Abou El Sid

Egyptian food doesn’t tend to have a sheen about it, at least not in Dubai. The handful of restaurants and tammeyas (falafel) shacks strewn throughout Deira have that gritty, lively feel born from the streets. By comparison, Abou El Sid is a much more polished affair. Set up in Dubai’s newest shopping centre, it can’t help but seem shiny compared with its more canteeny counterparts. And while the restaurant is new and reasonably sized, it still manages to feel intimate and worn (in a good way). The walls are lined with paintings of fez-decked Egyptians from days of yore, and the chairs are giant, overstuffed beasts upholstered in various dusty silks. In other words, the place exudes charm. My date and I found ourselves immediately overwhelmed by the menu. Should we go for the more traditional stuffed pigeon or the spinach and veal tagine? And what about koshari – the Egyptian carb-laden dish made with spaghetti, rice, lentils and fried onions? There was so much to choose from that we were at a loss, and when the waiter came over I squawked like a confused chicken. As it happens, the only thing more welcoming than the decor was our server. He was eager to make suggestions from a menu full of unfamiliar terms, and throughout our meal someone would stop by to ask what we thought in a tone that suggested they cared very, very much about the answer. Given the uniqueness of this venture and the pinchable sweetness of the staff, we were invested in liking this place. As the food arrived, we each held our breath and prayed it would be a smooth meal. The downy pockets of bread that kicked the meal off spoke of good things to come. We started with kishk, a creamy, gelatinous dip infused with garlic and lemon. Delicious though it was, it was so rich we could only manage half of it. Next out was kobeba: a dish of fragrant meatballs made from lamb and cracked wheat with a pine nut buried in the centre. On their own, these cumin-kissed bundles were crumbly and divine; served alongside a seductively smoky baba ganoush, they reached heavenly heights. Spicy sausage stuffed with rice was another winner. Then came mains. ‘This is the test,’ my companion said, and so it was. Plenty of places in Dubai serve starters with aplomb, before making a mess of the rest of the meal. Luckily, Abou El Sid managed to sustain its success. The real standout was juicy slices of chicken served atop rice and draped with a zesty, creamy walnut sauce. The koshari was fairly standard; this version of the carb-rich dish didn’t defy the imagination, but it successfully filled its role as comfort food. By this point we were stuffed to the gills, but we persevered and split a fetir, a thick, flaky pancake topped with mixed nuts and served with honey and clotted cream. Alas, we were too full to make much of a dent. Abou El Sid definitely won us over, though I’d say it’s best enjoyed in a group. It’s the type of place where not knowing anything about the menu does not impede; in fact, it almost enriches the experience. So go ahead, plead ignorance and let the helpful staff choose a meal for you. The bill (for two) 2x Small bottles of water Dhs18 1x Kishk Dhs18 1x Stuffed sausage Dhs34 1x Kobeba Dhs24 1x Foul Dhs16 1x Koshari Dhs29 1x Circasian chicken Dhs45 1x Fetir Dhs24 Total (excluding service) Dhs208

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