Indigo was a last minute decision, but it was exactly what we needed at that moment. After a long marathon-like day, we were looking for a place to just relax. Situated at the top of the fancy Le Gray Hotel in Beirut, Indigo provided an outdoor seating area underneath the stars. Dim lights created a cozy and romantic atmosphere, granted they also resulted in the reduced quality of my photographs. The lower part of the view was obstructed by pretty flowers and vines, but the upper part of tall structures managed to make it up to this restaurant perched on the roof. The waiters guided us to our table, and when they were present, the service was great. They were attentive, polite, and very professional. However, at times it was a bit difficult to get a hold of them. My significant other ordered wine from the wine list, but I felt like having a cocktail, which they readily made available from the bar next door. I should add that the Strawberry Mojito was really good and refreshing. The waiter came to us with a bread basket in hand, from which we chose the olive and multi-cereal pieces of bread. They were soft and delicious, especially after they were smeared with the complementary rich butter. We ordered the Crispy Duck Salad and Ahi Poke as appetizers. The crispy duck salad was a pleasant surprise, the crunchy bits of the crispy duck were a perfect addition of texture to the salad. As for the ahi poke, it was very flavorful and the sauce complemented the tuna well. For mains, we ordered the Thai Baked Sea Bass in Banana Leaf and the Black Angus Tenderloin. The sea bass baked in the banana leaf was as moist as it could be; it was extremely tender. Unfortunately, the accompanying rice was forgotten until we reminded the kitchen. However, the waiter was quick to apologize and did end up bringing the rice to our table. Moving on to the steak, it was a good chunk of meat, but nothing outstanding. To satisfy our sweet tooth, we ordered the Valrhona Chocolate Fondant and the Namelaka, which consisted of chocolate mousse, hazelnut biscuit, and passion fruit ice cream. Needless to say that everything becomes better with chocolate, and these were two solid chocolate desserts. The warm chocolate inside the fondant was a great way to end the meal. In general, Indigo has good food, mostly great service, and an intimate setting, with nothing separating you from the sky above.
Month: September 2017
Angelina – Beirut
Going to Angelina for brunch made me feel like an excited child about to open a gift on Christmas day. I thought about what I would order, and of course about the pictures I could take there. After we parked the car, we enjoyed the stroll on our way to the famous French restaurant and patisserie. When we arrived and went in, we were greeted by friendly waiters, lovely painted sections of white walls, and mostly brown furniture to balance the brightness. After we were seated and readily provided with a high chair, it was time to order. Being a brunch kind of person, I wanted to taste a variety of their breakfast offerings. Angelina provides different breakfast set menus, an egg menu that starts at 9 am and an additional a la carte menu that goes on until noon, after which there is a brunch menu and lunch platters that begin to be served. We were still in time for the breakfast menus, and opted to feast on Angelina breakfasts and Eggs Benedict platters with smoked salmon. The waiter took note of all the order mentally, including our choices from the options provided for the Angelina breakfasts. Yes, no jotting down anything on a piece of paper, and no inputting the information on a tablet, and our order turned out perfectly fine; no mistakes here. As the food arrived, I had to take photographs of the constituents while they were still in their pristine condition; although, I have to admit that sometimes I slightly annoy the company I am with, who comply despite their hunger. We started with the bread and butter, as well as the selection of croissants and jams; I liked their zaatar croissant. I especially enjoyed the Angelina hot chocolate that I had chosen. It was thick, creamy, and satisfying, and weirdly, it tasted as good (maybe even better) when it turned colder. Let’s just say, if you feel like drinking a chocolate bar, this comes very close to gratifying that need. Then the eggs made their debut. Zooming in on the Eggs Benedict; it was wonderfully appetizing when the hollandaise sauce merged with the bright orange goodness that cascaded from the poached eggs when they were cut open. The eggs seated on hidden smoked salmon and the whole combination of the platter is indeed delicious (all hail the creator of this dish). Another easier, yet delicate way to have your eggs done is the soft-boiled method, and for the eggs to be great, they have to be boiled just the right amount. As I was breaking the shell of the egg, I awaited the oozing of the runny yolk down the sides, creating a tasty mess. I was not disappointed, the anticipation had not gone to waste. I dipped the toasted sticks of bread into the core and reveled in the momentary happiness of the simpler things in life.
