After getting recommendations from every Alexandrian I know to eat at Balbaa the next time I visit the city, I didn't regret heeding their advice.
Besides boasting some of the best variety of seafood in Egypt, the restaurant also offers other non-seafood plates that are just as delicious. Appetizers at Balbaa include the mashed caviar and squid eggs, which is far more appetizing than it sounds or looks and the well-seasoned soup featuring a medley of squid, shrimp and mussels.
The restaurant’s specialty is jumbo shrimp, served in pink butter. As tasty as they were in the moment, my stomach still turns a bit when I remember how heavy they were. It's not the kind of dish you eat on the side; it's a whole meal on its own. As is typical of seafood eateries here, many types of fish are cooked to order according to your preference. Balbaa's special seasoning and cooked potatoes finish any fish dish.
Guests choose their fish and other seafood from a display of frozen items. Although seeing the raw creatures – especially the live spitting mussels – could ruin some appetites, for others it’s a reassuring guarantee of quality.
As excellent as the fish are, I would say that Balbaa is the kind of place where you don’t want to fill your stomach with one large fried or grilled fish. Instead, save your appetite for a variety of shellfish, which is where the kitchen's artfulness lies. As finishing a meal at Balbaa can be a challenge, they serve lemon soda blended with fresh mint to aid your digestion.
Even though Balbaa takes up two big stories and is usually serving a full house, the speed of service and friendliness of the staff make the experience even more enjoyable.
Balbaa: Sidi Bishr, Malik Hefni St, Alexandria, +2-03-540-0888