SUD Restobar – Mar Mikhael

(Special: Sundays Brunch)

After trying SUD’s superb Fondue & Stone Grilling dinner, I was very excited to try out their famous Sundays Brunch at their Mar Mikhael branch. The service was really good as well, and the staff was friendly. There was a live D.J. playing music which was nice, although it was a bit too loud. I liked the high “ceilings”, and from where I was seated, I could look up to see the sky above me. Time to eat! At the place you get your plate and cutlery, you can have fresh juices, cold milk, and hot drinks. When I saw the colorful cereal loops, I had to have some with milk, and I also had a glass of refreshing orange juice. Then, I started off with the croissants, which were flaky and had very tasty stuffing. Their black rice salad and sauce were flavorful, and next to the salads, you can choose from a selection of cheese and hams. From the corner of my eye, I spotted the raclette—who doesn’t love melted cheese, seriously! You also have a live pasta cooking area and a stand where shawarma is ready to be served upon your request. Right next door, is a mankoushe baking section where you get your mankoushe freshly made. I opted for a zaatar and cheese one (better known as the “cocktail”); I liked the dough, but the zaatar was a tad more oily than it should be. Of course breakfast isn’t complete without eggs, and the chef happily prepares your choice of eggs and toppings; I had the sunny side up (which satisfied my constant runny yolk craving). When you can’t possibly eat savory food anymore, you know it is time for sweets. Alongside the dessert buffet, is a big tray of cheese knefe. The desserts include items such as tarts, eclairs, pancakes, fruits, and an array of candy you can place on a stick under cascading melted chocolate from an ongoing fountain. Want even more chocolate? On the side, stands a transparent cylindrical vessel holding thick hot chocolate within it. For me, that decadent hot chocolate was the best thing that I had had for dessert, then came the sort of bread pudding in a tray they had, which was moist and delicious. In general, the brunch offerings covered most of what a rich breakfast should have, but my taste buds were left partially “un-awakened” by some of them.

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.

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.

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.

PZZA.CO – Downtown Beirut

We were craving Italian food, and we remembered that there was a good Italian place; one of renowned Chef Hussein Hadid’s eateries. As usual, PZZA.CO did not disappoint at all. The service was great too. The weather was nice, so we sat outside this time. For starters, we ordered the Buffalo Mozzarella with Basil Pesto, the Baby Spinach Salad, and the Charred Corn Salad. The buffalo mozzarella was truly fresh, as was stated on the menu, and the basil pesto matched its freshness. However, the really flavorful dish was the Charred Corn Salad; it is perfectly balanced and also echoes the freshness in its ingredients and tangy citrus dressing. I love when there is a play of texture with the same kind of ingredient made differently. I enjoyed the crunch of the corn nuts with the taste of the charred corn together in the salad. As mains, we had the Linguini Pesto Basil (we added shrimps to it), Roasted Chicken Breast, and of course you can’t but have a pizza from that artistic mosaic statement piece oven of theirs —we had The “Prosciutto”. As previously mentioned, their pesto basil sauce is really good, and I thought the pizza was good as well. Although a side, the french fries are worth mentioning. They are thin and crispy, just how I like them. For dessert, obviously we had to order the Salted Caramel Ice Cream. We also asked for the Soft Italian Chocolate Cake (fondant), and the Chocolate Mousse. The Salted Caramel Ice cream was not too full-bodied and creamy, yet it managed to retain the flavor (although not intensely rich). The mousse was chocolatey and good, but the fondant was my favorite. The chocolate flowing from the inside of the cake was thick and dense. If you want chocolate, this is it. We left PZZA.CO having had a meal that had satisfied us from beginning to end. It was now time for my toddler to run around.

Mathieu – Mar Mikhael

We went to Mathieu for dessert. A sweet crepe is always a good idea. It is a cute and casual place that is great for a quick bite to eat or to satisfy a craving. The friendly man behind the counter seemed to be busily preparing some ingredients for the day. He asked us which crepes we would like to order so that he could make them for us. We looked at the big board hanging on the wall, and decided to order a crepe filled with Kinder and the Che. The melting chocolate on one crepe and the melting butter on the other was lovely to watch, especially when a sizzling sound was emitted when the rum was drizzled on to the Che crepe. Now, it was time to eat. The crepes were crispy at the base of the triangle, and became softer as you nibbled your way up towards the edge; my personal preference is soft. The crepe with Kinder was good as expected, but the Che surpassed it in taste. The rum addition to the butter and sugar was a great idea; it gave it a kick that made it stand out from the other regular sugar and butter crepes. Although tasty, the crepe dough itself was not exceptional and truthfully, I would have loved it if the batter had been poured in liquid form onto the heat in front of us for a more fresh experience (instead of a previously prepared crepe being heated up). However, I do still need to taste their “salty side”.

Paname – Saifi

I don’t usually wait so impatiently for a restaurant to open, but that was the case with Paname. The reason for this impatience: Chef Youssef Akiki. For me, Burgundy’s chef is one of the best, if not the best chef in Lebanon. When I saw the opening announcement, my heart skipped a beat. I had to reserve. Finally, I was walking around in the pleasant Saifi environment with this Almost French restaurant as my destination. When we arrived, we were greeted with people casually sitting outside and a very friendly staff. We were led to our table and given our menus. I scrutinized all of the listed items and wanted to taste as much of the variety provided as I could. We ordered the Seared Bluefin Tuna Ceviche and Scottish Salmon Carpaccio as starters. For mains, we ordered the Spaghetti with Speck, the Wagyu Beef Burger, and the Grilled Plaice. We wanted to order the Grilled Black Angus Tenderloin but it was unavailable. The first items that were placed on our table were a basket of bread, and the wines we had asked for. Then, it really began. The appetizers arrived. The presentation was beautiful; it was reminiscent of Burgundy’s finesse. Both the salmon and the tuna were delicious. The seasoning was well-balanced and the combination of flavors all coming together in one bite was delightful. I loved how the mango tidbits complemented the tuna perfectly. We proceeded with our main dishes soon after. The spaghetti was cooked just right and the sauce was light and creamy. As for the burger, the doneness of the meat rendered it juicy and succulent, making it stand out despite its simple flavor profile. The fish was also extremely tender and moist, and the other components on the plate along with the dressing enhanced the taste even further. When it was time for dessert, the waiter informed us that they would be complimentary. They even refused to charge us for an additional dessert we wanted to pay for. We had the Strawberry Panna Cotta, the Tiramisu, and the Chocolate Mousse. The sauce smothering the cream in the panna cotta was fresh and intense, and the Tiramisu was rich and tasty. Honestly, I preferred both to the mousse dessert, although it was still really good as well. All in all, the service was great and I enjoyed my meal from beginning to end. My taste buds were left widely awakened and longing for more of those creations with flavorful ingredients, especially those fishy appetizers that will keep me coming back for more.