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.

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.

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.

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.