CafeSho – Achrafieh

The first thing that comes to mind when I want to describe CafeSho is: home away from home. If you are looking for a hearty meal that feels like it is home-cooked, this restaurant is a good option as a destination. The interior is very basic and humble; it makes the eye long for more details to look at. Although, if you sit next to the glass border, the transparency allows you to feel like you are on a street abroad. The whole mood of the restaurant reminds me of those small European eateries that locals would visit to escape their mundane work routine, during their lunch break. The menu is scribbled on the wall. I like the authenticity of that; it makes me feel that words can be erased and added depending on the availability of fresh produce or just the chef’s state of mind (this was reinforced by some chalk smudges I noticed on the black ‘canvas’). The waitress was very friendly and I appreciated her honesty when she told us we were ordering too much food for just the two of us. We ended up choosing the Brochettes Beef Sate with the rice and peanuts side, the Brochettes Salmon Yokitori with the Indian curry noodles side, and the Brochettes of Caramelized Shrimps. After hearing the ongoing whirring of the juicer, I was enticed to order a fresh orange juice (unfortunately, it was a bit sour). My husband enjoyed a Japanese beer. Our food arrived; each platter had three skewers of their respective constituents, which can be considered generous. My favorite was the beef sate dish—I am a fan of peanuts or peanut sauce to complement my meat. The meat was tender and flavorful, and it went well with the accompanying rice. My second favorite was the shrimp dish, which also had pronounced flavor and was tasty. As for the salmon, the doneness was great (I detest overcooked salmon), but I felt that it was the least flavorful of the three. Sometimes one craves something homey to eat, and CafeSho ticks the box for that.

SUD Restobar – Naccache

(Special: Fondue & Stone Grilling)

Craving really good thin slices of meat sizzling right in front of your eyes? Do you want to dip your meat, fries, or bread into some bubbling cheesy goodness? At the risk of sounding like an advertisement, if the answer to both of the above is yes, then going to SUD Restobar in Naccache is a great idea. I’m serious. They have launched a new Fondue & Stone Grilling dinner experience that is worth breaking your diet for. It is really delicious. The meat is of great quality and the whole setup is perfect. For $35, they provide you with as many refills as you want. The creamy and tasty fondue is composed of three cheeses, namely raclette, mozzarella, and parmesan. Accompanying the meat and fondue are a basket of bread, a fresh salad, crispy fries, mushrooms, and three dipping sauces. The truffle mayo, barbecue, and aioli dips are all flavorful in their own way. My taste buds were having a blast as I enjoyed all the components of our meal. At the end of it all, we were pleasantly surprised with a soft and gooey marshmallow on a stick; I found that thoughtful gesture sweet, in the two senses of the word. As for the service, it was top-notch, and the waiters were friendly and professional. I left SUD having been extremely satisfied with their take on fondue and stone grilling. I will surely be returning and I strongly believe that every meat and cheese lover should try it out!

Cafe Gourmand – Achrafieh

As soon as we went in, we could sense how friendly the staff working there was. They made sure that we had a table that we liked and directly provided us with a high chair for my fidgety toddler. As we were waiting to be given our menus, the manager came to our table and apologetically told us that it was their first day so we should expect the service to be slow. Honestly, we were not annoyed by the service, and we could see that everyone was working very hard amidst some confusion. However, the issue that was a tad bothersome was that so many of the items on the menu were unavailable; it became difficult choosing what we wanted to eat because of that. Already familiar with Nonna’s pizzas and the other restaurants brought to us by the same owner, I stuck around for the food. The pizza was really good, and the crust was thin and crunchy. Also, the meaty Beef Tataki appetizer with the ponzu sauce was tasty. As for the Steak Frites, the meat was tender and the fries were crispy. I just felt that the sauce was slightly bland and could do with a bit more flavor. The fish in the Fish and Chips platter was fresh and moist, yet the outer crust layer was oily. Unfortunately, they were out of tartar sauce which was needed to enhance the platter, in my opinion. When it was time for dessert, the only available item was the Nutella roll, and they kindly gave us an extra one on the house. In general, the food was good, and I know that it was the opening day and a lot of effort was being put in to make it work, but I believe that they should have maybe tried to wait until they were more prepared for a stronger start.

