Lebanese Diner: Not Your Typical Lebanese Restaurant
ANOTHER Lebanese restaurant in Cairo? It’s a feeling we get every time a Lebanese eatery opens in the capital – one that we got with the opening of the plainly-named Lebanese Diner. Located at Al Guzeira Plaza in Sheikh Zayed, its claim of doing things a little differently by focusing on Lebanese street food had us at least a little bit hopeful, however.
As a venue, Lebanese Diner doesn’t use the stereotypical interior full of patterns, floral prints and your grandmother’s living room chairs.The indoor area has red chairs alongside wood chairs and couches, a bar and a completely exposed kitchen which gives the whole place a fun, energetic vibe, while the outdoor area is pretty basic.
When it comes to the food, Lebanese Diner’s menu includes lots of Lebanese classics alongside some more unusual items that has nothing to do with the food of the Levant – our appetisers, for example, were the very Lebanese Makanek (56LE) and the very not-Lebanese Spicy Shrimp Mac and Cheese (68LE).
Things didn’t get off to the best start, as the makanek was dry, chewy and overcooked; the sauce had great tangy and sweet flavours, but it was too watered-down and it didn’t really add to the sausages.
But then the mac and cheese blew us away. Rich and creamy, but somehow not too heavy, the cheese sauce had a flawlessly smooth consistency and we loved the sweet and spicy kick of flavour. The dish was topped with more cheese which made for an ever so Instagram-able cheese pull and the seashell pasta was cooked perfectly. Our only comment would have to be about the shrimp; though there was plenty of them in the dish, they were slightly overcooked and had a tough and dry texture.
Moving to the mains, we opted for the Sandwiches Platter (130LE), which gives you the choice of any two sandwiches on the menu alongside nicely-cooked skinny fries, classic hummus with simple seasoning, coleslaw and a Thousand Island dip.
Our first choice was the Basterma w Halloum, which was served as a cold cut sandwich filled with slices of the restaurant’s delicately-flavoured, homemade pastrami, a perfect amount of mayonnaise, pickles and fresh tomato slices. The pastrami was the highlight, but, overall, the sandwich lacked oomph, particularly as the halloumi cheese seemed to contribute little to the flavours.
Our second choice was the Kebab Harr and oh boy was it a flavour bomb. The wrap was filled with moist kofta, thin slices of grilled onions and a fresh and zesty biwaz – red pepper paste with sumac and parsley. Unlike the first sandwich, this one was well-balanced, perfectly executed and captured the essence of Lebanese street food.
Our second main dish, the Djejj Be Laymoun (98LE) – aka lemon chicken – was more of a mixed bag. The chicken was incredibly tender, but the citrusy and garlicky sauce was too sour and acidic, the presentation was lacking and the accompanying mashed potatoes were quite stiff.
Hoping to end a mixed dinner on a high note, we finished our meal with the Lazy Cake (38LE), which came in the form of four circular servings of crumbled biscuits, mixed with dark chocolate and condensed milk, and then drizzled with chocolate sauce. It’s the simplicity of the chewy, fudgy dessert that made it an overall success, but it needed a better quality of chocolate.
Despite the few flaws in some of the dishes, we left Lebanese Diner impressed. The restaurant has a unique ambiance, super-friendly staff and a menu that both satisfies Lebanese cravings and offers a few untraditional items. We would definitely go back again, even if just for kebab harr sandwich and the spicy shrimp mac and cheese.