Onno – Naccache

We finally made it to Onno. Firstly, I would like to commend them on their professional service. The mezze item I started with was the hummus, which was not as creamy as I would like. My favorite item was the one I tried next, the lahem bi aajine. It was flavorful and the dough was thin and deliciously crispy. The lahme ras asfour karaz sauce was tasty, but the meat was a tad chewy. However, I still preferred them to the fishna kebab. The tiny-sized mouajanet were good, especially the kibbe and sambousik. I also enjoyed nibbling on the manti dumplings with their crunchy exterior. As for the mixed grilled skewers, the chich taouk outdid the kafta and the meat chunks. Although, it is nice of them to offer dessert on the house, I would honestly rather pay for my dessert if I could have more variety and more complex confections. All in all, it was an average and forgettable experience which could be easily replicated elsewhere.

Diwan Beirut – Antelias

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.

Paul – Ghazir

Paul makes me feel comfortable. I like the ambiance and the friendly service. I love that their fresh bread and pastries are part of their decoration. If you are a breakfast person, like me, Paul is a great place to head to. They have a selection of items on display, as well as an additional menu featuring breakfast “formules”. First, our drinks arrived. I ordered the hot chocolate which reminded me of homemade mixes which was nice, although I do prefer mine a tad more dense and chocolatey. I had one of the pieces of bread in the basket (with their creamy butter and right-amount-of-sweet jam), and I found it a bit tough to bite into. However, the olive bread in my sandwich was very soft and delicious, along with the cheese within it. As for the croissants, I like how crispy and flaky they are. Breakfast at Paul is something that I really enjoy and I will surely keep coming back for more!

Blu – Mtayleb

Chocolate cravings? In the mood for chocolate, cakes, and the like, we happened to spot Blu as we were going up the winding road home. We decided that this time we would pass by. The lady assisting us was friendly and tried to be helpful. However, the lack of training was apparent because she was not knowledgeable about the ingredients within the cake pieces and had to keep asking for information from another lady on the phone. We ended up choosing a variety of items to try and headed to the car. For me, the humble mini cupcakes were my favorite to nibble on. They were fluffy and moist, and it was difficult to stop myself from devouring all the bag’s constituents. As for the cookies, the thicker ones were better than the regular chocolate chip cookie encasing an Oreo cookie; I felt that the latter was a bit dry. Yet, the double chocolate chip cookie was the best one in that box because it was extremely chocolatey, for hiding inside was more melted chocolate. Considering the second box with the cake pieces, my first comment would be about the chocolate tart crust; it was tasty but did not crumble delicately beneath your teeth. In addition, the chocolate eclair was pleasant and not too heavy although the pastry cream inside was also chocolate. In general, the chocolate used in their cake pieces was creamy and rich. I did end up feeling overly saturated with sugar when I had tasted everything; although I am partly to blame for that because of wanting to steal a bite out of all the goodies we had bought.

Em Sherif Restaurant – Achrafieh

Yes, it was all the hype about Em Sherif and their high review scores that eventually aroused my curiosity. We were in the mood for Lebanese cuisine, so we decided to finally give it a try. When you go in, you notice that the restaurant is fancy, with its mirrored tables and silver cutlery (although I liked some aspects of the interior decoration more than others). A noteworthy issue to mention here is that the service was great from when we entered Em Sherif till when we left. The waiters were very welcoming and friendly, and swiftly brought the food to our table. Things work differently at Em Sherif; when you sit down you do not get a menu to choose from but instead the food directly starts coming your way. For a first-timer, the set menu descending at a fast pace in front of you as well as the waiters passing by with trays of food can be exciting, yet a bit overwhelming as you are trying to keep track of what is being offered and trying to taste everything. However, we did request for room to breathe when we were asked if we would like the hot constituents to be served. I am glad we did that because it was then that I enjoyed all the delicious flavors. Em Sherif does have great food. Their hummus is creamy and their humble labne is really really really good. From the items on the “hovering mezza” tray, the la7em bi3ajeen and sambousik were very tasty, and honestly I would rather that the tray land on the table permanently. The chickpeas in the balila were cooked perfectly and it was well seasoned, though a tad oily. I was surprised at how good the harak osbao was; it had the right amount of tanginess. Additionally, the marination of the skewered shrimps was great and I enjoyed the tender meat chunks (I preferred them to the chich taouk). I could go and on about the immense number of platters we tasted, but if I wanted to describe Em Sherif’s food concisely, it would be well-balanced; their seasoning and the combination of flavors were spot on. I also have to commend them on the kibbe nayye, which had the mint and onions within the mixture, meaning all you had to do was add the olive oil. After this feast of salted dishes, it was time for the sweet ones. Their um ali sauce is to die for! I loved their take on the foret noire presentation; it was placed in a bowl and the chocolate cake was in itself a moist hollow vessel in which the fruits and cream were placed. It seems the maamoul bi jibne is popping up everywhere nowadays, and I am a fan of it in general, and a fan of it at Em Sherif. The waiter places it on your plate and professionally slits it open so that the drizzle of syrup reaches the melted cheese beneath the crumbly crust. All in all, Em Sherif provides a rich set menu with a bit of everything and it left us feeling stuffed for the rest of the day.

