Tuesday, 28 February 2012

AliBaba Restaurant, Dahab, Egypt

AliBaba currently has a fantastic rating for a restaurant in Dahab, according to Trip Advisor.

I had, after my experience at Shark, decided that I was happy that I had witnessed the best Dahab had to offer. Talk around the hotel was that AliBaba, Shark and Friends were all a great experience and extraordinary value.

For my last night, I asked a couple of new friends if they'd happily accompany me into town for dinner. They were happy to do so, and we headed to AliBaba.

If nothing else I was excited that I had time to visit Dahab just after nightfall. It was just as buzzing and alive with pesky, though harmless salesmen. A smell that would drift between sea salt, garlic and seafood, and occasionally that of garbage. 

As we walked past the restaurants along the boardwalk, I kept being distracted by the displays of fresh fish, shellfish and cuts if meat, but when we arrived at AliBaba, all of the other restaurants shadowed in comparison. It had the most handsome shopfront, one of the most polite 'hasseler's and one of the most beautiful interiors. All of this before we were shown to out balcony table that sat on the ocean, under the stars beside a heater. The sea breezes bringing relief from the heat, and the heater a warm relief from the night sky.

The menus comprises a mix of western and continental favourites of meat, chicken, pizza, pasta et al.
I quickly looked for the menu page entitled seafood, found what I was seeking, yet grew disappointed ... none of the gleaming beauties snoozing on ice out the front were on this menu... but alas, at the bottom of the page... 'mixed seafood price per kilo'. The waiter comes over to take our drink orders and I inquire... what's the deal with the 'mixed seafood, price per kilo', can I pick my own? He gleams a big friendly Egyptian smile and indicated for me to follow him.

I am lead to the front of the restaurant to the ice display. What would I like? I wanted it all.He asked me to choose which and how much I wanted of each, how they would be cooked, and even recommended which were the better ones to choose.

As I returned to the table with Armoun our waiter, we made out drink choices. I ordered a mango lassi.
(there was only a byo option that we were not aware of prior to our arrival.)

For my starter I chose the shrimp tortilla, and for my main was the red snapper, 3 tiger prawns, 3 mussels and squid.

Again, hygiene is most important and we are all offered hand sanitiser.

This is followed by a share plate of bruchetta, made to identical recipe as Shark, but were entirely edible and tasty, for tomato on toast.

The lassi proves to be a perfect choice, it is cool, fruity and refreshing, and tricks my brain into believing that it is an alcoholic cocktail, and therefore not missing out on a thing. The mango flavour is impressively strong and fresh, and reminds me of Bowen mangos from back in Queensland, that is: proper ripe mangoes, with juicy sweet flesh, off the tree. The presentation is quaint yet tropical, festive and brings a smile to my face.

Our next course hot fresh puffed flatbread, with six delicious dips. Tahini, moussaka, marinated feta dip, Baba ghanoush, tzatziki, and another. The marinated feta dip is simply divine, rich and creamy, whilst still being sharp. The Baba ghanoush has a certain spice that provides perfect conrtast to the tzatziki. This is such a lovely start to a meal. Though it is so easy to fill up at this point. One of those hard times in life where although you know you COULD eat more, you should probably stop to save room.

Between courses I chat with my new friends, and watch the whiting playing in the red sea behind our table. We see night-time snorkelers, notice the lights shining from Saudi Arabia and smoke cigarettes.
a garfish cruises past

My starter (the other 2 did not order starters) Is shrimp tortilla. It looks beautiful as it comes to the table, but I am always a sucker for grilled cheese. A bite into it, and i already thoroughly enjoy the flavour. The tomato sauce has enough spice to invite the addition of the yoghurt dip provided, the shrimp, fresh and bursty, and melted cheese. But then it comes to me... these flavours and textures, I know this all to well... this is my morning-after a big nigh meal, this is homemade pizza. Despite this, I do enjoy it however. And fortunately it was light enough that I still excited looked forward to my main.

We order another round of drinks and I order another lassi.

As with Shark, the service is fantastic. The table is constantly being wiped down, ashtrays changed, checks to make sure everything is okay.

I must say, I knew as I was doing it, that i over-ordered my main, but how could I not? Roughly, 1 kg of seafood came to about £20. I think I ordered around 1 and a half kilos of seafood... TO MYSELF! When asked what the celebration was, i could only respond with ' I LOVE FOOD!'.

The platter shows up, it is ridiculous, it is no less than a meter long. I needed to stand on my seat no less to take a photo.

Firstly I try the prawns, they are as big as the ones we used to splash out for at Christmas, they are de-veined and are stuffed with parsley, garlic and smothered in butter. They are amazing.

