We head over to the Fairmont Heliopolis' Al Dabke restaurant, where under the skillful hands of Chef Michel Ghawi, we are treated to a uniquely authentic Lebanese culinary experience...
Those who love to feed their souls authentic cuisine can often feel unfilled by the plethora of restaurants in Egypt promising an authentic meal, but failing to hire a chef from the cuisine’s native land. Garnering the reputation as Egypt’s authentic cuisine hub is none other than the luxurious Fairmont Heliopolis. Hankering for some authentic Lebanese cuisine we headed to Al Dabke where we were treated to a unique culinary experience that effortlessly transported us to another time, another country, another pant size.
Entering Al Dabke felt reminiscent of walking into the kitchen of Lebanese grandmother who has spent a lifetime perfecting her home recipes. To the left of the entrance is a woman making bread, giving the appearance that the food served at Al Dabke will be as traditionally Lebanese as possible to find. Guided under the skillful hands of Michel Ghawi, Al Dabke is a rustic adventure through a simpler yet delicious time. “I found passion for cooking in my grandmother’s kitchen. I knew that I wanted to become a chef from an early age, and even though I am professionally trained, I still find myself inspired to create a menu based on recipes that have been in the family for over a hundred years,” reminisces Chef Michel. Upon leaving Lebanon in 1984, the culinary master has been on a personal mission to capture the essence of Lebanese cuisine beyond its borders.
Upon examining the menu, it becomes clear that Al Dabke offers the best of both modern and traditional Lebanese cuisine. Aside from featuring all the classic dishes you would expect, Chef Michel has channeled his twenty five year experience to recreate old classics with a modern twist. Conflicted between the old and the new, we felt compelled to try the Grandmother specials in an effort to understand what ignited this Chef’s passion and palette.
The meal began with an assortment of colourful, but more importantly, delicious dips and fresh baked bread. The key word that kept surfacing in our minds with every bite was just how fresh everything tasted. Normally, we would never choose to eat dishes like brain, but Chef Michel's deft touch and ability to create balanced dishes had us less fearful of a zombie apocalypse. All the dishes were of the highest standards, however the clear winner in the cold mezzeh was the sublime pickled eggplant stuffed with walnut and red pepper known as Makdous.
For the entrée we were served two classical dishes; stuffed zucchini and vine leaves served with veal knuckles, as well as possibly the best yoghurt-based Fattah in town. Both dishes didn’t disappoint but were beyond filling. The combination of ma7shi with knuckles was new to us, but managed to take the classic dish to another level by adding the knuckles as clever way to add fat which left the Ma7shi tasting deliciously moist. Meanwhile the Fattah was step above any competitors as the balanced dish created an explosion of flavour worth returning for.
Rounding out the meal was the perfect pallet cleanser to a very rich meal, Mistica ice cream served with fruit, black honey, halawa, and fresh fig paste. Honestly, we didn’t think we would like this dessert, however the bold flavour combination was unlike any other we have ever tried, and surprisingly, we found the room to devour it.
Equally as impressive as the dishes we tried was the wonderful atmosphere and excellent service provided. There wasn’t a lot to complain about, although being a hotel one expects a pricier meal than normal; Al Dabke however makes up for that fact by creating a standard for Lebanese food not typically found in Egypt. Whether you are looking for a modern twist or a truly authentic time travelling taste of Lebanon, Al Dabke will be sure to surpass expectations of even the pickiest foodies.