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.

Maryool – Mar Mikhael

The humble donkey would be happy to be associated with Maryool. A cozy and charming place located on the narrow streets of Mar Mikhael, this restaurant is what can actually be called a hidden gem. The staff is young and friendly, while simultaneously being professional and efficient. I really think that they are key to the whole experience at this eatery. I loved how comfortable I felt there. The food is authentic with a unique twist, and this is mirrored in the presentation as well. Their menu consists of a daily meal section, in addition to their platters served in lovely small bowls. This enables you to taste a wide variety of flavors as you take bites from one dish to the next. We ordered the Hendbeh & Kale, Hummus with Chorizo, Zaalook, Scotch Egg, Maryool Musakhan Taco, and Kebbet Mosul. We also wanted the Fatayer, but unfortunately it was unavailable. Add a squeeze of lemon to the Hendbeh & Kale, and it is like placing the cherry on top; it tastes great. I really liked the Hummus, and the Scotch Egg was so tasty with the soft boiled egg’s runny yolk oozing down over the outer crispy kebbe shell. The Musakhan Taco was flavorful, yet it was a bit salty. However, the Kebbet Mosul was delicious; the herb filling complemented the thin flattened kebbe perfectly. For dessert, we had all of the three present on the menu, namely the Maamoul Bi Jebne, the Kneffe, and the Tamriyye. For me, they were all equally good. The Maamoul Bi Jebne was an interesting take on the regular maamoul, and I enjoyed nibbling on it. Although the salty dishes mostly overshadowed the sweet ones in taste and flavor, I felt that I had eaten a hearty and wholesome dinner. I left with a warm feeling inside and I was happy that I had tried Maryool. I will definitely be back.