The squid comes in massive chunks. Its a strange association game to play when you expect your calamari to come in delicate strips, and you need to use your knife and fork to cut bite-sized pieces... what's more, it is as tender as an I have ever tried.

The mussels are served in the shell, but really unusually. The flesh has been removed, diced, added to diced vegetables, covered in cheese and grilled. It is delicious, and a really novel way to present and serve mussel. This is unfortunately lost on me. I did eat one entire shell-full, but then proceeded to remove and eat just the segments of flesh.

My snapper looks beautiful on the platter between its fishy friends. Though as i admire him, I can only think back to my last failed attempt to eating a whole fish. However, after witnessing it, i must have inadvertently picked up some tips, cause i managed literally about 70% of the fish, and had a really low ration of bones to mouthfuls,

This flesh seems creamier that my sea bass. It is very very tasty and almost resembles the flavour of chicken.
Despite over-ordering, and my waiter laughing at how little i get through, I am proud of my effort. Yes, there are about 800grams of rice and veg left behind, but I wasn't paying for the rice and veg.
After dinner we rub our tummys and try to conclude if we have overdone it or not.

We are not given much time before our complimentary dessert of icecream and sorbet is brought out. (brushetta, dips and dessert are all complimentary).

We each barely manage half.

Again, we take a moment to take in the stunning environment that surround us, and I try not to think too much about the fact that this is my last night.

We have them bring a shisha and order a bottle of cold water, as we were are planning to have tea in a spice shop on the way back to the taxi.

It was a perfect finish to an amazing day and an unforgettable week in Egypt.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Shark Restaurant, Dahab, Egypt

I had read the previous reviews on Trip Advisor (aka my food and travel bible) and realised I had definitely wanted to experience Shark.

When walking through Masbat at Dahab, every single restaurant has a guy standing out the front convincing you that his restaurant is worth at least looking at the menu. I liked having the excuse that I had a 'date' Ie food at Shark.

The menu was varied... fairly standard chicken, beef seafood pizza etc. I was definitely keen for some seafood and all the fish I had eaten since being in Egypt had been delicious.

I was shown to my table a booth beside the window with the most extraordinary views.

I would be lying if I said I wasn't slightly disappointed that there was no beer on the menu, but i settled for Diet Coke. As a smoker I can't really express my pleasure at having ashtrays inside at restaurants here. I know it is selfish, unhealthy, and dirty, but it takes me back (surely I am too young to be saying things like that!)

A really lovely and sensible offering of hand santitiser was offered... a great idea.

While perusing the menu in more detail I was brought my complimentary bruschetta. It was delicious, and cute in the way that it was served on toasted white sliced bread.

Shortly after this I was brought a tray that contained 2 good sized fish. I could tell by the fresh sea smell and their crystal clear eyes that they were probably caught that morning. I was explained that I can have the whole fish (there was much of the conversation I missed through my very inefficient understanding of the Egyptian accent) but I thought I'd go for it, it looked amazing and was a Sea Bass so I ordered one served with spinach sauce. And the fried calamari to start.

A set of scales were then brought to my table and the beautiful fish was laid upon to show me the weight ( a tasty 600g) and the price was shown to me based on the weight (140Le).

I gazed out at my stunning surrounds while sipping my coke and smoking my cigarette.

My second complimentary dish then arrived. A basket of 2 freshly baked flat breads puffed and full of steam, and 3 saucers: hummus, babaganoush and coleslaw. (It was now I was starting to wander if perhaps ordering a starter and a main might be OTT.

Each of the dips were superb. Egypt does houmus so much better than anywhere else I have been! The slaw was okay, but genuinely ignored by me as I dug into the other morsels on offer.

After every cigerette my ashtray was replaced. After every course my table was wiped down.

The calamari promptly arrived.  Very simply yet elegantly arranged. The batter was delicious and contained a herb or spice that I couldn't put my finger on, though not perfectly crisp, still more-than acceptable. The squid was tender and cooked perfectly.

My fish then triumphantly made its way to my table looking regal and very tasty. As it was placed in front of me, already feeling nearing full, I couldn't wait to dig in. And that I did.

Having never eaten a whole fish before, I can safely say that I wasn't prepared for the mouthful of small bones that followed. This was certainly going to be an experience.Two more bone filled mouthfuls later I was beginning to feel defeated.

It was now that the waiter arrived, offering to fillet the fish for me. Hallelujah. Now, I thought that filleting a fish would be a 10 second job. I was very wrong. As my wonderful waiter filleted he would put the delicious, tender flesh on a separate plate, and said i was to start eating. Around 12 minutes later he finished. I asked if they do this for every whole fish that was ordered, he replied enthusiastically 'yes'.

