La Creperie – Jounieh

We chose to go to La Creperie for the view and due to its proximity to our house. What captures your attention first is the beautiful pathway leading to the entrance of the restaurant. The greenery is appealing and already you can feel the tension in your body fading away. It totally fades away when you set your eyes on the view of the sea and neighboring mountains. Unfortunately, it was too hot to sit outside, so we opted for an indoor table by the window. Our waiter was very careful while taking our order, and he catered to my pregnancy restrictions in a friendly manner. Hot bread was served first with olive tapenade and butter—I love it when that announces the start of a meal. I had the shrimp risotto and the chicken escalope. The rice in the shrimp risotto was not as firm as it should be, and the shrimps were a tad salty. However, I did enjoy the chicken escalope because it was thin and herbs were mixed into the crispy breading. We couldn’t leave La Creperie without having some crepes, so we had them as our something sweet. I had the crepe which had good chocolate lurking inside it, but the texture of the chocolate was unpleasantly grainy, instead of it being smooth and creamy. All in all, it was a relaxing lunch experience.

Italian Project Kitchen & Bar – Broumana

I have tasted Italian Project in its Mar Mikhael location a while ago and I remember I liked it. During the Summer, one looks for a cool breeze to accompany their good meal, so we went up to the eatery’s new location in Broumana. Let me start with the service; it was excellent. From the moment I reserved until the end of our dinner, the staff was the right amount of friendly and professional. The waiters also accommodated my temporary ‘pregnancy-peculiar’ requests with a great attitude, and they were always standing attentively nearby. I enjoyed the atmosphere, especially that since it was still early in the evening, it was not too crowded yet, and yes, toddlers are catered for with high chairs there. I tried two pasta dishes, which were both delicious. The tomato sauce that coated the gnocchi chunks was very well-seasoned that I found myself enjoying the last tasty spoonful even after the gnocchi was gone. As for the creamy sauce in the other pasta platter, it was rich and covered the succulent pieces of chicken with flavor. I will definitely be coming back to taste their other Italian savory and sweet treats!

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.

Le Rouge – Hazmieh

Restaurant complexes are popping out everywhere nowadays. One such complex is called City Walk, where Le Rouge is now located. We used to frequent Le Rouge when it was popular in Hamra (and sometimes Gemmayze), the target being their grain mustard sauce smothering pieces of succulent chicken, and the focaccia bread they welcome you with. That was the reason we decided to go to this restaurant; to relive the nostalgia. As soon as we arrived, a staff member calls to us from the inside ushering us to come in. I felt that that was slightly desperate as opposed to being welcoming. Then, he scoops up my toddler into his arms with the intention of helping me lead him indoors because he was fighting to have another go at the escalator. Another waiter then also carries him and the whole invasion of personal space becomes bothersome. Anyway, so we finally sat at a table and ordered our platters. The waiter was attentive and accommodating to any alterations we wanted to be done to the dishes. We were greeted by the focaccia we were familiar with, and eating that calmed my nerves (even though the background music choice was not that great). However, the bread was soft and warm in the middle and a tad unpleasantly crunchy on the sides. Yet, I was awaiting that grainy mustard sauce. I tried the escalope which tasted comforting and homey, but the accompanying pasta was a bit overcooked. Then the chicken with grain mustard sauce arrived. Honestly, however I did not taste the chicken because it was tinted pink when I cut into it. The same had happened to my mother as well, so I did not want to point it out again. The waiter readily took my mother’s chicken and cooked it some more, but being pregnant I just decided to refrain from eating it altogether. But no! I was adamant to try that nostalgic  sauce, so I drizzled it onto my wedges. Thankfully, the sauce lived up to its memory in my head. I actually enjoyed the seasoning on the potatoes and the tasty sauce that covered them. Now, it was time for dessert, so we ordered the apple tart and pain perdu. The pain perdu was okay, although I needed to have extra caramel to sweeten it further. All in all, I do commend the effort of the staff, but unfortunately the food and ambiance was lacking and paled in comparison to the Le Rouge that I remember.

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.

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.

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.