Gaya: Old Korean Favourite in Maadi Has Seen Better Days
41, Road 218
11am - 10:30pm -
Gaser El Safty
Amongst the many Asian restaurants in Cairo, Korean cuisine in particular has been on the rise. The big problem, however, is the grouping of Asian cuisines under one roof, because it’s the same problem international cuisine restaurants have – diversity trumps quality.
Maadi’s Gaya is one of the oldest Korean restaurants in Cairo and one of the first recommendations that pops up when talking about Korean cuisine. A previous Cairo 360 review highly praised the restaurant’s authenticity and made note of how most of the staff and clientele are actually Korean – a strong, if presumptuous, indicator to the true level of authenticity.
Since then, several new restaurants have opened up around Gaya including Zentro and Kokio, so we headed over to see how they’ve kept up with the competition. Simply put, it hasn’t kept up – in fact it’s very easy to put forward the argument that it has gone downhill.
The simple, comfortable diner feel remains unchanged and we opted for crab Kim Bab (40LE) from the appetisers, Beef Bulgogi (65LE) and Fried Chicken with Sweet and Sour Sauce (60LE) for our mains, alongside Vegetable Fried Noodles (30LE) and Vegetable Fried Rice (20LE).
What came next was a series of heart-breaking disappointments. The Kim Bab is a Korean variation on sushi featuring rice, with sesame oil rather than vinegar, as well as crab, eggs, cucumbers and carrots. While interesting in theory, the flavour is bland unmemorable – especially considering the number of elements and ingredients.
The Sweet and Sour Chicken was decent, featuring carrots and pickled cucumbers which we found to be strange and unfitting. The chicken itself was well marinated, but overcooked and, combined with the scarce Vegetable Fried Noodles that lacked flavour and noodles, the dish was a miss.
The Beef Bulgogi – a classic Korean grilled meat dish – fared even worse. The meat was overcooked to a point where it was undesirably chewy, while the hints of sauce it was topped with did little to enhance the Vegetable Fried Rice we ordered to accompany it. Add to that, the fact that the rice was also overcooked, and dish is a complete miss as well.
Like so many Cairo restaurants, Gaya just hasn’t been able to maintain its former glory. There’s little to no reason to go back to Gaya, despite them serving both pork and alcohol. While the service, cleanliness and general ambiance were decent, the quality and quantity of food were less than average. What a shame.