The main was incredible. And i was brought back to when I lived on the sunshine coast, when we would catch a fish off out back jetty, gut and scale it, and throw it straight on the barbeque. Only this fish was so much taster. The skin was so flavoursome. The veges and rice were all cooked to perfection but were so much in the shadow of the fish that the memory of them almost alludes me.

I forged through. I was full not even a quarter of the way through, but I couldn't stop.
Upon completion my plates were removed and I ordered another Coke to have a brief sit and get myself back to a place where I would be able to get myself home that didn't involve rolling, or being placed on a cart or stretcher.

My hands were then washed for me, with lemon and warm water over a copper bowl.

I finished my Coke and asked for the cheque. 'Why must you leave so soon?' I was asked. I was desperate to use a bathroom, and wasn't sure of the lavatory situation in well, Egypt! So I asked. I was lead through to an area across the main street to a very lovely bathroom attached to the kitchen. Then returned. I didn't want to leave. I had one of the most spectacular views in the world. The cheapest cold Cokes and a comfortable breezy seat.

I resumed my sit and had a read of my book and ordered a coffee.

'Have you smoked shisha?' I was asked. I hadn't. Well I had once at a party when I was about 20. Did I want to? Yes of course... When in Egypt...

The shisha was brought to my table. I quick demonstration then left to myself to enjoy the lovely peachy smokiness with my coffee and my book.

Now i was relaxed, full, well into the digestion process and very very happy.

My gripe. The cats. The second my calamari was brought to my table, so came the cats. They were adorable, and very well behaved. But it is something I was not used to. It appears to be very common here, and the waiters would squirt them with water at every chance. But of course. It can't be helped.

I love this restaurant. The service was flawless. The views unbeatable. The food equal to any good restaurant I have tried in Oz or the UK. The price amazing. I am already planning my next visit.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Chop Chop Chinese

Last night, myself, my housemates and a friend went to Chop Chop. A Chinese restaurant near Haymarket, famously known for being Gordon Ramsay's choice for Chinese!

It was my first visit to Chop Chop, but my housemates had eaten there before, and had said it would exceed any expectations I may have. That is setting the bar VERY high.

We had a drink down the road in Carter's Bar before heading down for our booking at six. We were only the second table in the restaurant. We had brought our own wine, and the bottles were taken as we opened our menus. Before I even had a chance to look into the options, my housemates mentioned, and we unanimously decided on Unlimited Banquet for 4.

Its a fantastic concept whereby the pates are brought to the table, one of everything initially, then you request more as you'd like it.

The delicious banquet is as follows:
  • 8 pork and coriander boiled dumplings (3)
  • 8 chicken boiled dumplings (9)
  • 4 pan-fried beef and chilli dumplings (41)
  • 4 pan-fried prawn dumplings (53)
  • Large sweet and sour pork ribs (76)
  • Small cucumber salad (85)
  • Small shredded potato salad (861)
  • Large aubergines with garlic (92)
  • Crispy Northern Beef (749)
  • Small lamb with cumin seed (71)
  • Small crispy shredded potato (77)
  • Stir-fried chicken and potato (825)
  • Large boiled rice (serves four) (136

First of all came the salads and 2 lots of dumplings. I miss Yum Cha so much over here, but these dumplings certainly filled a hole I had. They were just delicious. The accompanying salads were also so tasty. My favourite was the cucumber. The crispy potato (shown below) was yum and tasted like sour cream and chives crisps!
 The meat dishes were all sensational and unlike anything I have ever tried. In all 3 cases the meat itself was perfectly cooked and tender. The ribs fell off the bone. The vegetables were all crisp and fresh. This is how Chinese is supposed to be!

The unanimous standout dish was the Aubergine
The flavour packed into this dish is inexplicable, and must simply be tried. We ended up getting 3 servings in total.

We decided after 3 sessions of food that enough was enough and ordered a pot of green tea to assist with digestion.

We left feeling full but not uncomfortable. This dining experience was truly memorable to me, and I simply can't wait to return to try more of their menu.

One or two small gripes. £5 per bottle corkage is mental! I really don't like it when 10% service charge is added to a bill. Tips are tips and should be earned.


For a long time I didn't enjoy eating bacon very much at all.

At McDonalds is was always Sausage McMuffins, never bacon. I preferred egg on toast, to bacon and egg. But things have changed.

I think my love of bacon started when I was a tradie... well, working WITH tradies at least. You learn very quickly that bacon and egg rolls are one of 3 breakfast staples (along with pie/sausage roll, or toast for when you are really poor). Bacon and egg rolls are a little piece of heaven in my eyes. That's what started it. Since then, I never looked back.