Another source of joy for me is pastry. Angelina has a patisserie section filled with appealing confections on display. We ordered the staple “Le Mont-Blanc” signature piece, as well as the “Duchesse” and “Bianca” to take home with us. Honestly, I preferred Angelina’s Salted to their Caramel; their pastry is a tad on the sweet side for my taste. However, I would like to note that the great service also extended to their patisserie; the lady that was there was polite and friendly. Moreover, the waiter was knowledgeable about pieces that Angelina had previously had and the components of each dessert, when I inquired about them. I left Angelina knowing that I would be returning to enjoy their breakfast once again.
Micelli’s – Jal el Dib
Micelli’s has a flavorful variety of pizzas, where it is impossible not to satisfy all tastes. The first time we tried their pizza was when we went to the restaurant to take some home with us. We opted for the Porkoi Pa and The American. As we waited for our hot pizzas to descend in the “dumbwaiter” (which is an amusing name for a small elevator used to transfer objects), we met the owners behind this creation. The ambiance is very friendly and you feel like you are standing in the passionate result of dedicated people running a family business. The second time we decided to order pizzas via delivery to the house; it was a bit far so they conceded but with a minimum charge restriction. We chose the Porkoi Pa, Sun Island, The Last Dragon, and Monsieur Croq with tomato sauce. The pizzas arrived with a satisfactory temperature and in good condition. After all the outer layers of description of the circumstances, let us get down to business. How did the pizzas taste? Actually, in the non-Italian pizza category, they fared quite well. Their pizzas are topped with great products, which is key. My favorite, which is obvious since we ordered it twice, is the Porkoi Pa. The hickory smoked barbecue sauce is delicious, and the whole melange of the sauce with the smoked bacon, cheese, green pepper, and onions is well thought of and executed, leading to a well-balanced bite of pizza. The Croq Monsieur with tomato sauce was a safe choice, considering the available selection, yet its simple ingredients shone through. As a pepperoni pizza lover, I would have liked more pepperonis on The American pizza because I felt that the onions and green pepper were slightly overpowering. Maybe I will try The Pepperoni next time. Unfortunately, my least favorite pizzas were the Far East inspired Last Dragon and the mango-pesto Sun Island pizzas. In general, Micelli’s provides a vast selection of flavors, and mostly it comes down to a matter of preference. Something I appreciate is that the cheese and other toppings generously attempt to garnish the whole pizza, all the way right to the crunchy crusty edge, making sure that you leave nothing behind.
Al Ferdaws – Ehden
During the lazy Summer days of my childhood, Ehden was a place we visited to avoid the heat radiating from the scorching sun. One of the popular restaurants we could escape to there was Al Ferdaws. However, it wasn’t just us that sought this restaurant as a refuge; in those days a person would have to struggle to find an empty table. Well, when we went this time, there was no need to search for a space to be seated in. We decided to try it anyway, although if you’re a parent, you should be aware that high chairs are not provided. A noteworthy issue is that the service was really great; the waiters were very attentive and friendly. The cool breeze was refreshing, and the vast greenery that the restaurant overlooked was luscious. It was time to try the food. For those of you who do not know this, Ehden is well-known for its voluminous spherical “kibbe”, especially the one filled with “shahem” (fat). Actually, the kibbe with fat was the best thing I tasted at Al Ferdaws, other than the fattoush which was fresh and well-seasoned. The mezze/appetizers were fine; the only one from the platters we ordered that I did not like was the sambousik. As for the grilled meat and chicken dish, the most flavorful and succulent was the kafta. Some meat pieces were more tender than others, but the chicken was borderline chewy. When all the Salted was taken off the table, the restaurant offered us an assortment of fruits on the house. Then, like in most Lebanese restaurants, a person wearing a traditional attire dedicates himself to passing around the tables to pour coffee for those who want some bitterness to accompany the sweetness of the fruits and the biscuits with lokum cubes. I left Al Ferdaws feeling content to have returned to a place that I used to go to in my younger years.
