I first happened upon Dandanah a couple of months ago, wandering around in the Galleria area, a part of town I usually avoid, trying to find my way home after spending several days in a dentist’s chair. When I discovered they offered Egyptian cuisine it redeemed the whole ordeal.
Some of the most common dishes served in Middle Eastern cuisine originated in Egypt, among them falafel and ful medammes, but this is the only restaurant in Houston I know of offering more of the special dishes of the country’s cuisine.
There are only a couple of dishes listed as spicy on
the menu but I decided I needed to try them since I prefer spicier food
and the Kebda Es Kandarany proved to be just the ticket - fried liver,
Alexandria style. Fried liver is said to be a specialty of Alexandria
and there probably isn’t much competition from other cities in that
category I would guess. I’ve never had either a big aversion nor big
attraction to liver but it does have that stigma of being ‘good for
you.’ This was easily the best fried liver I’d ever had - bite sized
pieces of beef liver, speckled with bits of red and green peppers
including the seeds, seasoned with lemon juice and cumin. This came
with a portion of the pickles plus tahini that had itself been spiced up
a bit, and a fresh, hot, pliable pita. Though only an appetizer it was
a generous sized portion and proved to be a meal for me as liver is
Making use of their brick oven Dandanah offers
pizzas with both Italian and typical Middle Eastern toppings plus
Hawawshy, the Egyptian version of pizza which is kind of a cross between
manakeesh or Lebanese pizza and an empanada. There are only two
version on the menu and I wanted the special one with pastarma but had
to ask if I could have it spicy. I was told I could have it spicy or
mild. Now I’m wondering if I could have had the same options with the
other dishes that I found too bland for my taste. The filling is a
typical Middle Eastern minced beef with onions and parsley such as would
be used for kofta or kubideh and had some finely minced pastarma, the
seasoned, air-dried beef, added, and it was good and spicy, This was the
best entree I’ve had yet at Dandanah and I wish they had more varieties
of Hawawshy on the menu.
There are some special beverages including Karkade, the Egyptian hibiscus tea, a deep burgundy beverage served just barely sweetened, tasting like a slightly citrusy cranberry drink but without quite the acidity of cranberry. You can add more sugar or sweetener to taste at the table. I had this with the liver, a generous 20 oz glass with a free refill and it’s part of the reason the appetizer was enough for a meal.
Another special beverage is Sahlab, the Middle Eastern hot drink based on ground orchid roots. I had this with the Koshari and it arrived at the table frothy, preceeded by it’s fragrant bouquet. The authentic ingredient is a very rare and expensive variety of orchid grown only in Turkey and most versions served are based on substitute ingredients I understand. I’ve never had it before but it is on the menu at at least one Turkish restaurant here. It came garnished with crushed pistachios, slivered almonds, raisins and grated coconut and it not only redeemed that meal, it made my day. You get protein, fiber, micronutrients and some aromatherapy all as part of the package.
Among the deserts I tried the Konafa, the Middle Eastern cheese pastry, a layer of mild, white feta like cheese sandwiched between layers of grated coconut and vermicelli, drizzled with simple syrup, garnished with crushed pistachios and raisins and lightly grilled on each side. I never had room to try the Um Ally, the Egyptian national desert, variously described as a raisin cake or bread pudding. I understand it is made with phyllo but I was told it needs to be consumed hot and doesn’t travel well or I would have gotten some to go. I’ll have to make a special trip sometime just for desert.
The menu includes lots of the more standard dishes of Middle Eastern restaurants including schwarma, kofta, kibbeh and the like but in keeping with the focus of this blog I stuck to the cuisine’s special dishes. There’s a very pleasant patio overlooking Fountainview, sometimes heavily perfumed from all the hookahs. The restaurant has a couple of times been short on servers.
Dandanah Cafe and Grill