Meticulous is the word that comes to mind when I think of the spoonteller. Being relatively close to home, I have repeatedly passed by this restaurant until I finally made it through its doors. Inside soothing music is played, which makes you forget you are located a few steps away from the highway. Warmly greeted by a motherly woman who seemed to be the owner, we were lead to our table. That is where the adjective meticulous comes in; she wanted to make sure that everything is just right. If she wasn’t attentively taking our order, she was supervising the waiters, or visiting the kitchen. Hot bread landed on the table, crispy on the outside with a soft and fluffy interior, it was difficult to resist eating more than one slice. Then as my starter, I had tender chicken with a crunchy exterior; they were tasty and not oily. For my main course, I had the shrimp risotto and I enjoyed the mouthfuls of flavorful firm rice. To sweeten things up, I opted for the pain perdu. What stood out was the caramelized crust of the brioche—it seemed like it had taken its time forming the delicate envelope. Although, I do usually prefer the insides of my pain perdu to be more soaked with milky liquid. However, I have to admit that maybe if I had eaten the accompanying ice cream with it, it would have provided some needed moisture to the beautifully caramelized bread. There is much more to taste here, so this visit to the spoonteller will not be my last…
Goutons Voir – Achrafieh
Risotto, risotto, risotto. The only thing on my mind when it comes to food these days is risotto. I love indulging in a lemon risotto with shrimp, especially during this phase of my pregnancy. Goutons Voir has one of the best risotto I have tasted, if not the best (I did remove the asparagus ingredient though, but that is a matter of preference). It is so creamy and rich, and in addition to the shrimp lurking inside, they have placed a few shrimps at the top. This latter subtle component enhances the taste by providing a sort of lovely grilled flavor. I also ordered french fries on the side, and their fries are certainly the correct amount of salty and crispy. Feeling very full, I ordered half a portion of their pain perdu for dessert. I love the whole Goutons Voir, Charlotte, Cafe Gourmand, and Nonna enterprise, so I had tasted the pain perdu at Charlotte before yet I recalled that it was good but not out of this world. Still adamant to give it another try, I did. The caramel sauce smothering the bread is very good, without being overly sweet. However, I realized what it was that I found a little lacking. The bread was moist, but I prefer a pain perdu that is more soaked and filled with the milky mixture. Hence, I would still rather their heavenly moelleux au chocolat. Last but definitely not least, an important issue noteworthy of stating is that the waiter was very friendly and professional. We felt comfortable and we will definitely be back to Goutons Voir and all of the sister eateries that never disappoint!
Le Rouge – Hazmieh
Duo – Dbayeh
It was sort of a small family reunion gathering this time, so we opted for an accessible restaurant with a menu that would suit everyone: Duo. It was nice weather, but unfortunately non-smokers and children have to be confined to being indoors to avoid inhaling the cloud of smoke that forms outside replacing the fresh air that is supposed to be there. We were provided with two high chairs for the little ones, and the service was very good. I loved that the bread in the basket was actually served warm and their grissini was crunchy. We ordered the Sweet Chili Shrimps with the sauce on the side as a starter for my toddler who gobbled them up, obviously finding them as tasty as I did. They also readily custom-made my penne with pink sauce; the sauce was delicious but the penne was a bit overcooked. As for the Chicken Scaloppine, it was tender and I enjoyed eating it. When it was time for dessert, I ordered the Pain Perdu. Although, I was told that it was baked in the oven, I still found it so heavy and buttery that I could not eat more than a couple of bites. When we were all done, it was time to change scenery for our tiny humans, so we left Duo in search of some shoes.
Al Mandaloun Cafe – Dbayeh
You know when you are at home and reluctant to go out because the thought of slipping out of the warmth of your soft pajamas and actually heading somewhere seems so far out of reach? Well. that night it was exactly how I felt. After contemplating the idea in my head, the thought of having dinner alone with my other half seemed worth the effort. Now, to actually choose the destination. It took some time before we decided that we wanted a place that was not too far and that had a comfortable and spacious setting, hence we chose Mandaloun. I have tried the food there before on several occasions (including their rich breakfast), but I wanted to refresh my memory. We were led to our table, and handed the menus. Our waitress was great; the service was professional and the right amount of friendly. We ordered the Gambas Fritas, the Breaded Chicken Escalope, and the Fish & Chips. I loved the fried shrimps. They were so crunchy and they were salted perfectly. As for the fish platter, the amount of fish meat inside the crispy batter was generous and it tasted great. Their escalope was also tasty. Conclusion: Mandaloun handles the breaded and battered well. I should mention that their fries are really good; they were thinly sliced just how I like them. For dessert, we had their Gourmet Waffle with caramel and three scoops of fruity sorbets. Usually their waffle satisfies my sweet tooth, yet this time I don’t know why I had mixed feelings about it. However, based on my previous experiences, it is usually a good choice of dessert at Mandaloun. All in all, it was a peaceful evening in a calm setting, and that was what I had been looking for.