Below, you can find a collage of photographs depicting the procedure of slicing through your ball of kibbe to render it edible in an easier way, while preserving the fat inside a sort of meaty dipping bowl. The process was demonstrated by the kind head waiter.
Salem Ice Cream – Kousba
When I think of Salem Ice Cream, or “Bouzit Salem” as we call it here in Lebanon, I remember my childhood visits to this ice cream parlor. It seems that this ice cream place has been proudly standing there since forever. Subjectively speaking, they have the best ice cream in the world, if I let my memories have a say. As Salted Caramel, however, I have to speak the truth in an objective manner. Overall, it is good Arabic ice cream, and it does satisfy a person seeking this kind of ice cream in the Northern parts of Lebanon. Yet, compared to other ice cream of this genre, its flavor is a bit less pronounced. Nevertheless, I would return just for the friendly service and homey ambiance this eatery has. Trying to find a parking spot in front of Bouzit Salem, and joining the people that eat its frozen goods outside their doors and on the front steps (even though there is an adjacent seating area) are what takes the experience to a whole new level.
All the childhood nostalgia inspired me to have some playtime fun, as you can witness in the compilation below.
Liza – Achrafieh
Rarely are both the interior and exterior of a restaurant charming. With Liza, it was the case; the outer entrance portrayed the elegance that was to come. You could tell that what was waiting for us inside was going to be decorated with refined taste. It did not disappoint. From the adorable courtyard, to the elevator leading upstairs, and the hallway adorned with lighting; they all maintained a coherent theme. At the end of the corridor, you are greeted with high ceilings and rooms embellished with wallpaper, flooring, lighting, and furniture that are extremely pleasing to the eye. Whichever way you look, it is all well thought of to the tiniest detail. It made me hold my breath in anticipation, awaiting the beautiful presentation of the food we were going to order.
We ordered several mezze items, of which my favorite was the kibbe; it fell apart easily inside your mouth revealing its goodness. The hummus and the kafta arayess were really good as well. The shanklish was tasty, but it was a tad spicy. The fries were homemade, which is always appreciated. The fattoush and cheese rolls were fine, but not great. However, I did love the neatness in presentation, which consolidated the fact that Lebanese food can be presented in an appealing way. The mix of metal and pottery vessels used to display the food was creative and lovely. I do not remember a Lebanese restaurant that showcased the grilled meat, kafta, and chicken in a better manner to date. The coffee and desserts further retained the elegant presentation. The rice pudding was good, and the chocolate cake was simultaneously rich, dense, and brittle. As for the service, the hostess and the waiters were welcoming and friendly. All in all, I enjoyed my meal at Liza. Although the concoctions on their own are not outstanding, the presentation, decoration, and the whole ambiance all complement the food and each other wonderfully making it more of an experience than just about eating.
Meats and Bread Hardcore BBQ – Gemmayze
After all the hype for this restaurant, we decided to try Meats and Bread firsthand. The eatery stands out on the street by being a noticeable color on the outside, setting it apart from the mostly dull boring colors nearby. So, the first impression was inviting and we were tempted to go inside. The interior feels cozy and the decoration creates a nice comfortable ambiance, but the fiery pit is what captured my attention the most. We were close enough to the fire to feel its warmth, and the smell coming from the open kitchen was very appetizing. It was definitely time to order. The waiter was very friendly, but it was disappointing when he had to ask the chef about the constituents of items on the menu several times. He did apologize and say that it was because he was new, yet it would have been much better had he been thoroughly trained beforehand (especially knowing the menu inside out). Anyway, without further ado, let us talk about the real reason we found ourselves here: the meat. We ordered a brisket tray and a specialty burger. The barbecue sauce coating the brisket was amazing; it was the right amount of everything and not overly sweet. However, the truffle taste in the accompanying truffled mac and cheese was not evident, which was a shame. As for the meat patty inside the burger, it was juicy and tasted very good, and the bun was surprisingly soft lending an element of lightness to the burger. The fries on the side were well-seasoned and addictive. On the whole, it was an enjoyable meal. Glancing at the dessert menu, no item was striking, so we opted to satisfy our sweet tooth elsewhere. We left Meats and bread feeling like true carnivorous cavemen after a hunt.
