La Piña: Pineapple Chandeliers Can’t Save Bland Maadi Restaurant
57 El Qanal Street,
Nadine El Shiaty
On Cairo’s restaurant scene, truly unique dining experiences are few and far between and our expectations for a top-notch dinner at La Piña in Maadi sold us short with poorly executed main dishes.
Located in Qanal Street, the restaurant has an outdoorsy area concealed by dark brown wooden walls and equipped with flat screen TVs, as well as indoor seating for those looking for a cosier setting.
Decorated with capitonné chairs, scattered asymmetrical wooden wall designs and dim lighting, La Piña’s ambiance straddles the thin line between quirky and tacky; while the pineapple chandeliers add a creative touch to the overall atmosphere, there was something about the grey wall-paint, paired with the dark brown wall designs and the chairs, that just screamed gloom.
Baffled by La Piña’s huge menu, choosing what to have for dinner just wasn’t an easy call. While the restaurant’s name initially suggested specialty dishes from Spanish or Latin American cuisines, the diner offers a bundle of different international cuisines, including Italian and American.
The meats section, for example, stood out, offering the likes of a 300 gm T-bone Steak with vegetables, mashed potatoes and rosemary sauce (96.95LE), the fried and mozzarella, basil and tomato sauce-smothered Escalope Napoli (84.85LE) and a 250 gm Angus Rib-Eye Steak(188.95LE) with gratin potatoes, sautéed vegetables and Café de Paris sauce.
The pasta section caught our eye, too, with the Fusilli Ala Pesto (44.95LE) served with pesto sauce, fresh cream and grated parmigiano and the Ravioli Di Mare(62.95LE) – stuffed with seafood and pink sauce – standing as some of the more tempting options.
We kicked things off with a simple serving of spring rolls (41.95LE), which was made with chicken, vegetables and spices, served with a sweet chilli sauce.
Served hot and crispy, the chicken, vegetables and the blend of spices worked quite well together, especially when dipped in the sweet chilli sauce. However, when initially brought to the table, the waiter knocked one off the plate and despite acknowledging that it was his fault, failed to replace it.
Encouraged by the starter, we opted for Grilled Norwegian Salmon (91.95LE) and La Piña Chicken (71.95LE) for our mains, with the latter a signature dish featuring chicken breasts with risotto and caramelized pineapple, served in a pineapple skin.
After roughly 20 minutes, our main dishes came along and immediately won points for their exquisite presentation – but that’s about as good as it got.
Served with sautéed vegetables and mashed potatoes, our Norwegian salmon was overcooked and so dry that even the accompanying butter lemon sauce couldn’t save it.
We always applaud creativity and innovation with food, but the La Piña Chicken simply didn’t work; seasoned with garlic, lime, salt and pepper, the chicken itself was grilled to a nice tenderness in the middle, though little overcooked on the outside; but combined with pineapple and the incredibly lumpy risotto, it’s a dish that was brought down by several mistakes.
The only saving grace was our Carrot Cake (40LE) for dessert. Soft, fresh, heavy on the walnuts and topped with icing, it was a delightful end to a disappointing meal.
Perhaps the main problem with La Piña is the restaurant’s lack of identity, which subsequently translates into an unfocused and needlessly large menu. Most of all though, we’re still wondering why that rogue spring roll – possibly the highlight of the meal – was never replaced.