Joy Luck: Quirky Chinese Restaurant in Maadi
28 Naguib Mahfouz St. (Off El Zahraa St, beside El Orman School)
11am - 10pm
Ahmed El Dahan
At first glance, the Cairo restaurant scene is a washy mishmash, but on closer inspection there’s more than meets in the eye. Established by Chinese immigrants, Joy Luck Chinese Restaurant offers a more unique experience than the usual Asian diners.
Stepping into the restaurant in the Nirko Buildings in Maadi, the place gives off a strange vibe; as if you’ve walked into the home of a stranger. The floor is laid with red carpet while out of place Pharaonic decorations hang on the wall. Numerous marble top tables can accommodate groups of up to six, and two, large, traditional Chinese tables with rotating centrepieces can host bigger groups of ten. For those seeking a little more privacy, two secluded rooms are conveniently available for no extra charge.
One of the owners is regularly seen sitting at one of the tables rolling pastry or smoking cigarettes as she watches the television overhead. The TV continually airs a popular Chinese channel, which is great, if you’re fond of overdubbed versions of CSI or have an ear for Chinese opera.
When seated, one of the friendly Egyptian waiters brings menus, along with plates, freshly washed – and usually wet – cutlery and a complimentary pot of green tea.
The menu is vast and includes some authentic dishes unseen in many other Chinese restaurants around the city; Ma Poo bean curd (22LE), fried ox hoof (32LE) and cold shredded seaweed (20LE) are just a few.
Though it’s tempting explore new food territories, be careful; the cooks are inconsistent in the quality of their dishes, though portions are quite large and eating here is good value for money.
The sweet and sour chicken (36LE) is some of the best in town, boasting a thick brown sauce and a subtle hint of pineapple. On the other hand, the sweet and sour fish (36LE) is overpowering in its fishy taste begging the question of how fresh the fish is.
The spring rolls (12LE), meanwhile, are delightfully crispy, while with the exception of the flavourful sweet and sour beef with shredded green chilli and carrot (26LE), the beef at Joy Luck is distinctly low in quality.
The dubiousness of some of the meat dishes carries over into the noodle (15LE) and rice options (3LE-12LE); both of which are better, and more aromatic, when prepared with vegetables.
Another dish not to be missed at Joy Luck is the braised eggplant (18LE) which is prepared with coloured peppers and green chilli, before being drenched in a rich, tangy sauce.
Sweet potatoes (22LE) are offered as a flavoursome candied dessert; boiled and then sliced, the potatoes are served with a sugar dip that hardens when it touches the skin, giving an interesting mix of textures and flavour. Other desserts include fried bananas (22LE) and sweet corn with peas (28LE).
With a reputation that has grown mostly by word of mouth, Joy Luck is one of those obscure places in Cairo that offers a new experience to the daily routine of the city. Although it’ll take a few visits before newcomers figure out what the restaurant isn’t so good at, once the pitfalls are known, Joy Luck offers both good food and a unique atmosphere.