Burj Al Hamam – Broumana
Burj Al Hamam is one of the old prominent traditional Lebanese restaurants that I remember from my childhood. We went up to enjoy the Summer breeze and picturesque mountains embellished with pine trees. It is definitely an added value when you have great scenery to complement your food. While the greenery pleases mostly the older generation, they have not forgotten their younger clientele. For the little ones, they provide a pleasant area to play in. Before I delve into their cuisine, I would like to mention the service. Unfortunately, the service was extremely rushed. We struggled to finish our sentences before the waiters magically disappeared into the abyss; it made ordering our food, and requesting anything for that matter, a difficult task. It did make us laugh though, as we tried to get the words out of our mouths as quickly as we could. Even though it was indeed amusing, that did not make it any less unacceptable. On a positive note, I was glad there was no issue of plates hovering above our heads before they landed on the table.
Getting to the main act; the food. The mezza (appetizers) was flavorful in general. I thought the hummus and kibbe nayye (raw kibbe) were delicious. However, I felt that the fattoush was a bit heavy on the lemon. As for the cheese rolls, although a tad oily, the melted cheese inside them was actually good. Coming to the grilled goodness, the skewered meat, kafta, and chicken were all tender. They weren’t to die for, but at least all three of them were tasty. Usually, I would like one and not the other. Even after you are full to the brim, rarely do you not get an array of fruits and oriental desserts offered on the house at Lebanese restaurants. Well, this was one of those rare times. Yet, we did still opt to enjoy the freshness the fruits provided after a wholesome hearty meal.
Nicolas Audi at La Maison d’IXSIR – Batroun
We were looking for a serene place to relax in, away from the mundane daily routine, so we decided to go have lunch at Nicolas Audi at La Maison d’IXSIR. Located in the Ixsir winery and Nicolas Audi being a prominent chef in Lebanon, we thought that it was a restaurant that should be visited. When we arrived, we scouted the area, and then we were lucky enough to join the tour of the winery, where we were led underground down a spiral staircase. The tour guide seemed well-trained and after being fed with information about the whole wine-making process, from grapes to barrel to bottle, we savored the end product in glasses on our table. Sitting under the shade of the tree, we enjoyed our Grande Reserve red and white wines, awaiting the opening of the buffet.
I rushed to take photographs of the untouched food, in order to capture their presentation before they were destroyed by the hungry people. Success, for the most part. There were a variety of salads and appetizers, of which the hummus was really good. I also really liked the salad with peppers in it because their flavor stood out. Moreover, the mashed potato tasted great with embedded onion bits within it. The fattoush, vine leaves dish, and beans salads were fine, but not exceptional.
Moving to the mains, I think I am adamant on melting my phone by taking pictures next to fire, but the skewers of meat being licked by the flames made me feel like a moth (if you know what I mean). The doneness of the grilled meat and chicken was great; they were juicy and tender. Another great item was the rice and creamy sauce, it was a tad spicy but delicious. The pizza squares and chicken nouille lacked flavor, and the kibbe and fish were okay. Let’s just say if I had not been leaving some space for dessert, I would have filled up on the grilled meat and chicken, as well as the rice and creamy sauce. There is something that I should note though; when you change your plate, you keep the same knife and fork. That is not great, but maybe acceptable when you have a placemat to put them on. However, we had no placemat so you had to put your dirty cutlery right on the table which is not hygienic for you nor the table.
So, here comes the dessert which was mostly a mixture of oriental sweets and French pastry. The ice cream was good, but not memorable. The baba au rhum was delectable; it was my favorite dessert hands down. I can’t get over their heavenly whipped cream (if you have read my Nicolas Audi patisserie post, then you know I am a fan). Another intense dessert was the chocolate cake which was as chocolatey as it could get, and my advice is to eat it slowly to be able to appreciate each bite. That was the taste I left Ixsir with.