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Restaurants & Bars

A Trio of Good Restaurants in Cairo (long)

roxlet | Mar 26, 201001:28 AM     5

Last summer I wrote about eating in a restaurant called Trattoria in Zamalek in Cairo. It was the most credible Italian food I had had in Cairo and also notable because they served wine and had some pork products in some of the dishes on the menu. The restaurant is apparently owned by Omar Sharif's son who has put together the only group of what seems to be consistent fine dining in Cairo. Recently, I have eaten at the other two of his restaurants.

Charwoods is a bistro style steakhouse restaurant on Gamat al Dowel Street in Mohandeseen. The menu is written on blackboards displayed in various places in the restaurant. In addition to steaks of various cuts, there are also lamb chops, veal chops and pizzas. Three of us had steaks and the other in our party had a pizza. Unlike most other restos in Cairo that serve beef, they actually asked us how we would like our steak cooked, and they cooked it perfectly medium rare. Mostly Egyptians cook everything until it is like shoe-leather -- very well done. Like most beef in Cairo, however, I can't say that they were the most tender I've ever had, but they certain were tasty. When you are seated, they take your beverage order and then bring over a very nice tossed salad (maybe that's not so good if you don't live here since eating unwashed fruits and vegetables is usually a no-no!), and a bread basket with some very delicious choices. They willingly brought more salad and bread as we requested. The steaks were served with mixed vegetables and your choice of baked or fried potatoes. Our lactose-intolerant friend ordered a seafood pizza without cheese, and it was delayed in coming out since the first time they had made it with cheese. He said that it was very good. My son was the only one who had dessert, and he had high praise for the apple tart with vanilla ice cream. Much of the ice cream here tends to be very gummy, but this was creamy and went perfectly with the apple tart, which we all tried and enjoyed. Very nice, all in all.

I ate in in French Bistro called Au Petit Bistro, also in Mohandeseen, two times. The second time I ate there I had what I consider to be the single best mean that I have eaten in Cairo. It was a filet steak au poivre served with scalloped potatoes. This cut of steak was juicy and flavorful, and I had to ask for more bread so that I could finish the delicious sauce. I started with an onion soup, which was tasty but I felt had too many croutons on top which made it seem a little thick and bread-y. My son had a mushroom soup that he loved and our friend had moules that were also fantastic. The first time I dined there I had coq au vin, which was not on the menu the 2nd time I went since they appeared to have changed to a spring menu. My son had the chicken with a calvados cream instead, and like the coq au vin, it was served with noodles. The noodles were a little dry and could have been dressed with something though there was ultimately enough of the calvados cream sauce to toss them with. Our other friend had a second appetizer which was a kind of quiche but rolled in a crust. She said that it was quite good. My son had the creme brulee for dessert, and it was delicious. Egyptian wine was available by the glass as well as by the bottle, and we each had a glass to go with our dinner. The little rolls that were served with the meal are made in the restaurant and were lovely as was the little croutons served with a tapenade as an amuse. The chef of the restaurant is from Nantes, and came out to chat with us after dinner, complaining that the Egyptians don't like to try anything new and that they always want to have their meat cooked to death. We know that's true!

A word about prices -- as with Trattoria, the prices are very high for Cairo, though it is possible to come out spending about $50 for two if you choose well. Since we eat out so rarely, we are happy to splurge every now and then for a good meal! The negative, as it is for all restaurants in Cairo, is that smoking is allowed. Since Charwoods seemed to be more crowded the night that we went, it was more noticeable than at Au Petit Bistro. But that's life in Egypt and there is no changing that!

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