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.

Al Forno – Beirut

Like most parents seeking a restaurant in an area where the children can play in, we headed to Zaitunay Bay. The sun was out and we were armed with a tricycle, but first it was time for lunch. Pasta never fails with a toddler it seems, so we decided to go for Italian, hence Al Forno. It was a pleasant surprise. First and foremost, I would like to commend our waiter who couldn’t have done a better job because the service was excellent. We ordered a variety of dishes to get a gist of everything. The fried shrimps were very crispy, and although the zucchini was not cut into thin slices, the breading was so crunchy that it didn’t matter. With my pregnancy, it seems that I am fixated on certain food at certain times. Nowadays, it is the risotto. So, I ordered the shrimp risotto and chicken escalope to share, and they were both tasty. The risotto sauce was a bit dilute but still had flavor, and the breading on the chicken escalope made a pleasant crunching sound beneath our teeth. Al Forno surely did know how to make their breading, and the escalope was not oily at all. For my sweet tooth cravings, I had the pain perdu and the cenci. The extra touch of cinnamon added to the pain perdu was pleasing. As for the cenci, I enjoyed trying something new but the dough was a bit heavy for my taste. All in all, however, we left with a satisfying experience ensuring our definite return.

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.