Zamalek’s Crave combines fusion cuisine with excellent accommodating service
CAIRO: There are countless options for where to go for a casual dinner in Cairo. We do, however, tend to fall into a rut and go to the same couple of restaurants over and over again. If you’re looking for somewhere new to go, they try out Crave in Zamalek.
The restaurant has a casual atmosphere with its simple and modern décor. Going on a week night, it wasn’t surprising to find only few other diners, but that meant we had our servers’ undivided attention.
A hot summer evening, we decided to order our drinks first. Along with the usual selection of hot and cold beverages, Crave has a few cocktails on offer. My friend chose the fruity club cooler – a mix of cherry, blueberry juice and soda – while I went for a more tart lime margarita. The drinks were refreshing, but it was the small touches that were really cool. Aside from the usual lemon slice, the ice cubes were frozen juice; Cherry for the club cooler and sour lime for the margarita.
Browsing through the menu, it’s difficult to classify the restaurant’s food. The menu seems as varied as their clientele.
There is the selection of American-style starters that have become a staple at most Cairene venues: chicken finger strips, fried mozzarella, and stuffed mushrooms. The selection of salads was slightly more adventurous offering Chicken Hawaiian salad with slices of apple and pineapple, and the Quattro Formaggi salad with emmental, smoked cheese, blue cheese and cheddar on a bed of selected salad greens – a little too adventurous for my tastes. And I’m beginning to suspect that it’s becoming a requirement for any restaurant, bistro, or coffee shop to offer Caesar salad, with or without grilled chicken of course.
Then there’s the tribute to Italian cuisine with the menu’s selection of pasta dishes, pizza, and one option of risotto. We cross the Atlantic to the U.S. with a selection of “zombie burgers and a club sandwich. They also offer a chicken Caesar sandwich, which again begs the question of why all restaurateurs feel that it’s mandatory to include this dish on their menu.
The main course offerings seem to follow no culinary theme. Charbroiled filet tenderloin, veal ribs with rosemary sauce, mare monti (shrimps and veal in a white sauce and the most expensive dish on the menu at LE 50) and sea bass with lemon butter sauce are just a few of your choices. It’s ideal if you like a lot of choice, not the best situation if, like me, you become paralyzed with indecision when you’re faced with too many options.
I decided to seek our server’s advice, and upon his recommendation I decided upon the onion soup (LE 10) followed by the homemade mushroom ravioli (LE 23).
My dining partner was not as accommodating. She chose the cream of mushroom soup (LE 12) to start with, and the stir-fry chicken (LE 26) as a main dish. Simple enough, except she asked for the soup to be blended well and then poured through a sieve for optimum smoothness. This is the ultimate challenge for any server, to cater to a client’s request – no matter how unusual – without batting an eye. And our server for the evening rose to the challenge. Without question, he repeated the request, making sure he understood it, and then took off to place our order.
The mushroom soup arrived, creamy white without a single lump meeting my partner’s approval. My onion soup was, simply put, tasty. Melted strands of cheese stretched from my spoon to the moist bread floating in the soup. The broth was clear, thick and strew with caramel-sweet morsels of onion.
My friend’s stir-fry was appetizing. The dark brown, caramelized sauce was a tangy sweet sour. My mushroom ravioli was equally tasty, though a touch too salty. Another point in favor of the service is that they were willing to replace my dish in an instant. Unfortunately, I had already plowed through three-quarters of the plate and wanted to leave room for dessert.
And it was well worth it. The chocolate fondant (LE 19) is the main reason I will become a regular at Crave. A warm chocolate cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side, drizzled with chocolate and caramel sauce, at first glance it looks familiar. The moment you break into the cake with your spoon, unleashing a stream of dark, chocolate sauce, it’s better than any of its doppelgangers. The sauce was silky. The chocolate cake was chewy. Altogether it was exceptional.
At the end of the meal, I think I have come to understand the eclectic menu. It seems the chef simply listed out the dishes he cooks well. And with the relaxed atmosphere, the great service, and tasty meal guests are sure to make repeat appearances. Therefore, it begins to make sense that there are a variety of dishes so that each time you visit, you’re sure to find something satisfies your cravings.