We descended on Cairo's Tapería Dos Cañas to blackmail them for food with puppy eyes and meows – they succumbed.
Cairo is perhaps one of the few truly great cities of the world, but there’s always a couple of BUTs when you’re talking about Cairo – the biggest one being the living standards and the quality of life, or lack thereof. Another major one is the lack of casual spots to hang out after a long day at work because you don’t want to go home – you just want to stuff your face with delectable food to soothe your aching soul and make those corporate job troubles of yours go away for a couple of hours, but you also want sangria and tapas and you love Spain and Penelope Cruz and no venue in Cairo will accommodate your obsessive Hispanic fixation.
That was before Dos Cañas hit Cairo’s culinary scene; those were some dark times. Now our dark undereye circles are fading, our manic depression is at bay, and our tantrums are far less because we indulge our fascination with and fixation on all things Spain in the city’s finest tapería. Wanderlustful yet stuck in Egypt's buzzing capital city, we revisited the one place we knew could cure our Hispanic oral fixation.
Situated at the top floor of the Cairo Capital Club building, the rooftop eatery pairs the exotic flavours of Spain and South America with a spectacular Nile view that will inspire the poet in you. The staff is so friendly they hold your bags while you’re taking a 20-minute selfie, the food never fails, and the Sangria is flowing.
The minute you walk in, you’re met with smiling faces and mouth-watering smells like tiny pieces of deliciousness floating in the air, making their way to your taste buds through your nostrils, a great opening act for the culinary eroticism that is about to ensue. And despite being a tapas restaurant and bar, the portions are generous and the menu includes continental classics like steak, Indian spice-based dishes, and staples of South American cuisine. With just the right balance between homey, laid back, and luxurious, Dos Cañas has this Mediterranean quality and vibe to it, made even more prominent by the crisp Latin jazz tunes travelling through the airwaves, which ultimately elevated the dining experience.
Starting off with some red wine sangria, a Chicken Tikka Salad and a Patatas Brava Bombay Style, Latin-infused Bollywood songs went off in our heads. The chicken strips are perfectly sizzled, fully cooked yet tender, and together with the fresh vegetable, spices and almonds, they just make sense. And the potato cubes were bursting with all kinds of flavourfully cheeky tastes that leave you appetised rather than full.
Still in the entrée portion of the evening, we moved to their famous Octopus a la Parilla to see what the hype was about and we were delightfully surprised by the balanced flavours that were the embodiment of umami; the octopus was cooked just right and succulent – which is almost never the case anywhere else in Cairo where it is often overcooked, rubbery and annoyingly chewy – and seasoned to absolute perfection. Mixed with arugula, cherry tomatoes, and fresh goat cheese and topped with a drizzle of balsamic reduction sauce, the octopus’ subtle flavour ruptures in your mouth, leaving behind a distinctly Mediterranean fresh aftertaste you’ll want to hold on to. Then there was the Crab Meat Steam Bun, which was sweetly fresh, yet perfectly balanced flavour-wise.
For the main course, we let our gluttony get the best of us and went all in with the Chicken Croquet, their signature Grilled Steak, and one order of the Nasi Goreng. The medium-rare steak came with a green chili pepper paste that gives the beef a new flavour dimension entirely – earthy and piquant. The steak might as well have been marinated in the nectar of the gods, oozing with carnal, savoury, sour and smoky juices that all fuse to give it a richly bold yet light flavour.
The Chicken Croquet was the very definition of comfort food; from the moment it touches your tongue, the familiar flavours of the puréed chicken and vegetables melt in your mouth, triggering all kinds of warm childhood memories, like you’re not an adult anymore and your mother is still liable for your welfare and nutrition. The Nasi Goreng was hearty yet exotic all the same; the chili, the rice, and the nuts complemented one another when mixed with the over easy egg topping them.
For dessert, we opted for the Mixed Berries Lemon Cream, thinking Dos Cañas’ winning streak would finally come to an end there, as many good restaurants fall short in the dessert department; but, to our surprise, it didn’t – if anything they won us over even more, somehow. The cream was only subtly sour and frothy, and the berries were sweet and sharp, and don’t even get us started on the crumbs – they were basically little crunchy grits of heaven.
Even with the delicious food and catchy music, absolutely nothing could beat the view with a Sangria in hand.
Photos by @MO4Network's #MO4Productions
Photographer: Moataz Mohamed
Food stylist: Mostafa Abu Nabut