucumbers, tomatoes, and rocket, as well as a very spicy peanut-based hot sauce. We immediately noticed that the side vegetables were all very bright and fresh, and were delighted to find that the grilled meat platter also showcased the same careful selection of ingredients. The meat was juicy and well-seasoned; its texture one belonging to fresh, good quality meat.
We weren’t big fans of the ghorasa or the tagalia, although this may be due in part to the characteristics of the dishes themselves rather than the skills of Al-Khartoum’s kitchen staff. The tomato flavour in the tagalia overwhelmed the other tastes slightly, including that of the meat, and the dried okra gave it a molokheya-like consistency which not all diners would like.
The ghorasa came out piping hot and did indeed look like a pancake, but with a less cakey and more doughy, heavy texture. Without a distinctive taste of its own, we found that it wasn’t the best ghorasa we’d had, where it could have been a bit lighter.
The regia was the highlight of our meal. It was wonderfully savoury and tasty, served with baladi bread; we vowed to go back to the restaurant to try it again with kisra – and finish with a cup of fragrant Sudanese coffee, which had also run out.
Considering the fact that our taste buds are mostly satisfied with food that’s equivalent to those picked last in gym class, Al-Khartoum is a solid choice for anyone in Cairo seeking to expand their culinary horizons, or craving Sudanese in particular.