How my heart leaped for joy when I heard about the opening of a new Asian restaurant whose fare not only comes highly-recommended, but does not require the budget of a minor arms-dealer.
For all its edgy wonderfulness, Cairo is a city sadly lacking in reasonably-priced Asian culinary offerings for those of us from the hoi polloi with a penchant for pepper, but whose modest journalistic salaries bar us from the glitzy towers of five-star hotels and their Asian fusion restaurants. A dinner for two cost roughly LE 150- 200, with main courses ranging from LE 22 – LE 75.
So zippity doodah for Zo, a recent addition to Mohandiseen’s many billions of eateries, which opened two months ago.
I was propelled in through Zo’s wood and glass façade by both the Siberian wind and the thought of the tofu with green curry and eggplant concoction which had been particularly recommended – and which did not disappoint.
Zo’s decor is the usual mix of Buddhist temple/1980s living room which seems to be The Law for any eating establishment with a Thai theme, no matter how remote.
Everything is green and brown and wood, and generally subtle and not unpleasant, apart from the gigantic sculpture of an elephant’s head which stared down at me menacingly as I perused the menu – which also featured by a three-dimensional elephant’s head on its cover.
While I had already made up my mind about what I would be consuming before entering the restaurant, I became quite emotional upon seeing that Zo’s menu contains a separate vegetarian section offering no less than SIX delicious-sounding dishes – and that other non-meat items are available elsewhere in the menu, and not just in the drinks section!
This must be placed in the context of my last dining experience, which was courtesy of Amm Hosny in his Nasr City shrine to all things meat. There, while my friends ate every and any edible part of a cow, I was reduced to chip sandwiches.
Zo’s menu also features helpful chilli emblems which guide those of a delicate digestive disposition through the spice minefield.
While waiting for our orders to arrive one of my dining companions regaled us with a description of an Asian restaurant in Canada, where the tables are fish tanks and a chef comes and cooks your grub before your very eyes. and your very stomachs. Zo has neither of these extraordinary features, but the waiters are efficient and unimposing and will come and pour you your cokes.
It took more than half an hour for our food to arrive but by god it was worth the wait. It took all my willpower not to just open my mouth, tilt back my head and consume my tofu green curry one shot, like a pelican, such was its piquant, coconut-milky, deliciousness.
My carnivorous companions selected a range of chicken dishes, one involving noodles which was deemed tasty and not too spicy by one diner as the tears streamed down her face.
Everything we consumed was given the thumbs-up except for the mixed fried rice which was declared too oily and not sticky enough by another companion who chased individual grains round her plate using chopsticks as they defiantly resisted annihilation.
The pièce de resistance was undoubtedly the sweet potato with cinnamon and coconut milk which I had for dessert, and which was so deliciously tender and sweet.
I will undoubtedly return to Zo again and again, until I have worked my way through their menu and exploded.
Zo23 Dr. Mahrouki Street, Aswan SquareMohandiseen Tel: 33020795 Open 12 noon to 1 amNo alcohol served