The Food Snob made a pilgrimage to Gamil's Egyptian Cuisine last week. Like a culinary archeologist looking to unearth Concord's dining treasures, I made my way to the fertile shores of Pleasant Street, unsure of what I would find. Was Gamil's at the top of Concord's food pyramid, or did it rule the Egyptian food scene simply because the people were only given one choice to vote for?
It certainly looked Egyptian in there. The dining area at Gamil's is like Tut's tomb crossed with one of Cairo's open-air bazaars. Hieroglyphs and golden trinkets line the walls and shelves. The smell of cooking meats and vegetables wafts through the air of the tiny, six table dining room and mixes with the blaring Middle Eastern music.
I cracked open the menu only to have it spill forth Egyptian dining treasures like a cornucopial sarcophagus. King Ramses Walema? Nephratiti's Fantasy? Osiris Pesto? The Snob often orders based on name hilarity alone, so I decided to start with the Baba Ghannouj ($3.50). My dining companion ordered a plate of Egyptian potato salad ($3.95), and we waited, entertaining each other with our favorite Sphinx jokes.
It's worth noting that Gamil's has a large variety of vegan options on the menu. Nearly all of the dishes were already vegan or could easily become so with a substitution. This was a definite plus, given my dining companion's self-imposed temporary dietary restrictions.
Our appetizers arrived and we dug in. My Baba Ghannouj (literally, "baby ghannouj") was excellent. Steamed eggplant with tahini and spices, and what would go better with it than some fresh flatbread, Middle East style? Not store-bought pita bread; unfortunately that is what came with the dish. With fresh-cooked naan of some sort, the dish would have been perfect.
The Egyptian potato salad was fairly nondescript, although it was a refreshing change from the Americanized, mayo-heavy potato salads that most of us are used to. With a light salting, it became quite palatable.
We ordered our entrees, and I also requested a mug of sahlab ($2.50), a hot concoction crafted from milk, ground rice and ground pistachio. This was a unique treat. The ground rice lent it a Cream of Wheat-like texture where it settled at the bottom of the cup, while the rest of the drink was a sweet hot milky mixture with hints of vanilla. Delightful.
I was adequately tided over by the sahlab, but once the main course arrived, this Snob was ready to grub down. My chicken stir-fry dinner ($8.95) looked promising; a huge plateful of megadara (rice with lentils, onions and carrots) with sauteed vegetables and mouth-watering strips of chicken. I was felt like I was on the banks of the Nile. However, after dipping my toe in, there was no denying the fact that the stir-fry was dryer than desert sands. Perplexing. Perhaps the Food Snob just doesn't know his Egyptian food; maybe another dish would have been saucier, or seasoned with the myriad of spices that the region is famous for. One way or the other, I was unimpressed with the dish (and the second round of store-bought pita that came with it).
My dining companion got the falafel platter with hummus and red cabbage salad ($6.95). This was an excellent choice. The cabbage was positively spare, tart with vinegar and a perfect palate cleanser before the hummus. The falafel was top-notch, the outer shell fried to a delectable crispness, the inside firm with just a hint of crumble.
A forkful of that dipped in the rich, garlicky hummus and I was ready for Anubis to prepare me for my long journey into the afterlife. By which I mean I could die happy having eaten it.