La Petite Table – Dbayeh
Ok, so I have a long list of restaurants I want to visit; most of them are in Beirut. However, we did not have the luxury of time on our hands, and so I began thinking about eateries located in Dbayeh. Although not on my list, I recalled that I had visited La Peitite Table at tea time and that we had sat in the cute seating area outside. It was cold this time around so we would have to sit inside, but I thought it was worth a try and I was pleasantly surprised. La Petite Table has a cozy interior with lovely colors and bursts of greenery. Amidst the comfortable ambiance, I would really like to highlight an issue: their lighting. I am a person that loves bright light and sunny days, and their globes lit the restaurant wonderfully at dinner. The staff was very professional, and we were warmly welcomed and led to our seats. Our waiter was friendly and politely took our order, and no mistakes were made; I actually loved the service. Now, for the part that satisfied our hunger. We chose the Salmon Crudo, the Fish & Fries, and the Double Cheese Burger as our salty items. First, a bread basket is placed on the table with olive oil to dip the slices in before they head to your mouth, and then your platters arrive. Considering the cheese burger, I found the patty to be juicy, and biting into the burger resulted in repeated deliciousness with every bite. The fries on the side were crispy, well-seasoned, and really good in flavor. However, the component of the dish I want to focus on the most is the Hickory BBQ Sauce. It was to die for! I put some on my burger, and when that was done, I smothered my fries in it. As for the fish and fries dish, the outer shell was crunchy and the fish within it seemed fresh. I enjoyed the fish, yet I was not really a fan of the accompanying soy sesame sauce. For dessert, we ordered one of each of the available Macarons flavors and the Chocolate-Peanut Waffle. The waffle was good, although not one of the best I have had. The caramel sauce was a tasty addition to the waffle, and I preferred it to the chocolate sauce, which was not as rich. At the end of the whole meal, I felt relaxed and was left intrigued to return and try other menu offerings, such as their Molten Chocolate Cake.
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.
Casper & Gambini’s – Dbayeh
Usually, I am not a fan of dining at a restaurant in a mall (especially on the weekends) because I feel that the location can ruin the whole ambiance. Yet, sometimes you find yourself in this circumstance. Casper & Gambini’s tries and succeeds, to an extent, to preserve its own identity and mood within the bustling shopping scene. We found a table and got our usual high chair, and then had a look at the menu items. A weekly special caught my attention as my eyes wandered off the page and onto a flyer standing on the table; it was Chich Barak. That was definitely a good wholesome meal for my toddler. The rest of us opted for the Fresh Crab & Shrimp Soft Buns appetizer, followed by the Tenderloin, the Veal Escalope, the Provolone Steak Sandwich, and finally one order from the Salad Bar. Their salad bar is healthy, fulfilling, and rich with different flavored constituents. We started with the appetizer, which was delicious. I always welcome fresh crab instead of the less than mediocre imitation. A well-seasoned sauce was drizzled on the fresh crab and shrimp, and taking a bite of that within the soft bun was very tasty. Since they first placed this item on the menu, every time I go to Casper & Gambini’s I have to order it as a starter. As for the mains, the Chich Barak was served with rice, and the sauce was amazing. I hoped that they would add this platter to the permanent offerings of their menu. Unfortunately, the meat in my steak sandwich was cooked to a medium (how I like it), but weirdly the result was not tender. I have had this sandwich many times before, and it had become a kind of craving I satisfy at Casper & Gambini’s. However, this time it took forever to cut and chew, so I gave up and informed the waiter. The manager visited the table, and the consensus was that I order a new item on the menu. I chose the Chich Barak, which as previously mentioned is really good. For dessert, I decided to order their Pain Perdu, which has been one of my all-time favorites. I wasn’t disappointed; the texture of the moist bread is how I like it, and their ice cream and caramel sauce combination satisfied my sweet tooth. Now, it was time to leave. Here, I have to mention that the provolone steak sandwich ended up being removed from the bill. Due to my past positive experiences of eating at Casper & Gambini’s, I would revisit in hopes that it was just a one time affair that was bound to happen on a rare occasion.