DON – Achrafieh

I will get straight to the point…I loved DON! The whole concept and execution is coherent and well thought of, respectively. An eatery, newly opened within a cluster of restaurants called Restos St. Nicolas, DON is fresh and inviting. It all starts with a colorful toy. You pick up your drink from an array of displayed bottles; I love that there are imported Japanese drinks too. We chose a Japanese strawberry-flavored soft drink and sake, and headed to the cashier. We ordered the Chicken Bao, the Chashu Shoyu Ramen, the Salmon Teriyaki Donburi with fried rice, and the Pad Thai noodles. After we paid, we got the bright pink Dragon Fruit as a form of marker to enable us to receive our platters correctly. While we have a seat, the open kitchen is bustling with movement and the sounds of sizzling ingredients. Indeed all our dishes arrived properly. The chicken bao were delicious; the steamed bun was as soft as could be and the flavors were great. As for the bowls, their constituents were hearty and soothing. My favorite was the salmon teriyaki. The sauce was really good, and the salmon was crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. For dessert, we had one of each of the available mochi flavors; I liked the one with caramel the most. In general, I enjoyed the experience from beginning to end, the food in the middle, and the way I felt as I was leaving. To sum it up, DON is the definition of comfort food. I couldn’t help but grab a couple of bags of strawberry-flavored Pocky on my way out. I have tasted them before and loved that I had found them in the basket of Japanese goodies they had—this for me was a detail that was like the icing on the cake.

Le Petit Belge – Dubai

I think it was our longing to be strolling on the streets of Brussels that led us to Le Petit Belge. Going underground you come face to face with a lit sign simply stating the name of the restaurant that lets you know you have arrived. The friendly hostess helped us choose a table, and then our also amicable waitress provided us with the menus. One of my first choices was the Lobster/crab roll, which unfortunately was unavailable. After thoroughly exploring the menu, we came to a consensus. These would be the platters we would be ordering: the Beef carpaccio, one piece of Oyster, the Scottish salmon cured in Duvel beer, the Wagyu beef and Passendaele cheese burger, the Fish and chips with a Belgian twist, and a side of Brussels sprouts with turkey bacon. As we waited for our food to arrive, I noticed that I was singing along to the music. It had been a while since I had actually enjoyed the tracks played at an eatery. Our appetizers arrived and I preferred the salmon with beer (although not too evident) with its fresh citrus bursts to the beef carpaccio. The carpaccio had nice flavors that were overshadowed because it was too heavy on the balsamic; I literally had to scrape some off to enjoy the taste of the meat. Then the main dishes were placed on our table. The Wagyu beef burger was juicy due to its doneness and the crispy fries was a great companion. However, the fish was too thick and formed sort of clumps instead of being flaky –smothering it with the tasty chunky tartar sauce rendered it edible though. Now, for the sweet ending to our last meal in Dubai before heading home. I had my eye on the Moelleux aux chocolat (that is how it’s spelt on the menu) and the Belgian chocolate mousse, and after another closer look at the dessert menu, these choices were confirmed. The presentation was pretty for both of them but it was time to dig in. The mousse was good, yet the moelleux was truly delicious. The outer cake crust and the inner gooey filling were delectable; this was the best item I had eaten at Le Petit Belge. It would have to do, until I could have my Belgian chocolate fix on the Sablon (hint: the two word name of the chocolaterie and the chocolatier are one and the same). The reality check for the time being though was that I had a plane to catch.

