Al-Ahram Weekly On-line   Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
5 - 11 October 2000
Issue No. 502
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Issues navigation Current Issue Previous Issue Back Issues

Front Page

High on Honolulu

By Injy El-Kashef

After watching a movie or spending some money shopping at the World Trade Centre, you can always decide to take the escalator to the third floor, get lost for a few minutes, then end up having dinner at Aloha. Quite honestly, when I heard the name of the place I was seized by a brief moment of terror because our last experience with a Hawaiian-theme restaurant was no less than traumatising and has managed to leave a deep wound in our soul that has barely begun to heal. What drove us there anyway was probably a basic masochistic instinct disguised as curiosity and a thirst for new experiences.

Aloha is absolutely hidden from public attention. No sign of it anywhere, no obvious entrance but a tiny door squeezed behind a desk -- they seem rather keen on acquiring a mysterious character. The interior confirms my suspicions. It is dark, dark, dark. It has a sunken ship feeling about it. It is not a good place to be under the effect of mind-altering drugs.

The decor is basically mediocre: take 50 potato-sacks, sew their hems, pin strange-looking plastic flowers on them, stretch them across the ceiling not even entirely covering the pipes overhead. Take bright cyan "Hawaiian fun" printed cloth and use it to upholster everything in sight. Take petrified wood (already a serious mistake, since it should remain where it belongs -- at the Petrified Forest) and stick it all over the walls. This is Aloha.

Appearances are only appearances, however, and the food is often quite a surprise, good or bad. We started with excellent Cheese Croquettes -- entirely melted inside and firm outside -- Grilled Calamari and a cold Mushroom Salad. The calamari were very good (though a little too salty even for my palate) with lots of lemon, garlic and spices (I'm sure including ginger). The Mushroom Salad was prepared with fresh mushrooms, beetroot, lettuce, a light mayonnaise sauce and vinaigrette. We wolfed it all down in a few minutes.

for the main courses, my partner's Rack of Lamb was apparently tender, very well spiced and had no smell (the main cause of my lamb abstinence) but was served with French fries -- an unlikely accompaniment, if you ask me. My Beef Fillet with Pepper Sauce was also quite delicious. Of course, the pepper in the sauce was a bit exaggerated (a very common mistake), leaving me with wide open eyes, red ears and a runny nose. But the fillet was extremely well cooked and its sauce was of the right consistency. Although there are only two options for dessert (fruit salad and chocolate cake) neither was available. We thought this rather negligent of Aloha; after all, a fruit salad isn't so difficult to provide at all times.

One last word: if you wish to be able to see what you eat, you must voice your request publicly and repeatedly. Although we constituted 50 per cent of the clientele, our request for more light was overruled at least twice, until we plainly refused to eat what we couldn't see. Whether you like it or not, you will unwind, you will enjoy our romantic ambiance and you will eat what's on your table for LE177, Aloha seemed to say.

Well, we may next time but the Hawaii scar was still raw for such blind trust.

Aloha (restaurant and bar), World Trade Centre, Maspero, Nile Corniche.Tel 578 4437

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