I think cooking has an awful lot to do with it. I really don't enjoy crispy bacon. An old boyfriend of mine used to have it as cooked as you can get before it turns black. To me that just makes it taste powdery, like bacon jerky. For me, its still pink, with just some small areas of browning from the grill/frying pan.

This evening, hungover, dinner was bacon. Bacon and brie on lightly toasted white bread (all bets are off when it comes to hangovers- sorry guts).



Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Cheese and Fruit

Lately, as a snack I've really been enjoying eating cheese and slices of pink lady apple. Just cheese and apple: the apple slice used as a cracker. I can't get over how amazing the combination of the 2 is. Has anyone else tried it? Am I crazy? What is the best cheese to go with apple?

V-Day Chippy Pizza

After being denied delivery from Mamma's American Pizza. I felt sad.

So I cracked on to find another pizza place. The chances of me getting gluten-free pizza were small to nil. So I found somewhere with a very thin base.

Rapido Caffe is a late nite chippy, renowned in the Broughton Street area as THE place to go on the way home, they sell beer and fags, as well as deep fried, well everything.

This in itself didn't inspire me whatsoever. I tend to avoid chippies as best I can. But after looking through their menu I felt like I should give them a chance.

I ordered the Esotica with sun dried tomatoes, pancetta, grilled courgettes (zucchini) and mozerella. It was really delish. Nice thin base. Delivered really quickly, and still hot and a good amount of ingredients. 

Being V Day, I also treated myself to a tub of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream.
The B&J didn't really do it for me. For starts. I'm not a fan of chocolate ice cream. I love chocolate. I don't love chocolate flavoured ice cream. Naively I thought this would be coconut ice cream with something or other in it. On the plus side though, I did only have about 3 tablespoons. There is ALWAYS an upside.

So that was my Valentine's Day, no better, nor worse than any other day.

For this order I used justeat.co.uk. Ordering online for me is just so much easier.

Bacon and Banana

V-Day breakfast to myself. Bacon and banana on (gluten-free) sourdough. Yum. I love the combination of Bacon and banana. My favourite food blogger The Food Pornographer often talks of her love of bacon and maple syrup... ie sweet and salty, and I suppose to a less extent that's what I enjoy about the b&b combo. I tried bacon and maple once but found it a bit too full on. Maybe it's time to try again?

The bread wasn't the best. Gluten-free bread is either amazing or shocking... no middle ground. This one was far too crumbly, almost like a less crunchy shortbread. The FreeFrom range seems to be the only quality brand I have found so far. But just gotta toast it up to get through that!

Monday, 13 February 2012

Le Marché Français

Today I had lunch at Le Marché Français in Haymarket after a recommendation from my housemate, E.
Their lunch deal of a starter and a main for £8.95 seemed like a winner, so with an empty tummy and nowhere to be, I popped off the bus and headed in to have a look.

I have to say the setting was lovely- understated cafe, warmth, and a slight lunchtime buzz. As you walk past the window, the mounds of freshly baked bread do invite a head turn, not unlike when I see the words 'shoe sale'.

The menu was nicely varied covering salads, pates, snails, pastries, baguettes as well as mains and desserts.

Picking the starter was easy, as soon as I saw smoked salmon and prawn salad, I was sold. The main was harder though... Beef Bourguignon, confit duck... all the options seemed divine. When the waiter came to my table to take my order, he mentioned chicken in blue cheese, bacon and onion sauce with risotto was their meal of the day, and that made my choice all the easier... cheese... bacon... yep that's me.

My orange and carrot juice was swiftly brought to my table with a basket of bread. The bread was super fresh, crusty on the outside and very soft on the inside and the butter was amazing.

My starter quickly followed. Despite the use of little baby canned prawns, the concept and flavours of the salad were fresh and delicious. Red cabbage, mixed leaves, prawn, salmon in a light but creamy dressing. The seasoning was perfect. The size for a starter was perfect. A real treat.

Up until this point, my waiter had been very efficient, but unfortunately my plate was not taken away from in front of me until he realised my main was on its way.

The main, was... it has it's ups and downs. To look at, the plate was certainly not the prettiest meal I have ever had served to me... Well:

I'm not saying it was undesirable, but 2 wet dishes plopped on a plate. Anyway moving forward. The risotto was beautifully flavoured but the rice was a little overcooked. The chicken dish was a lovely concept of flavours and the chicken tasted flavoursome and was very moist, but the sauce was very rich and quite salty. I did discover not long into the meal that the light vinaigrette on the salad actually cut through the strong sauce quite nicely. And if each fork-full had exactly 1:1:1 of all 3 parts of the meal, it was in fact delightful.

I do rate this lovely cafe, and even with the small shortfalls of the main, I will be back to try more of the menu items.