Essence, Mohandessin

<Original article over at Cairo360>

I’ve been on a bit of an Subcontinental food buzz recently; and an invitation to take AmounsBouche back to Essence Barbecue in Mohandessin was one i could not resist. We both love Massala at the Karvin Hotel, but being bound to the island of Zamalek and its immediate vicinity, we were pleased to finally have an alternative to the horrendous Nawab when the curry bug bites.

Nothing has changed from my previous review – the Pakoras are still among the best things I have ever eaten; pungently spiced with an impossibly light and airy texture and the potato samosas are little potato curry flavor grenades. We did not like the meat samosas, which had a strong lamb flavor, but were bland otherwise.

The kitchen clearly enjoys the process of creation, even going so far as to add a little black salt to the lemonade we ordered. It was a nice flourish, i thought, but it should have been announced to prepare us for the added twist. It was sent back in favor of the more boring ‘regular’ lemonade (but they did add a tinsel umbrella…) Probably more successful is their new Lunch menu, offering both vegetarian and carnivorous options for a flat price of EGP50. Included are four courses, and it can be ordered, and indeed is designed for, takeaway.

The service is still as fresh faced as ever, and the head waiter is more comfortable and familiar with all the items on the menu. We didn’t get a chance to meet the Chef this time, but if you take my word for it, she won’t be leaving cairo anytime soon.

Cooking time: 5 minutes

 

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NHCIA Test Kitchen: Mushroom Risotto

My mother hates risotto. “Gloopy, overcooked rice” is what she calls it and, if you’ve only ever had risotto in faux-Italian restaurants, that would be an apt description. Most people (and unfortunately, expert cooks) tend to think that a risotto should be thick and pasty, thick enough to be piled into a mold and hold its shape. Yet others believe that a risotto should be finished with heavy cream, turning their risotto into rice swimming in an Alfredo sauce. Both results are equally unappetizing and ruin the good name of risottos everywhere. Read more of this post

Playing Favorites

Yep, I’ve been really lazy as of late. Here’s an attempt to get off my rear end and actually write something unique for the NHCIA.

I haven’t got a lot of time to regale you with tales of food history or tell you how to make a cinnamon syllabub; I’m in a wham-bam-thank you ma’am kinda mood. When I’m hungry and I need speed, I get some me fast feed. Of course I have favorites; some home deliveries are faster than others, and that typically influences my decision. But it’s not just the speed of the food delivery – cook door could deliver in 5 minutes and I still wouldn’t touch them with a ten foot pole – it’s the items on offer.

Burgers? Burger King, Hardee’s, Burger Kitchen then McDonald’s.

Pizza? Sbarro’s, Papa John’s, Domino’s, Pizza Hut then Little Ceaser’s.

Chicken? KFC, Texas Fried Chicken then Al Tazaj. Not too many chicken fast food options out there; that would explain why KFC has been allowed to thrive.

Chinese? No one. It’s a big market gap that needs to be exploited by someone with more time and money than myself.

As a wee lad growing up in the deserts of Saudi Arabia, I often found myself wishing for the day when I could mix and match, pick and choose my favorite items  and eat them all on the same plate. Sort of like an All-Star Fast Food Team. Thankfully, my Fast Food Fast has been over for almost 6 months. Without further adieu, Here’s my lineup:

Main Items:

  1. BK Whopper
  2. Hardee’s Mushroom and Swiss
  3. KFC Toasted Twister Wrap with Cheese (Original)
  4. Sbarro’s New York Thin Sliced Margherita Pizza

Side Items:

  1. Texas Chicken’s Biscuits
  2. A&W Root Beer
  3. McDonald’s Fries
  4. Hardee’s Big Cookie

I’m pretty sure there are some items that you wouldn’t agree with; but then again, there are probably items there that you have not tried yet: go try them, then come talk to me. If you’ve got your own suggestions, make yourself heard!

Nuked, 3 minutes on Medium

Breakfasting in Cairo (if you’re up early enough)

<Originally published in CAMPUS magazine, August 2009>

Summer is here. School is out. Good times will be had by all. So instead of doing the same old routine, why not change it up a little while you’re still in Cairo? Wake up early and go have breakfast with the usual suspects you hang out with.

More and more restaurants are offering breakfast options on their menus, especially American/European styled fare. Unfortunately for me, writing up these kinds of reviews exposes the inverse relationship between my wallet’s fatness and my own; but it is work I must do. Here’s a quick rundown of my favorite places to get my morning fix. Notably absent are coffee house chains, like Cilantro, Beano’s, Starbucks, Second Cup Etc.  We’re talking restaurants, baby; not some prepackaged, vacuum packed, sterile airport lounge.

And please leave the laptops at home – there should be no such thing as a “working breakfast”. I don’t care if you’re crunching numbers over coffee, Googling over a bowl of grapefruit or browsing Facebook; with a forkful of scrambled eggs; you need to relax. No one likes a party pooper, and computing over crumpet means you’re wound way too tight.

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VIP Restaurant, Cairo Tower

<First Published in G-Mag, Issue #53>

The people behind “VIP” want you to feel part of an exclusive and rarefied club; the Elite, the Chosen Few. But instead of employing bouncers at the door, and conjuring up fictitious minimum charges, they do it the old fashioned way: just hide the door. It’s reminiscent of a prohibition era Chicago. It took me two trips to the Cairo tower to get in; making a reservation wasn’t easy – VIP doesn’t have a direct line. Your best bet is to pray the Cairo Tower operator will answer and then redirect you to the Restaurant Manager.

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