>> El Mahroosa Restaurant & Hookah Café | Eat the World Los Angeles

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

El Mahroosa Restaurant & Hookah Café

EGYPT 🇪🇬
Brookhurst Street facade

COVID-19 UPDATE: As with many places in Orange County, COVID restrictions are a thing of the distant past.

For those that are unfamiliar with the maritime histories of the Middle East and North Africa, the name of this eight year old mainstay of Anaheim's Little Arabia might not mean much. But any Egyptian rolling by will instantly know they have found their home away from home, a restaurant and hookah café named for the most famous boat in Egypt and until 1984 the largest super yacht in the world.

The famous El Mahroosa was built by the best ship building firm in London in 1863 and is still used a couple times per year by the Egyptian navy and president for big events. The owners of Anaheim's El Mahroosa have probably chosen the most grand and long-lasting name they could, and based on the constant customer stream and quality foods, 150 years of business might just be in the cards.

Watching football on the covered patio dining room
Scene from the 2022 AFCON final (Egypt v Sénégal) in January.

The main dining room of this super yacht has grown from an outdoor space to a completely covered and concealed room, unfortunately without much nautical theme or fresh sea breezes. A largely male crowd comes to watch football from Egypt and the Middle East as well as the big European leagues. In addition to the fruity smells of hookah smoke, keep in mind that there will be plenty of cigarettes at nearby tables.

The menu is many pages long and meanders in and out of just about everything that can be enjoyed in Egypt and throughout the Levant and Arabian Peninsula. Families come here together to enjoy big platters of mandi and/or kabsa with chicken or lamb, shawerma and kababs, and a host of mezze and fried appetizers, but the kitchen really excels with specifically Egyptian dishes that are not available in nearby restaurants with Lebanese, Palestinian, or Syrian owners.

Kushari

In the mid-1800's, Egypt was doing quite well economically and even the cabinets of the "lowest" classes of people were filled with various ingredients from various places around the world. Kushari ($13.99, above) became a way to use all of these ingredients in one dish, and is now as popular in Egypt as anything else associated with Egyptian cuisine.

With a bed of rice, lentils, chickpeas, and macaroni pasta, it is topped with a tomato sauce and fried onions, perfect for the vegans in your group. Roadside stalls and mobile carts only serving versions of this dish are very common in Egypt, but you can now also find it on menus in more formal restaurants. The version at El Mahroosa is a great place to start if this is your first experience with the dish.

Mombar

Mombar ($16.99, above) is another must-try if you happen to be new to Egyptian cuisine, sausages unlike any you had before. The menu calls these simply "stuffed beef sausages" but there is so much more to them that. Inside of sheep's casing is indeed stuffed a minimal amount of beef, but these are more about the light, fragrant rice that is laced with herbs and spices.

A somewhat forgettable salad seems like a placeholder but actually feels necessary when eating the links, a bit of fresh crispness between bites of the soft, chewy mombar. That first bite of mombar might not seem so full of flavor, but all the underlying deliciousness gets stronger and stronger with each mouthful.

Hawawshi

Hawawshi ($12.99, above) have started to get a name around town thanks to a new vendor who has a home base in his Reseda garage and does other events, but they have been a favorite here since opening. They are the perfect snack paired with a late night hookah and football on the television, the type of dish you would see being eaten at every table spilling into a square in Cairo during an important final.
 
You will sometimes eat hawawshi with tahini, but here it is served with a refreshing yogurt and cucumber dip laced with dill. These tastes complement the savory and fatty meats even more perfectly. One order comes with two nicely griddled hawawshi cut in half, but by the time there is nothing left, another order might need to be made if there is a lot of time left in the game.

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