Egyptian Pizza has been a longtime fixture of Belvedere Square, long before it was revitalized with upscale and trendy boutiques. Based on my experience Friday night — both good and bad — it is easy to see why.
The restaurant has a wall-mounted booth along the right side of the room, with about twenty tables spread out around the rest of the room. The decor on the walls is eastern. The Doric columns that serve as a divider between the dining room and kitchen are a bit much, but the rest of the decor isn’t overdone. There was no discernible music, ethnic or otherwise. The place doesn’t have a liquor license, but it appeared as though you could bring your own along (although I’m unsure about corkage or serving fees).
For an appetizer, we had the Falafel ($7.95):
A traditional blend of fava beans, parsley, garlic and middle eastern herbs, shaped in patties then deep fried. Served with tahina sauce, homemade pita bread and Egyptian house salad.
It was my first time eating falafel. If theirs is any indication of what it’s supposed to be, it won’t be my last time. For being deep fried, the patties weren’t greasy at all. The pita bread was delicious, warm and soft. The salad was a nice selection of greens, tomatoes, green peppers, and cucumbers. Both vinaigrette and tahina sauce were served on the side, interchangeable as dressing or for pita/falafel dip. Considering its size, you could easily have this as an inexpensive dinner.
We intended to have leftovers, so we ordered two entrees:
First, a large 14″ wood-fired India (chicken) pizza ($17.95):
Mozzarella cheese with tandoori chicken breast (marinated in Indian spices), fresh cilantro, spicy tomato yogurt curry and yellow squash. Served with mango chutney on the side.
This thing had to have been bigger than 14 inches in diameter. The crust was nice and floury on the bottom, slightly crisp but not crunchy. There was a nice mix of cheese and tomato sauce. I enjoyed the tandoori chicken (not spicy, for those wondering), though it tasted better the day after (probably after the flavor settled in overnight). The squash added to it, though I passed on the chutney. I couldn’t taste the spicy tomato yogurt curry, but I didn’t feel like anything was missing. All of the pizzas seem expensive, but the ingredients taste better than most standard take-out/corporate places. There was a lot going on in this pie flavor-wise, but nothing drowned out the other flavors. A great match. Though it was a great pie, I’d probably try the Giza next time.
Second, Fata with lamb ($13.95):
Using the special secret recipe, this 5000 year old dish gives out lamb unique taste. The lamb is splashed with sizzling buter and served on top of pan fired pita bread (known as “khoubez”) and rice smothered with broth.
Like a lot of marinated eastern dishes, the photo doesn’t do it justice. The lamb was tender but not mushy, retaining the grain. The onions were still slightly crisp. The flavor is difficult to describe. I’ve never had any sort of Egyptian cuisine, so I’d compare it to an Indian or Thai curry… not in flavor, but in the complexity of the flavor. The tomatoes were crucial, allowing you to go back and forth between a simpler/known taste and the unique flavor of the dish. There was some warming spice, but without the earthiness of Thai curries. The portion is easily enough for two people.
I couldn’t complain about the quality of the food or the portion size, but there’s too much on the menu that you want to try. I think the way to do it is with a small group of friends. Split a pizza while experimenting with more of the middle eastern dishes, then just split the bill evenly.
Service was impeccable. Our server — named Tony, at least according to my receipt — was prompt on refills and knowledgeable about the menu. Upon hearing that we were enjoying the lamb, he recommended we try the Kamonia. It had been one of the cumin-infused lamb and vegetable dishes I was considering. Next time, perhaps.
There were two slight hiccups.
- I have the nagging suspicion that the service was a little too good. I try to be discrete when photographing the dishes, but our server saw me and asked if I’d be posting them online. I replied along the lines of “probably” but didn’t get into the details. From that point on, I felt like he went out of his way to be extra attentive. When I’m thinking about posting a review, I like to think that I’d receive the same service as the table next to me. Unfortunately, I doubt this is actually the case. It’s only natural for a restaurant to want to solidify their image in a review, no matter how informal. Being singled out like this makes me question the both the authenticity and repeatability of the quality of service. Then again… there’s #2 here.
- A month or two ago I purchased a $25 gift certificate from restaurant.com (with a minimum purchase of $35) but had the owner renege when I went to redeem it. The restaurant still accepts the certificates, but with a minimum tab of $50 (and that is what restaurant.com’s site currently reflects). Our server was very apologetic, volunteering that it had been a cause of debate/discussion lately but that the owner simply will not budge. Oddly, there was absolutely no offer to make amends (such as applying their 10% Internet coupon discount). While the owner is technically within his rights to accept/deny the certificates, I think it’s cheap not to honor the original terms. I wouldn’t go so far to say “don’t eat there” (as one Urbanspoon reviewer did back in April), but you definitely should have realistic expectations.
Usually I either like a restaurant or dislike it. It’s easy for me to form an opinion, but tonight I’m at a loss for words. I really want to like Egyptian Pizza. While the quality of food and service were great, the two little hiccups leave me wondering if I’ll go out of my way to return.