Armada Boat, Corniche El Maadi

The recently opened Armada boat on the Maadi corniche looks nice. Really nice. The sign, in huge red lettering, inspires confidence; as does the valet parking, tight security and neatly dressed wait staff. Walking in, my expectations were buoyed by the friendly smiles on the buxom schoolgirl waitresses welcoming me to the boat.

The shore side café is designed ala Grande Café, and is even equipped with a stage at one end for live music. The boat itself gives a nice impression as you walk in, thinking “this isn’t half bad!”. Unfortunately it doesn’t last. And the disappointment began.

The décor for the ground floor restaurant was a hodgepodge of diner tables, plush wooden chairs and multicolored drinking glasses. Inexplicably, there was a single teppanyaki bar occupying the far end of the space towards the front of the boat; it was as if the owner realized he had an empty space, and figured since he was going to copy Fusion anyway; he might as well install a teppanyaki bar. This boat was full of half-baked and half-formed ideas: the placemats have announcements for the free Wi-Fi and a complimentary Sudoku puzzle. Bizarre. There were more tables than chairs, and they were lined up against the walls like some somber waiting room at a 3 star hotel.

The Armada boat hosts over half a dozen restaurants, lounges and cafes, including “Le Caire”; which has excited some of my friends but should not. But it doesn’t matter where you sit; the experience will be identical. Instead of thinking about the Armada Boat as a Le Pacha-esque affair, think of it as a floating food court, imported from 1988. Not only are there restaurants and cafes, there are also “Celebration halls” which are available for rent for parties and other occasions. If you do happen to want to host a party there, remember this: No Alcohol is allowed on premises.

We sat at the Mengiono’s café and ethnic cuisine, but ordered from Mandarin’s menu, which looked strangely familiar. Then it hit me: it is a carbon copy of Fusion’s menu. For appetizer, I ordered the Beef teriyaki and Miso Ramen Soup, followed by a sushi platter, which included Nigri Sushi and Maki Rolls. My friend ordered from the Middle Eastern menu, which also looked familiar – because it was a clone of Abu El Seed’s menu. He ordered Fattoush, Lentil Soup, and Lamb Fatta. The beef teriyaki and Miso Ramen appetizers were very good, but the near-rotten sushi must be avoided. The slivers of tuna and salmon were quite old, and had dried up; eating it was a feat of strength on my part. They also forgot to bring me my rolls; and when I reminded them, the manager came over and apologized and insisted that he will send over a 2nd order of Maki rolls free of charge.

He did not deliver on his promise, keeping in tune with the general theme of my entire experience.

The Middle Eastern dishes were adequate. The lentil soup was thin and watery, but still delivered on flavor, while the Fattoush was buried under a jungle of day old vegetable sculptures and disappointed once you successfullymanaged to fight your way through. The main dish, a fatta of lamb, was huge and very tasty, but was still marred by the 1980’s culinary misguidedness that dictated the mandatory inclusion of a tomato skin rose, cucumber trees and a carrot swan on the plate. This was a recurring theme, and leads me to believe that the Executive chef was a Wedding buffet cook at an armed forces 3 star hotel 15 years ago.

The wait staff were probably ex-military foot soldiers as well, insisting that they can memorize your order without the use of a pen and paper, only to mess up and blame it on the customer. They also insist on committing one of the cardinal sins of food service and a hallmark of mediocre restaurants: Before you even get your menu, an unasked for and unwanted bottle of water will be opened and poured it into your glass. Instead of trying to artificially inflate my food bill, they could at least ask me if I wanted to drink water – what if I wanted a cocktail or a soft drink? Now that they have filled me up on water, I’m no longer interested and what’s more, I’m pissed off. The wait staff is in dire need of retraining, and should be taught not to loiter around in gangs, leering at the patrons or horsing around on the deck of the boat.

Ultimately, other places do what the Armada boat does – only much better. If I do go again, It would be to have a sheesha at their adequate (but overpriced) nileside café – the sheesha was quite good, and another episode of flirtation with the well endowed waitresses can only be a good thing. It is a thoroughly mediocre, lukewarm and ultimately forgettable (hopefully) experience.

Armada boat tries to be so many things, and excels at none of them.

Cooking Time: 28 minutes


About Wesam E Masoud
Chef Patron of @chefsmarketmasr, Host of @CBCSofra's #matbakh101. I have one degree in Medicine & 3rd degree burns from cooking.

3 Responses to Armada Boat, Corniche El Maadi

  1. Mister Hanky the Christmas Poo says:

    Good review. I particularly liked that line about how the chef’s use of veggie sculptures marked him as a former cook in an armed forces wedding hall. Perfect image that will sadly be lost on those unfamiliar with that bit of Egypt. Bravo.

    • Fat Sam says:

      Considering this blog is directed at current and former residents of Cairo, I fully expect them to have an inkling of what I’m talking about most of the time. Say hi to the Red Sox for me 😀

  2. Fat Sam!!! I’m glad to see that you are still making your rounds in Cairo and tasting the cuisine that is offered.

    I am deeply saddened at the lack of organization and talent at the Armada Boat. The pictures are so uplifting and raise our hopes for a memorable experience. I can’t believe that the staff had the audacity to be horsing around on deck. Have they absolutely nothing to do? I second your motion for the staff to be trained in the proper manner. The staff, along with the food, make the dining experience; if the staff are great and the food isn’t wonderful the experience is somewhat salvaged. However, if the food is great and the staff are annoying or slow, it puts you off wanting to return.

    If both are equaly as good as the other then they will have won loyal clients who will keep coming back for more and will spread the good word.

    Another thing that struck a raw nerve was how close you came to being poisoned with the old fish in your Sushi. I personally am not a fan of Sushi. However, I do appreciate it a form of cuisine, but I won’t eat it. I’m afraid it’s the Alexandrian in me – I like my fish fresh from the sea and cooked.

    Better luck next time Sam!

%d bloggers like this: