Seeking a high chair and a non-smoking area, I called Diwan Beirut in Antelias. I was pleasantly surprised when I was told that there was a smoking floor and a non-smoking floor. It had been a while since I had craved Lebanese cuisine throughout my pregnancy, but since I felt like having that, I dragged my family along with me. Wanting to try a new place, and relying on the fact that it comes from the same people who brought us Al-Sultan Brahim, we reserved a table for lunch. The man on the other end of the phone was very welcoming and professional, and when we arrived this great service continued until we were seated and ordered our food. However, after that, it was a miracle if we could find a waiter to help us out and when we did, it took us 3 times of ordering a diet soda to eventually receive it. Also, I had requested that no fresh vegetable garnish our food due to my current non-existent immunity, and it went well until the breaded shrimp platter arrived. We asked for another platter instead but we received the same shrimp constituents with the lettuce removed from underneath them. Let’s just say that we had to keep the “tarnished” shrimp on our table as hostage to make sure we received newly fried ones! As for the actual taste of the food, mostly everything I tasted was very good. The hummus was creamy, the fried kibbe was delicate, the fries were crispy, and the breaded shrimps were tasty and seemed fresh. I made it a point to try their mixed grilled skewers, and all three of the variations were delicious. The kafta was extremely tender, the meat was juicy, and the chich taouk was also succulent. In addition, the spices and marination were well balanced. When we were done, it took a really long time for the waiters to clear our table so that we could order dessert. However, when they did remove all the plates, we received an array of complimentary fruits and oriental sweets. The fruits looked very appealing, but when I spotted the lazy cake that I am familiar with from Al-Sultan Brahim, I had to have two slices, along with a piece of nammoura. They were a satisfying sweet end to the whole meal. All in all, although the service deteriorated towards the end of our lunch, the food rescued the whole experience at Diwan Beirut…this time.
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.
Margherita is a really good choice if you feel like having Italian cuisine. This yellow building holds delicious food within it. The citrus dressing decorating the shrimp quinoa salad is sublime. This salad tastes amazing and fresh with every bite you eat. As for the shrimp risotto dish, the lemon peel shavings are so tiny yet their tanginess is pronounced and enhances the whole flavor profile of the creamy platter. An attractive flaming photo that stands out in the above collage is the wood-fired oven. The heat was overwhelming as I stood at the entrance to the fiery furnace to take this picture. Needless to say, their pizza is tasty. However, it is the tomato sauce that usually makes or breaks a pizza’s reputation. At Margherita, the tomato sauce is outstanding with its basil embellishment that it makes me overlook any sogginess that it causes to the dough underneath. When it came to the dessert, I ordered profiteroles filled with vanilla ice cream and drizzled the puffs with the chocolate sauce provided alongside them. Honestly, it was not up to par; compared to everything I had eaten before, it tasted mediocre and did not satisfy my sweet tooth. The Salted concoctions by far outweighed the Caramel confection in this case. Nonetheless, you will leave the restaurant with a smile on your face thanks to a cute gesture they do before you pay the bill. You get to pick a number, and after shaking all the little balls in their secret hiding place, one pops out and if it happens to be the same number you picked, the bill is on the house. Well, we were not lucky winners this time, but the tangy salad and the pizza with smoked mozzarella I had eaten were surely worth it. Although that makes a good ending for my scribbles, I can not end my post without adding another noteworthy issue. The service at Margherita was great, and the waiters were friendly and professional.
All throughout lunch I kept debating whether I like the butter chicken or the shrimp malabar more. They are both delicious. The Indian food at Al Hindi Restaurant, in the Warwick Palm Beach Hotel, is extremely flavorful. The melange of spices creates a harmonious symphony that plays inside your mouth. It all started with their tasty papadum. Then, we ordered the dal, butter chicken, shrimp malabar, murg tikka, and pilao (rice). The murg tikka is really tender and nearly melts in your mouth. The creamy sauces of the butter chicken and the shrimp malabar are to die for. The meal ended with the usual loud churning of the machine punching in numbers to produce a paper with the amount due to be settled (for those of you who have been there, you know what I am talking about). However, I will be returning to Al Hindi to enjoy some more of its comforting wholesome Indian cuisine.
Afternoon Tea is served daily in The Lobby Lounge at the Four Seasons Hotel. When we arrived, we were welcomed and seated at a table, while the waiter prepared another one for us. It was transformed into an elegant setting ready to receive the tea and its delicacies. We were provided with a set menu of what was to be expected, and we chose our tea from the various options we had. The service was very good, and the waiters poured our tea for us into the teacup using a sieve. My English Breakfast tea was how it should be, and now it was time for the treats. First came the savory sandwiches and quiches, then came the dessert pastries. Both came with scones. I absolutely loved the scones. They were delicious and I still daydream about them, long after I have had them. As for the sandwiches, quiches, tarts, macarons…all the rest, I expected more from a fancy hotel. They were mediocre in my opinion, especially the macarons; they were borderline amateurish. To satisfy my sweet tooth, I resorted to my comforting hot chocolate with vanilla. A better experience at the Four Seasons Hotel would be the breakfast they serve.
Chili’s – Achrafieh: I would go to this place just to have this amazing chocolate dessert. When you cut the cake, delicious chocolate oozes out, and combine that with the taste of the ice cream and caramel; you get something close to perfection. Granted it is not French pastry, but if you take it for what it is (an American restaurant chain dessert), it surely stands out.
Oliver’s Kitchen & Coffee Shop – Gemmayze: I actually enjoyed my time at this eatery, despite some flaws with the food. We first ordered a mini beef burger, 8″ pizza, and Oliver’s famous fish and chips. The beef patty in the mini beef burger was ridiculously small, and the whole burger was mediocre. The fish and chips platter was acceptable, but it did not live up to its fame. As for the pizza, I actually liked the crust and if I ever go again, I would just order that for my meal. Coming to the dessert, I ordered the milk chocolate crepe. The menu states that it is Premium Belgian chocolate awaiting inside the dough; honestly they made me doubt that claim. I do not know if it is the preparation method or the chocolate itself, but the chocolate spread was grainy instead of being smooth and creamy (like it should be). On the plus side, the service was great, and the atmosphere was relaxing. I also liked the section they have that sells books in the shop; you feel as if your level of intellect has increased just by being there.
Meat the Fish – Jal el Dib: We went to Meat the Fish located in the Aishti Mall; the mall actually looks really nice on the inside. As for Meat the Fish, the platters were good, but honestly I do not see what the hype is about. The taste of the meat, the fish, and the lobster were nothing unique to this restaurant; you can get it elsewhere. An interesting thing, on the other hand, was the Japanese beer seen in the picture above. However, my taste buds were more than satisfied with the sweet pudding I had as dessert; apparently it is made by Rouba Khalil.
Thea – Jal el Dib: Back when there was no fuss about tea and its varieties in Lebanon, there was Thea. As a person that prefers tea to coffee, I loved spending afternoons at this tearoom, and being introduced to different blends of tea. Also, drinking the tea in lovely teaware makes it all the more appealing.
Crepico – Zalka: Now, this is fine Belgian chocolate. Callebaut. The chocolate is incredible. Needless to say, this is what decorates their crepes and waffles. The salty and sweet crepes are fine, but their sweet waffles are the reason one has to go to Crepico.
Des Choux et Des Idees – Achrafieh: Do you like French patisserie to be subtle, light, and delicate? Well, this is the opposite. The individual pieces look really dainty and pretty, but where there is fruit, the flavor is overwhelming to the degree of tasting like perfume. In addition, the creme patissiere is so heavy that it makes you forget you are eating French pastry. It was a one time visit, and that is all it is going to be.
Popcorn – Grand Cinemas ABC Dbayeh vs. VOX City Centre Beirut: I did not want to include non-eatery posts, and especially ones with comparisons; but I could not help it. Food is food. These two photos are begging me to be in a battle together, so I will concede. VOX wins hands down, for both the popcorn crunch and flavor, as well as the slush taste and consistency. The slushy in ABC seemed to only have sugar as an ingredient, while the one in VOX was truly refreshing with every sip.
Sursock Museum Resto – Achrafieh: Sursock Museum should be visited; it makes Lebanese proud to have a museum space that is of international standards. As for the restaurant, it is what you expect a restaurant at a museum to be like; with a creative menu and placemat. The homemade potato chips provided as a side in our dishes were really good, actually they were much better than the beef in the sandwich. Let’s just say that I am more a fan of the museum itself than its resto.
La Table du Gand Chalet – Zaarour: We spent a night at a hotel called Le Gand Chalet at the Zaarour Club, and we had dinner at the restaurant located there. The decor was minimalist, which I liked. Also, the service was really good. However, the food needs to be majorly improved, in my opinion. The spices in my pasta dish seemed to be more of oriental than Italian based, which was really off-putting. I would expect more from a “luxury boutique hotel”.
Vanilla Bean – Beirut: To end this Bits and Pieces blog post on a sweet note, I can choose nothing better than the talented Vanilla Bean. The custom-made cakes turn out to be exactly how you envisioned them in your head, and even better. The pastel colors, the attention to detail, and the perfect finishing is attributed to the craftsmanship of Ms. Layla Jamal. I would just like to add that the cakes do not just look like pretty works of art on the outside; they taste just as good as they look.
Located in a fancy hotel called Phoenicia in Beirut, Eau de Vie is a classy restaurant. This was an event where they had invited Italian chef Luciano Zazzeri to Lebanon. In Tuscany, chef Luciano has a Michelin-starred restaurant called La Pineta located on the beach. Showcasing his love of the sea and fishing, chef Zazzeri’s menu included fish and shrimp. The prawn salad was very good and this can be seen in the embarrassing photograph above where my appetite had gotten the best of me. The red mullet and sea bass were delicious as well. However, honestly I would have preferred a less soggy pasta accompanying the former. As dessert, the final item in the set menu (before the coffee and tea) was a pistachio parfait. I would not have ordered that if I had had the choice, yet surprisingly it was better than I expected. I really do hope we get more of these opportunities of tasting creations made by renowned chefs from around the world.
My first taste of Peruvian cuisine was at Sapa in Beirut, Lebanon. The restaurant has a cozy ambiance and the trees add a nice touch of greenery. The waiter who was responsible for our table was the right amount of friendly and professional. I ordered a fruity cocktail which was really delicious. For starters, we went with the cheese rolls and the mango salmon ceviche; it was appreciated that the ceviche was placed on ice. For a person that has lived in Africa for 10 years, I am picky about the taste of mangoes. The mango slices were very similar to the ones I used to eat there and I loved the flavor. Something interesting I liked in the ceviche dish as well is the addition of crunch supplied by the corn nuts. Now for the mains, I found their burger dry; the patty desperately needed juiciness and it cried out to be placed in a softer bun. The other main platter was better; a traditional Peruvian dish called Aji de Gallina had a pleasing interplay of ingredients. We could not leave the premises having not tried the Pisco and so decided to do that in their Pisco chocolate fondant, which arrived with a sizzling hot bubbly sauce. Another sweet treat we tried was the creme brulee with yuzu, which was torched on our table. We were live witnesses of the sugar coating being altered to become its superior form: caramel. After all the drama of our scorching alcoholic-infused desserts, we called it a night.
One restaurant in Lebanon that is worthy of being on the Michelin Guide in my opinion is Burgundy. The ingredients used are of the highest caliber and the chef pays attention to details. The items on the plate are meticulously displayed in an appealing way that makes you not want to touch them. However, then you think of how appetizing they seem and you know you have to have a taste. I have visited Burgundy twice and both times the food was delicious. The in-house smoked salmon appears to be done being smoked right in front of you on the table when the cover is removed and the salmon is revealed under the cloudiness. The salads are filled with flavor and the mashed potato served with the steak is silky smooth. It was the first time I had ever tasted a soft-shell crab and it was an interesting experience for a person with arachnophobia. We had a selection of cheese before the dessert. I am a person that really likes cheese so I enjoyed that platter. I also loved the chutney provided with the cheese; I adore the marriage of taste that cheese and chutney create in my mouth. The desserts were delectable, especially the chocolate souffle. I think molten chocolate is one of the greatest creations ever made. Actually, writing this blog post now makes me want to go to Burgundy again very soon.