Egyptian Restaurant Reviews - Abou El Sid restaurant in Zamalek, Cairo

Volume II, Number 3 March 1st, 2001

Abou El Sid

By Juergen Stryjak

During my endless safari for restaurants in Cairo which offer a decent Molokhiyya, a traditional Egyptian soup made of a spinach-green nettle-like plant, I recently found the Abou El Sid in Zamalek. Outside the building the restaurants name is Charmerie, which was its predecessor. In magazines and newspapers, you will sometimes find its name listed as Abd El Kader, since this was the owners initial choice, before he changed it into the current Abou El Sid.

It offers Molokhiyya in three variations, as chicken on rice, rabbit on rice or with meatballs on rice, and it offers a variety of other traditional Egyptian dishes. Some of these dishes, for example Fuul, Tammiyya or Koshari, one can surely them cheaper and equally as good in other, more popular restaurants or snack bars, but Abou El Sid is more than just another place to satisfy a desire for Egyptian food. The Abou El Sid is an event.

Three times, during the last few months, I have taken foreigners to this restaurant, and I have always witnessed the same reaction upon entering the restaurant: Wow, that looks really beautiful! The interior design indeed seems to be made for a pretentious movie set, a dramatic, Arabic love story. With baroque Louis Farouq chairs, wooden Mashrabiyya window shutters, daring patterned floor tiles, graphic collages and other artwork at the wall, marvelous copper lamps and large baroque tables, very low, all of which transports the guests on an imaginary carpet ride, as they indulge in the traditional Egyptian fare.

The restaurant Abou El Sid is somehow the modern version of an Egyptian fairy tale. It looks very oriental, yet an oversized Pepsi bottle cap and some enamel advertising nameplates from the Forties on the wall, as well as the well-equipped bar signal, that this is a place for modern people, who occasionally love to go out to a magically traditional, but hip restaurant. The music crosses the borders, from Arabic Pop to soft Hip-hop, classical songs by the grand Egyptian diva Umm Kulthum, to even Italian operetta sound and the whole distance back, detours inclusive. The usual suspects, young urban, middle and upper class Egyptians, some foreign expatriates, businessmen and elegant old ladies patronize the restaurant. They all make the Abou El Sid as their home, a trendy postmodern salon, influenced by all that the people want, traditions and western lifestyle equally, water pipes and German beer. An Egyptian Bar, as the restaurant calls itself.

The menu sounds mouth-wateringly good. The Molokhiyya is excellent, although the grilled chicken was the last time a little too dry. The stuffed wine leaves are so extraordinarily good, that we always had to order more. Whenever some of my friends took the Circassian Chicken in Walnut Sauce, a very old recipe as the menu promises, he or she didnt regret the choice, and all the Taajen dishes (stews) I ever had at Abou El Sid were always very delicious: okra and veal shank Taajen or veal and orzo Taajen or pearl onion and veal Taajen, I could not recommend a particular one. Stuffed pigeon is an Abou El Sids special, but you will have to try it by yourself. Ill never allow pigeon to get onto my plate. The best is how they serve the Molokhiyya: The guest gets a large copper tray with soup bowl, a rice & meat bowl and a bowl with a tomato sauce on it.

Appetizers and mezze consist of the usual, hummus, tahini, babaghannoug, salads, as well as one of the house specialties, lentil soup. Desserts, of course, are available, too, but unfortunately, I never reached this phase of my dining experience. I have always had to leave the culinary race before I become immobile.

Abou El Sid. Egyptian Bar & Restaurant. 157, 26th of July Street, Zamalek, Cairo. Telephone: 273 59 640. Reservation highly recommended. Prices: Mezzes and Appetizers between LE 5 and LE 20 (US-$ 1.305.20), Main Dishes: from LE 10 to LE 42 ($ 2.6011.00). Alcoholic beverages are served.

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Editor's Commentary By Jimmy Dunn

Ancient Beauty Secrets By Judith Illes

Book Reviews Various Editors

Kid's Corner By Margo Wayman

Cooking with Tour Egypt By Mary K Radnich

Hotel Reviews By Juergen Stryjak

Egyptian Exhibitions By deTraci Regula

Egyptian View-Point By Adel Murad

Nightlife Various Editors

Restaurant Reviews Various Editors

Shopping Around By Juergen Stryjak

Web Reviews By Siri Bezdicek

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Last Updated: June 9th, 2011