Eating well in lean times
Sabai Sabai Metro Towers building, 1 El Gezirah El Wosta, Zamalek, 010-0170-2827
Today’s average restaurant-goer knows all about heirloom tomatoes and Michelin stars. But the truth is that the best restaurants are neighborhood spots—simply decorated and decently lit—usually not too far from where you live. Tida Loabuppa, the friendly, diminutive owner of Zamalek’s Sabai Sabai, which specializes in the delicious cuisine of her home country of Thailand, understands one of the key principles of running a small business: do whatever you can to keep your regulars happy. The menu provides brief, helpful descriptions of the various dishes; highlights include the Som Thum Thai (LE 21), “traditional Thai papaya salad with a unique combination of vegetables and dried shrimp” with tangy, spicy dressing and the Dim Sum (LE 54), a plate of half a dozen steamed Thai-style wontons stuffed with a delicious vegetable filling served with a small bowl of sweet brown sauce. Sabai Sabai has a loyal clientele of largely expatriate regulars who keep coming back for the good food and the friendly, comfy vibe, not to mention the availability of beer.
Pinoy 47 Road 263, Maadi, 2754-7745
A “hole in the wall” usually has a sense of authenticity, as if Mama and Grandma were back in the kitchen, measuring out spices by the handful. Or the term can suggest a less than savory sit-down experience that’s one step below bare bones. Fortunately, Pinoy, in Maadi, Cairo’s first and so far only Filipino eatery—lives up to the best parts of the hole-in-the-wall stereotype: generous portions of good food served in a cozy, unpretentious space. You can easily spend an hour poring over its detailed, quirky menu, which features elaborate descriptions of the 20plus main dishes, to say nothing of the offerings in the Appetizers, Noodles, Rice and Breakfast categories. The Beef Siomai Dumplings (five pieces for LE 25) is a starter that promises to “make you know what true love really means,” while the Siopao (two pieces for LE 15) is billed as a Chinese-style steamed bun “but we made it better.” Pinoy’s menu is anchored by meat, fish and vegetable dishes jazzed up by tropical touches such as coconut milk and tamarind.
O’s Pasta 159 26 July St., Zamalek, 010-0415-5756
You might have trouble finding O’s Pasta, a tiny restaurant off busy 26 July Street in Zamalek, on a narrow side street across from Abou El Sid. The giant cursive O above the restaurant’s blue antique wooden doors is the biggest thing about the place. The restaurant is a one-room wonder, with an open kitchen taking up one-third of the room and five tables comprising the dining area, which features quirky