Marina Social – Dubai

Marina Social, a restaurant opened in Dubai by Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton, was our choice for dinner with a view. The service was very professional and our waiter was patient with my before and after picture taking (as well as videos in the making) of a couple of our appetizers. For starters, we had the Goat’s cheese “churros” truffle honey, the Italian beef tomato, the Hand chopped beef tartare, and the Reblochon cheese sourdough pizza. The truffle honey was subtle, yet it suited the goat cheese churros well. The Italian beef tomato was whimsical; it looked like a pristine peeled tomato on the outside, but when you slice it open it is stuffed with burrata. Also, the waiter shows you the bottle of a 25 year aged balsamic then proceeds to drizzle some onto the tomato —I enjoyed the flavors. Something else I really enjoyed was the beef tartare. The waiter mixes the egg yolk jam with the other ingredients at your table, and finishes it off with dollops of horseradish cream. Everything was well-balanced and the end result was delicious. As for the pizza with Reblochon cheese and Wagyu cecina, the components were great together but the highlight was the actual dough which made a tasty crispy crust. For our main dishes, we decided to taste their seafood. We had the Chargrilled tiger prawns and the fish with black quinoa. You could tell that the tiger prawns were grilled because that was evident in the taste, and the sauce of the fish was great. However, what was done amazingly was the cuisson of the fish; it was as perfect as it could get. It was excellently moist but still firm —if I were to imagine how fish should taste like, this is it. It was now time to satisfy my sweet tooth. For desserts, we had the White chocolate cheesecake and the Chocolate marquise; they were both good but I preferred the chocolate marquise. I did like how the cheesecake was presented though, again with a playful gesture. However, I felt that the Salted was better than the Caramel in general. We ended the night with some drinks overlooking the water and the surrounding lit buildings.

Rhodes W1 – Dubai

I will most probably never say no to a Tea Time invitation; it is one of my most enjoyable experiences. I love devouring the variety of savory and sweet items, and drinking some good tea lazily for a couple of hours. We had reserved for Afternoon Tea at Rhodes W1 (one of Michelin-starred chef Gary Rhodes’ restaurants), and arriving at that beautiful brightly colored entrance told me we were in for a great time. When we were seated at our table, we were offered a fresh welcome drink. I admired the interior splattered with the color of sunshine until the waiter provided us with the menu. The edible items were listed, but we had a choice of the beverage we would sip alongside them. I am a fan of black tea, so decided on the Assam tea and I was pleasantly surprised when it was served with some milk —very scrumptiously British. Enter salty snacks…Biting into the sandwiches was like you were sinking your teeth into clouds; the bread was so fresh and fluffy. The famous cucumber sandwiches were there, and so was the salmon among other various selections, such as quail’s egg mayonnaise, coronation chicken, cheese, and tomato —everything was delicious. Now, it was time for the sweet bites. Of course there were scones! For me they are the highlight of the array of desserts (is it weird that I like my scones plain?). Also placed delicately on display were chocolate cakes, carrot cakes, crumpets, lemon cakes, profiteroles, and dundee cakes. The icing on the lemon cake elevated its taste, and the carrot cake with its cream topping was very good. My favorite, apart from the scones, was the chocolate muffin, which was so soft and decadently rich. To top it all off, the service was great. The waiter was professional with an appropriate sense of humor that kept everything light and pleasant. I absolutely adored having tea at Rhodes W1 and would definitely recommend their Afternoon Tea break.

Cocoa Room – Dubai

Due to our night flight, we failed to wake up early the first morning we arrived to Dubai, so we had to push breakfast at Cocoa Room till the next day. On the whole, it was a satisfying experience. The service was efficient, even though the place was crowded. Luckily, we were led to an available table outside. We ordered fresh orange and carrot juices, and hot drinks. My Chocolate Shot, made from Valrhona chocolate was delicious. We then ordered eggs and waffles; what better way to start your day. We had the Ancho & Cocoa Braised Short Ribs, the Corn Flakes Croquette, the Buttermilk Waffles, and the Blueberry Wholewheat Waffles. The Corn Flakes Croquette’s organic poached egg was good, and the sweet chilli herb mayo sauce gave it a lovely kick. However, the Buttermilk Waffles were the more memorable items. With a drizzle of maple syrup, they were really great —the texture was as good as the taste. If you are searching for delectable waffles for breakfast, you just found them.