Swiss Butter – Gemmayzeh
As we approached, we saw a line (more like a cluster) forming on the pavement at the entrance of Swiss Butter. I thought to myself that this better be worth it. The manager was standing at the door, busily placing names on a waiting list. I added my name to the growing list. We were told that it was a 20 minute wait at most; true to their word, we were let in after 15. The waitress was cheerful and seemed to love explaining the eatery’s concept to first-time customers. There was no physical menu to hold in your hands, although the brief menu was enlarged and placed on the wall—the decor was akin to their menu: simple yet effective. She told us that it was one sauce that they made, and our choice of beef, chicken, or fish (in this case, salmon). A restaurant’s offerings relying on one specialty sauce was either a make it or break it situation. As we were waiting for our double order of medium cooked beef, I wanted in on the action of live cooking. So, after being granted permission to take photographs of their open kitchen by the restaurant manager, that is where I headed. Unfortunately, let’s just say that my enthusiasm was not appreciated by one of the chefs there. To sum it up, the photographs were hurried and Salted Caramel had turned bitter. Here, I would like to commend the extremely friendly manager and assistant manager who dealt with the issue in a swift and professional manner. My voice was heard and I was apologized to. Now, let’s get to the good part; the food. The beef was indeed grilled to a medium cuisson, and the tender result made me happy. The meat was accompanied with bread (one has the option of white or brown slices); they are that sure that you would want to savor every drop of their sauce by smearing your bread in it. Also, alongside these constituents were crispy french fries and a fresh salad. Ok, let’s get back to the beef smothered in that sauce of theirs. The liquid goodness is delicious, and has exactly the right amount of tang. Honestly, I do not know if it would go as well with the chicken or salmon; I’ll have to give them a taste to find out. However, the sauce with the beef was a match made in heaven. I was so glad that there was a generous amount of sauce to cover your meat and then dip your fries in. I really enjoyed the food and my taste buds were very awake. I thought that it was impossible for them to be awakened any further at this restaurant, but I was wrong. The dessert options are also limited, but like the savory offerings, that was more than enough. We ordered the pain perdu and the molten chocolate, both of which came in a pan just as the meat had come in before them (maintaining the theme). The molten chocolate dessert is to die for. It is delectable; both the cake and the gooey insides are amazing. As for the pain perdu, the caramel with the sauce and melting vanilla ice cream mixture was really good too—but that molten chocolate confection! At the end of the meal I was full to the brim, and to our surprise, the desserts were not added to the amount due on the bill. All in all, Swiss Butter proves that you do not need an extensive menu to succeed, as long as the items you have are done really well. I would definitely go again.
Emotions – Achrafieh
I travel from one province to another, within Lebanon, to get to EMOTIONS Artisan Patissier & Glacier. When I arrive, I know that Mr. Gaby Bustros will be there in the kitchen perfecting his creations. When I first saw the triangular tart, I was intrigued to try the constituents of this rebel among its mostly circular species. I was not disappointed. The tart with the mixture of berries is sublime; the freshness of the berries with their bed of creme patissiere complement each other perfectly. The crumble of the tart border is the ideal vessel to hold them in, while being delicate in itself. If you wish to satisfy your darker desires, you would need to venture into the underworld of the chocolate tart. It is quite the opposite of its berry friend; within the triangular crunch of a border, there is more chocolate awaiting inside. The different textures of chocolate come together in intense decadence; the biscuit meets the ganache and oozing goodness seeps through the top subtly cracked chocolate layer. Ok, it is time to leave the world of tarts, and showcase the Tahitian vanilla eclair. It is fragile and light, yet rich and creamy, and the hardened caramel threads wonderfully break underneath your teeth. I think this eclair might be my favorite piece, but then again why put pressure on myself to choose a favorite. One of the times I went to Emotions, I was lucky enough to taste a sample of a chocolate macaron in the making; the crust parted to reveal delicious chocolate filling inside. Now, let us proceed to the other section of delicacies at Emotions; their ice cream. I love how the flavors contained in the 1L transparent tubs are described with handwritten labels. The cubes are filled with ice cream made from the finest ingredients. The sorbet of berries has fruit tidbits in it, which make the flavor more pronounced and lets the freshness shine through. As for the coconut ice cream, it is also made from fresh coconut with a subtle hint of Malibu rum and a touch of toasted coconut shavings. Whether it is pastry or ice cream, Emotions really satisfies my sweet cravings. I can not wait to meet more of their flawless confections.