Fadel – Bikfaya

Fadel is a patisserie that I first encountered during my childhood. We went up for the occasional ice cream fix, to get a black forest cake to celebrate a birthday, or to get some freshly baked bread. Since then, a large number of pastry shops have opened their doors, but we still do visit Fadel once in a while. Their classic black forest cake was the cake we resorted to recently for my mother’s birthday, certain we wouldn’t disappoint. It surely did the trick; the cake was fluffy and light. The last time I tasted products from Fadel, I had a cheese croissant, a chocolate chip muffin, a piece of success cake (succès“), and their thyme pain au lait. I know croissants are the epitome of buttery concoctions, but the cheese croissant was too buttery and heavy, in my opinion. As for the muffin, it was fine, and I appreciated their generosity with the chocolate chips. Their succes was okay, but not as successful as another patisserie makes them; I go to that pastry shop exclusively for their succes, yet that is a story for another day. However, the very successful item at Fadel is their thyme pain au lait. I have tasted the regular one with no filling, as well as the one filled with cheese, but it is the zaatar one that I love. The bread is very soft and there is thyme sprinkled in the dough and used as a filling simultaneously, which highlights the taste. That is one item I am sure I will return for.

Urbanista – Dbayeh

Urbanista in Gemmayze was my go-to destination in the months preceding my wedding, when I was undergoing my big day’s dress alterations. It never disappointed. Anyway, this is about the branch at ABC Dbayeh, and as I am writing this, it just came to my attention that Urbanista at this location was my go-to restaurant during my pregnancy—I had to have their BBQ Burger again and again. For no particular reason, it had been a while since I had last visited Urbanista and unfortunately, this review is about my most recent experience. Honestly, in general, I felt that the food was mediocre in flavor. For appetizers, we ordered the Goat Cheese & Tomato Pizzetta, the Quinoa Chips and Chicken, and the Chicken Mini Bites. The goat cheese pizza was very dry and the amount of cheese topping could have been more generous. The quinoa chips were crispy and I enjoyed them with the melted cheese but there was a bit too much barbecue sauce on some of them. For our main dishes, we ordered several burgers, Fish and Chips, and the Veal Escalope. The Double Cheeseburger’s sauce was too sweet for my taste, yet I did like the accompanying coleslaw which was fresh and crunchy. As for the Fish and Chips, I thought that the crust was a tad oily, although the fish encased within it was delicious. When it came to the service, the waiters were very friendly but we didn’t appreciate it when the main dishes arrived before the appetizers. However, they were quick to apologize and gave us two big slices of chocolate cake for dessert along with our choices of coffee on the house. The cake tasted good, even though the cake layers were unevenly moistened. When lunch was over, I left Urbanista with mixed feelings. I had enjoyed the amicable ambiance, but I certainly remember the food being better.

Appetito Trattoria – Gemmayze

What started out as a comfortable late lunch ended with the stench of Gorgonzola, literally. We happily went to Appetito Trattoria because they cater to our youngsters by providing high chairs. The service was slow and towards the end some platters really took their time in arriving to our table. I would like to mention that the waiter was running back and forth between tables, until he was later joined by more staff.  We ordered the Siciliana and Caprese salads, the Prosciutto e Funghi pizza, the Gnocchi alla Sorrentina, the Linguine al Pesto, and the Ravioli di Capra. I will leave the encounter with the salads till the end. I would like to begin with the pizza; it was delicious. The crust was thin and crispy, and I really enjoyed the flavors. I think that if you are craving Italian pizza, this would definitely do. We ended up ordering another pizza because it was the best thing we had eaten at Appetito. The Linguine al Pesto was good and I was glad that the pasta was cooked al dente. Also, the ravioli was good, but paled in comparison to the pizza. Now back to the salads, my sister had found an unwanted visitor in her Caprese and we failed to taste the Gorgonzola in the Siciliana salad dressing (which was the thing going for it to differentiate it from a regular salad). It was appreciated that the manager really listened to our comments, and that he showed us the Gorgonzola cheese that had been used. However, it was a bit too much when he then showed us how it becomes when they process it in the mixer, and made us smell it before and after. Then, he explained how he had to change to this Italian Gorgonzola with no taste and a faint smell because customers before thought that the Gorgonzola was too strong, and it went on and on. For a change of taste and smell, we opted to try their Soffice al Cioccolato; it was alright (they were kindly offered on the house). Although I would recommend Appetito Trattoria if you are in the mood for pizza in a cozy environment, the only thing that was on my mind leaving this place was Gorgonzola.

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.