Pai Thai – Dubai

We were looking for a restaurant with Thai cuisine, and since I wanted to try a new place (although the last time I came to Dubai I had really good Thai food), we chose to go to Pai Thai for dinner. The location is romantic, as it is next to the water, and apparently you can get there by boat. We decided to walk instead; the winding path leading there is dimly lit and there are trees on either side. The service started out really well as a man showed us to our table, and explained that there was a special menu and a more lit ambiance due to the celebration of the Festival of Lights. We were handed our menus, and being a fan of organization (especially when the names of the dishes are in a foreign language), I opted to list the items we wanted to order on my phone. After the effort of writing down the names in Thai and trying to pronounce them to our waitress, she found it amusing and told us that she does not know them in Thai either. I would expect the waitress to know the menu by heart, including all the names of the dishes. Also, the attitude of a waitress affects the servicing, even if she is efficient in placing the dishes on our table (although a bit less efficient in removing them). Anyway, let’s get to the food. We ordered the (I will not bother to name them in Thai) Green Papaya Salad, the Crispy Marinated Chicken Wrapped in Pandan Leaf, and the Grilled Marinated Chicken Sate as appetizers. The Green Papaya Salad was flavorful and the Chicken Sate was tender and literally melted in your mouth, and I loved the peanut sauce. However, I disliked the Crispy Marinated Chicken in the Pandan Leaf; it was more soggy than crispy. For our main courses, we then had the Braised Massaman Beef Curry, a Pad Thai with Prawns, and a bowl of Thai Coconut Rice. The Beef Curry’s sauce was really tasty, but I did not like the beef’s texture within it. As for the Pad Thai, I have had much better elsewhere. We ended the meal with one of the desserts listed under the Traditional section, as opposed to the Modern one. We had the Sweet Sticky Rice with Ripe Mango; it was fine. In general, the food was average, and I was not blown away. Dining in an intimate setting with water surrounding you is basically what Pai Thai has going for it. Although, another Thai restaurant that comes to mind has that but with better food.

Demoiselle by Galvin – Dubai

Where better to have breakfast than at the Michelin-starred Galvin brothers’ Demoiselle. Situated among many restaurants, in one of the famous areas in Dubai called City Walk, it was a great place to stop for a hearty meal with great service. First of all, one has to comment about the interior; it was so beautiful and dainty. It was a successful attempt at bringing the outdoors inside. When you first enter Demoiselle by Galvin, you are greeted by an array of freshly baked goods on display —that alone arouses your appetite. It all started with a Kouign-amann (a crusty Breton cake) and a couple of their Financiers. Needless to say that they were as good as they looked. However, the coconut financier was a tad oily in comparison to the one with the almond. For drinks we ordered the Hot chocolate and the Pour over V60 brew in the hot coffee section. Then, our Soy milk soaked muesli and Galvin cure smoked salmon & cream cheese croissant arrived. I loved the graceful presentation of the croissant platter. The croissant itself was sublime; it was flaky and light (well, as light as a croissant can be). The cured smoked salmon was amazing; its saltiness complemented the cream cheese perfectly. The cream cheese was also delicious by the way. Just so you know how much I liked the salmon, let me tell you this: I had ordered the Oeuf Florentine (with Spinach) but changed my order to the Oeuf Royale (with Salmon) to be able to eat more of that Galvin cure smoked salmon. I know I have just mentioned how good the croissant with salmon was, but something else blew my mind away even more. The next part of our breakfast consisted of the Flatbread, merguez sausage, scrambled eggs & ful medames and my beloved Oeuf Royale. That Oeuf Royale…WOW. It was really perfect; maybe the best I have ever eaten. First of all, the poached egg was fabulous; it couldn’t have been made any better —every bit of the yolk was runny and every bit of the white was firm. The salty cured smoked salmon balanced the golden goodness in a lovely way, and the Hollandaise sauce was not heavy. They all sat delicately and proudly on the wonderfully Toasted English muffin (you can have Sourdough instead if you would like). When I was done, I was so full that I could not have another bite, and so unfortunately could not taste any more of their goodies. When I travel to Dubai again, I will make sure to return and taste more of what they have to offer (even if I have to take some with me to nibble on later). Although it would be hard not to order those delicacies with the cured smoked salmon I had this time again, I would like to also try their From The Bistrot and Tea Time menus. I would also probably visit Galvin Dubai, which is the other restaurant by the Galvin brothers located nearby.