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JEFF KOEHLER

  • writer
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August 15th, 2007

savor: Egypt/ Alexandria

TRIANON
Midan Saad Zaghoul
Ramleh Station
Alexandria
20/3.482.09.86

Perhaps the most beautiful of the old Greek cafes that hark from (and back to) a time when Alexandria was a great cosmopolitan city. Faded, perhaps, in its role as a center of Alexandria society but not in its stunning allure: recent restoration work shows off the delicate, gilded turn-of-the-century details of the high-ceiled rooms. Best for an mid-morning or mid-afternoon tea and honey-soaked pastry, or perhaps a late dessert of rice pudding. Lovely.
Try: the silky rice pudding topped with shredded coconut, raisins, pistachios, and a few almonds.
Linger over coffee: and read Lawrence Durrell’s enchanting Alexandria Quartet.

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August 15th, 2007

savor: Egypt/ Alexandria

MOHAMMED HOSNI
48 Safar Pasha Street
Anfushi
Alexandria

In the dusty middle of the densely-populated fishermen’s quarter of Anfusi is the meat equivalent of Kadoura: known by shopkeepers and taxi drivers as the best for charcoal-grilled meats. It’s massive and rambling, and appears to have taken over various buildings in the courtyard whose front walls have simply been sheered off to accommodate more diners. Big spreads of delicious “salads” followed by grilled meats (or fish). Very local, boisterous, and fantastic. Not a tourist in sight. Inexpensive.
Finding it: isn’t easy. Take a taxi and prepare to think that even the taxi is lost.
To go with your meat: ruzz bram, rice cooked in a rustic clay dish.
Bread: comes out smoking hot directly from the oven, still puffed and perfect.

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August 15th, 2007

savor: Egypt/ Alexandria

KADOURA
33 Bairam al-Tonsi Street (off the Corniche)
Alexandria
20/3.480.04.05

In Alexandria, go for the seafood. But where? Locals will tell you the best in town is at Kadoura. (Tourists claim the Fish Market across the Corniche is the best; it’s at least much more expensive. As one local woman put it, “People go to the Fish Market for the views and Kadoura for the food.”) The crowds of Alexandrian families and Cairene ones who’ve come up for the weekend say it all. Chose from the iced display of fish and shellfish - red mullet, crab, sea bass, squid, bluefish, jumbo prawns - downstairs from the guy in white rubber boots (you pay by weight), tell him how you want it cooked (grilled? in the oven with onions and tomatoes?), and then climb the stairs and find a table. A spread of “salads” – hummus, baba ghanough etc – comes while your order is being cooked to perfection.
Excellent: Cuttlefish baked in the oven with plenty of onions, tomatoes, and earthy spices.

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August 15th, 2007

savor: Egypt/ Cairo

EL ABD
25 Talaat Harb Street
Downtown
Cairo
20/2.392.44.07

El Abd is a traditional Egyptian pastry shop for all manner of rich “Oriental sweets” - semolina cakes and cookies and layered, honey-soaked phyllo pastries stuffed with crushed almonds or pistachios. From early morning until late at night there is a crowd queuing or selecting or waiting as their purchases are placed in white boxes and tied with delicate pink ribbon (or pink boxes in yellow ribbon). They also sell all sorts of salty nuts and seeds by bulk.
Before visiting someone: get an assorted box of sweets to take as a gift. Appreciated, but also proper etiquette.
Get a bag: of small, hard dried watermelon seeds to munch on as you stroll Cairo.

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August 15th, 2007

savor: Egypt/ Cairo

FELFELA
15 Hoda Sharaawi Street
Downtown
Cairo
20/2.392.28.33

Cairo’s most famous restaurant. Tourists love it – but so do locals. Standard Egyptian dishes done reasonably well in a quirky but comfortable place. Opened in 1959 and little changed between my first visit in 1992 and my latest this spring. Best bets are the smaller dishes – tahini, baba ghanoug, tamiyya, and fuul.
Try: fuul with dekka and a squeeze of lemon.
Eat everything: with plenty of warm pita bread.
The beer: 500 ml bottles of Sakara Gold.
For a faster meal: go around the corner to Felfela Take Away for excellent shawarma in soft buns.

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August 15th, 2007

savor: Egypt/ Cairo

ABOU TAREK KOSHARY RESTAURANT
16 Maarouf - Shamplion Street
Downtown
Cairo
20/2.577.59.35
www.aboutarek.com

This huge, overlit, and chintzy place among car repair shops serves the city’s best koshary (or kushary). No easy task in a city of 15 million where literally countless street stalls and small restaurants sell this strangely delectable mix of two types of macaroni, rice, lentils, a tart tomato sauce, and a bit of chili sauce, and topped with chewy, sweet fried onions.
You’re warned
: the hot sauce in the silver shaker is truly hot.
Clientele: mechanics, students, married couples, large families.

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August 15th, 2007

savor: Egypt/ Cairo

ABOU EL SAID157, 26th of July StreetZamalekCairo20/2.735.96.40www.abouelsid.comFor me the best restaurant in Egypt. It has funk and style, a chic retro-mod 1950s look with a mishmash of antique chairs and lamps, short-legged tables, and colorful Chant Avedissian(-like?) stenciled paintings of iconic mid-century Egyptian personalities. And the food… superb classics perfectly presented. Get the selection of appetizers (tahini, bessara, stuffed vine leaves, tamiyya) and then order the stuffed pigeon or the shrimp tajin with red rice. There are couple of branches in the city but I prefer the one in Zamalek, just across the 26th of July bridge from the heart of downtown.Browse while you wait for your table: Al Diwan Bookstore on the corner. Not your standard dusty, diorganized place but modern and gorgeous with a vast selection of English-language titles. Look for Chant Avedissian’s book “Cairo Stencils.”Recommended: everything on the menu.Unusual: Circassian chicken with walnut sauce. Turkish in origin, brought here by Ottomans.Addictive: small, stubby stuffed vine leaves served with yoghurt and mint dip.Beer: Sakkara draft.Clientele: expats, fashionable, well-healed locals, and perhaps a few stray tourists from the nearby Marriot.To linger: order a shisha with sweetened, apple-flavored tobacco.

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