Hanan Radwan sinks her teeth into grilled lamb and dispenses with the toothpick
Years ago, an elderly chef at a kebab restaurant gave me the following tip for discerning a good piece of grilled meat: it should leave no traces stuck between your teeth.
The lamb chops beckoning at me from my plate were grilled to ochre perfection and gave off an irresistible aroma. I picked up a chop, caressed some meat off the bone, and felt the onion-infused marinade oozing between the meat fibres and tickling my taste buds. I chewed and chewed, almost daring the meat to stick between my molars. But in a flash, the meat dissolved in my mouth and was no more.
"So you liked it. I told you it would be good!" a male voice rasped from behind me. I turned around, startled. It was not the elderly kebab judge. One of the staff members behind the take-out counter was reproaching a female customer who had not trusted his recommendation to try the mombar (fried stuffed intestines) but who was won over after she tasted it.
This is the recently opened Mohandessin branch of Anter Grill House, a haunt for carnivores that first appeared in Manial many years ago. The new outlet serves as an eating area for customers of Anter as well as Arous Al-Bahr, a seafood eatery run by the same management.
Although we had arrived on a weekend, we were the only customers, but the roaring of orders and shuffling of plastic bags at the take-out counter next to the restaurant more than made up for company and background music.
Surprisingly, none of my acquaintances was willing to join me. The reason: almost all of them were unwilling to forsake Anter's vintage cuisine at its Manial headquarters for an up-market branch that smells of both meat and fish.
So I took my mother. A hapless victim of my restaurant escapades, my mother trudged along, wearing her "here we go again" expression. To my amazement, she did not order any meat, although she is a kebab aficionado. "Would you change your toothpaste?" she retorted when I asked her the reason. Taking her kebab seriously, my mother would never change her own kebab house and ordering meat at Anter or any other place would, for her, be culinary blasphemy.
She settled for grilled liver and -- after much pleading on my part -- grilled kofta. Sprawling on a blanket of parsley, the latter came straight from the charcoal grill and crumbled in the mouth. The meat was flavoursome and left no trace of heartburn afterwards, a welcome respite from traditional kofta served by kebab houses in Egypt.
For the moment, my mother was satisfied. I shovelled up a spoonful of turmeric infused basmati rice and began to relax, enjoying the transfixed expressions of the waiters who had their eyes glued to the blaring television screens showing a tragic scene from a soap opera.
Then came the grilled liver and my sense of relief was short-lived. Plunked on another bed of parsley, the liver pieces looked appetising but were so tough that my mother eventually dropped her knife and fork and pulled and gnawed at a couple of slices with her hand before she declared: "Go check your car. It seems they sliced off pieces from one of the tires and served them on my plate."
My poor mother, it seemed, was paying for her initial scepticism. Truth be told, however, the meat cuts at Anter's Manial branch are more superior and cooked with greater love and attention.
To match its trendier surroundings, the Mohandessin location is roomy and cheerful with hues of brown, beige, red and caramel glinting from the chandeliers, mahogany tables, sensible leather chairs, and posters of sandwiches and seafood dishes on offer. And judging from the customers milling in front of the take-out counter, this new branch is welcomed by Mohandessin dwellers.
My own meal was satisfactory. "I hope we still have some tuna at home," my mother grumbled as we walked out of the restaurant. I grinned at her. At least my teeth were clean.
Anter Grill House