The Definitive Guide to Living in the Capital , Cairo , Egypt


Zo Asian Restaurant: Underwhelming Asian Cuisine in Cairo

reviewed by
Wesam Masoud
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Zo Asian Restaurant: Underwhelming Asian Cuisine in Cairo

Brought to
you by the DivineWorx – the same company behind Makani, El Sit Hosneya and
Burger Joint – Zo endeavours to bring far eastern cuisine to Cairo’s diners. The effort may be commendable, but the results – in the case of their 5th
Settlement branch at least – are diluted by overproduction and heavy-handed

Located in 5th Settlement’s Downtown Mall, Zo has very little atmosphere here. Five tables are set out with a total seating capacity
of twenty patrons; but unlike other small restaurants, it is anything but cosy
– this is in large part due to the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the
interior alleyways and empty shop fronts of the mall. The loudspeaker
played Shaggy’s greatest hits on repeat, serving to further disconnect from
whatever kind of experience this reviewer was meant to have at Zo.

Zo has a
large menu divided into appetisers, soups, beef, chicken, seafood, rice,
noodles and dessert sections. Each entry has an intuitive set of symbols,
indicating spicy or vegetarian foods as well as their country of origin. We
settled on three appetisers: satay mix (24LE), vegetable spring rolls (16LE) and
dim sum (22.50LE). We shared the barbecue beef (52LE), mix fried rice (25LE) and
the pad Thai (35LE), and sought to end the meal by ordering both of the
desserts on the menu; fried bananas with ice cream (28LE), and sweet potatoes
with cinnamon and coconut cream (22LE).

For the
gluttons out there, rest assured: the portion sizes are adequate. For gourmands
looking for flavour, there are but two dishes from those sampled that stood
out. Both the satay mix and the delicious shrimp pad Thai delivered on flavour
big time, mainly because the sauces used on both were the same tasty mix of
ground cashews, honey and coconut milk. However, even that can be too much of a
good thing; this reviewer periodically reached for a piece of salty overcooked BBQ
beef to counteract the one-dimensionality of the sweet shrimp pad Thai.

The trend
continues onto the desserts. Sweet potato is a pretty powerful ingredient, but
the huge hunks had their flavour completely overpowered by a sickly sweet
coconut glaze – even the cinnamon was overpowered. The fried banana was
drizzled with honey and placed next to two hard scoops of ice cream, which was
a disappointing and soggy dessert.

Yet the
glaring error of the evening lay in the dim sum dishes, which were still frozen
in the centre when they arrived at our table, making us unable to finish eating

The service
is confusing: after flat-out refusing to take our main course order with the appetisers,
the waiter delivered each by appetiser on its own, giving us the chance to
sample each one separately. Never at any point in the evening did we wonder
where the food was –it arrived just as the previous plate was emptied, giving
the overall impression of a five-course tasting menu.

Zo Asian
Restaurant does not do the cuisine of the Far East any justice. If you’re in
the mood to recreate a food memory, this may not be it. However, if you just want a
decent pad Thai, then head on over to Zo.

360 Tip

Order the pad Thai, get it delivered and get it in your belly.

Best Bit

The char on the beef and chicken satay mix was delightful, and the pad Thai achieved where so many others have failed.

Worst Bit

Everything else sampled was underwhelming; particularly the desserts.

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