After a month of advertising on social media, Just Falafel, the Lebanese fast food chain, opened its first three branches in three key districts around the capital, Mohandiseen, Maadi and 6th of October City.
Mohandiseen’s branch on Gamaat al-Dowal Street is the last addition to the growing family. The two-story eatery serves a traditional dish with a contemporary and global wrap; falafel, known in Egypt as taamaiya, is a ubiquitous affordable dish usually served in pita bread. They make the falafel with chickpeas, fava beans, onions and a number of spices (while in Egypt, chickpeas is not usually part of the mix).
Just Falafel aims to offer the Middle Eastern market a blend of oriental and international flavors; the sandwich menu includes sandwiches with influences from all over the world mixing falafel with Italian sauces, Greek cheese, Mexican tortilla bread and even burger buns.
The “Egyptian” sandwich is the most puzzling and peculiar — the blend of falafel, lettuce, chopped tomatoes, tahini sauce and pickles is wrapped in a tortilla. Despite, the zing of the pickles and the mildness of the tahini, the Mexican bread steals the Egyptian sandwich’s identity. As for the taste of falafel, again, something was wrong; they were slightly bitter, but the bitterness was mostly camouflaged by the sauces and the diced vegetables.
The Italian falafel has a somewhat more authentic feel — the ciabatta bread and the mozzarella cheese give the mix an Italian taste that strangely enough complements the hot falafel. The bread is fresh and crispy and the mayo pesto sauce adds the final zest to the Italian sandwich. The menu also includes a Mexican blend with jalapeno peppers and pickles, as well as Emirati, with eggplant and spicy yogurt sauce, and Indian and Japanese. Sandwiches range in price from LE10 to LE25 depending on the size, the ingredients and the bread. This is of course pricy for a traditional taamaiya sandwich, but also fits into the baladi chic trend on the restaurant scene of repackaging street food.
Sides include French fries, wedges, falafel bites, in addition to an assortment of salads such hummus, tahini dip, coleslaw, and of course pickles. Prices for this section range between LE4 and LE8.
For dessert, there is one option, Nutella Toasties: Tortilla bread with Nutella toasted in the sandwich maker. It fails as a sweet finale to a savory meal, because the bread was over-toasted (almost burnt) and was way too crunchy and the chocolate used was not Nutella. A crunchy toastie costs LE14.
The fast food joint is neat, the service is fast and the waiters are helpful and friendly but the sandwiches need to be changed around, especially the Egyptian one. Egyptians take their taamaiya seriously — after all, it is a fundamental element in their breakfast and for some, also lunch. It’s got to be served in shami or baladi bread; tortilla bread just doesn’t cut it.
Gamaat al-Dowal Street, Mohandiseen
Road 9, Maadi
La Cite Mall, Al-Mehwar Al-Markazi, 6th of October City.