Johnny Carino’s: Eclectic Fetar Buffet in Heliopolis
93 El Merghany St.
11am - 2am
Restaurants in Cairo indulge in a lot of traditions during the month of Ramadan; however, nothing can beat the specially prepared buffets which seem to have become part of the city’s festive customs. Known for their international dishes, Johnny Carino’s serves up an open buffet fetar (129.99LE), full of their favourite variations. Their Heliopolis branch sports a large, unappealing roadside patio which, luckily had been decorated with streams of jolly flags, lanterns and bright khayameya patterns. Unfortunately, all of the indoor seating was booked up so we had to sit outside; luckily, the traffic wasn’t too much of a problem at fetar time.
Included in the meal price were two small juice offerings; karkade that was a little too bitter, and amar el din was that almost too sweet. The buffet wasn’t the largest we’d seen, nor was it the smallest, winding around the outside of the building, along with the queue.
Beginning with soup, between the chicken and tomato options, we found the chicken soup to be pleasantly creamy with a generous amount of tender vegetable pieces; celery made for a refreshing addition. The tomato didn’t fare as well and tasted less authentic than we’d expected.
The salad bar consisted of several creamy dips, watery but fresh greens and creamy potato salads. Next, we found the selection of mains to be unusually varied; from pizza and pasta to Egyptian dishes including fatta and sambousak. Sadly, by the time we came to eat, several of the dishes had cooled due to the breezy weather.
Our large slice of pizza was adorned with small pieces of tasty, crunchy, sweet pepper but would have benefitted from more cheese and tomato on its fluffy base. We likened their spaghetti option to bolognaise, minus any flavourful tomato sauce, with chunks of beef steak rather than mince meat. The macaroni cheese was slightly stodgy, but cheesy and delectable nonetheless. Out of two chicken options, the chicken fillets in a bland white sauce, complete with pieces of beef bacon was an interesting dish, whilst the breaded chicken pieces were well-made but heavily peppered. There was also a breaded calamari option, which turned out to be one of our favourites.
The more conventional dishes included an incredibly fatty lamb fatta, sitting on a pile of stodgy white rice and a small amount of soggy bread pieces. The mombar was dry and unappetising, whilst the meat sambousak, in comparison, were better, but by no means extraordinary.
The dessert table was arranged to the back of the main course buffet, to allow people easy access. The setup of Oriental sweets was mouth-watering and everything tasted as good as it looked; the konafa was smooth and velvety, the basbousa was soaked in syrup and the Om Ali was as sweet and milky as ever. Fresh fruit was also on offer; we highly recommend the fresh, juicy watermelon, as well as the perfectly ripe bananas.
Although it offers a selection of different foods, Johnny Carino’s buffet seems to be more about quantity than quality. However, said buffet is very reasonably priced, especially given the large selection of delectable desserts.