This ancient city in the fertile heartland of Syria’s north has been famed since ancienttimes for offering the best dishes in the Middle East. For centuries, gastronomes from far and wide have placed Aleppo firmly on the map for its rich and varied culinary gems. The influence of travelers from the days of the Silk Route and spice traders can be seen in many favorites that have stood the test of time. So how could Cairo West Magazine resist visiting Nine63 to enjoy the delights first-hand?
Type of cuisine: Authentic Syrian, at its shining best, with most dishes on offer drawing on the distinctive cuisine of Aleppo.
Dishes sampled: Menus with tempting images are such a trap and we fell into this one willingly. The dishes had familiar names, but the Syrian twist took them to new heights. Our fatouch had the addition of fine tendrils of Syrian cheese as a topping, the baba ghanouje was a palate-pleasing mix of grilled eggplant, tomato, mint, parsley and green pepper, served with pomegranate seeds and pomegranate molasses. The handcrafted ceramic platter of Yalangi Vine Leaves and Yalangi Eggplant with its stuffing of bulgur, walnuts, tomato, peppers, parsley and pomegranate molasses was exceptional, as was the dish of hummus and muhamara. The creaminess of the hummus combined well with the rich spiciness of the walnut-laden muhamara, the freshly baked Syrian bread with its sprinkling of black and white sesame seeds mopped it up quickly.
We had added the Chicken Tarator to our starters, simply because the idea of freshly boiled chicken breast bathed in tahini with garlic, lemon, walnut and parsley was too good to miss out on. It was everything we had hoped for. After washing our starters down with Almond Syrup, a milky drink with a delightful marzipan flavor, we pushed on with our main dishes.
The Kebab KheshKhash was grilled to perfection, and came with Syrian flatbread crammed with garlic, parsley and pine nuts. Our second dish, the Maajouka Burger came stuffed with cheese, mushrooms and peppers, all neatly sandwiched in Syrian bread with a side of chunky fries and a creamy dip. This left dessert; dainty cubes of Helawet Jebnah made from semolina and creamy cheese with a topping of rose-petal jam and chopped pistachios. A fitting end to a great meal, as pistachios from Aleppo are ranked amongst the finest in the world. With a few sips of ‘white coffee’, a traditional flower water digestive brew, we were ready to head reluctantly for home.
Other menu options that appealed: With winter coming on we would go for the Nine 63 Soup, a blend of lentils, spinach, hummus, onion and tomato paste. The Thyme Grilled Chicken would be a ‘must try’ as well. The desserts would be high on our list, too.
Beverage options: Juices, a wide range of both hot and cold traditional Syrian drinks like sahlab, jalab and flower essence favorites, in addition to coffee, tea and soft drinks. Wine and beer should be available in the not too distant future. Shisha fans are well catered for as well.
Décor: Comfortable and contemporary, with ornamentation based on the Syrian Star, which is subtly worked as a motif into lighting fixtures and place mats. A large oil painting of the iconic Aleppo Citadel dominates one wall, adding to the mood. Seating options range between high and low tables, all with very comfortable chairs and high stools, generously proportioned for larger guests we thankfully noted.
Ambience: Warm and welcoming, with friendly, professional staff who know the menu and dishes well. Background music is pleasant and low-key, and never overwhelms the conversation. Flat screen TV’s are discreetly placed, so you needn’t miss the latest match.
Clientele mix: Everyone would feel welcome, but to us it seems the perfect place for families and groups of friends. Food as good as this is made to be shared in convivial company.
Price range: Very affordable, so great value in terms of the generous portions and food quality.
Opening hours: Starting with breakfast from 9 am, going through to 1 am in winter, with summer hours expected to extend a little later.
Address: Guezira Plaza
Tel: 0120 796 3963