the spoonteller – Zouk Mikayel

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…

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.

Bar Tartine – Dbayeh

We wanted to have dinner at a restaurant located not too far away. I have tried the Brioche Tropezienne at the Hazmieh branch, but did not really like it. However, I have also tasted their pizza previously at this location, which I did like. So, finally we decided to eat at Bar Tartine in Dbayeh for dinner. The service was great; our waitress was a trainee and she did everything just right. She was professional and friendly, and worked efficiently. The ambiance was nice, although a tad noisy. For my meal, I had the Salmon & Couscous platter this time, and I loved it. The salmon was succulent and majestically stood on a bed of extremely soft and fluffy couscous. I enjoyed the delicious pairing of fish and fluff with each bite. It made me want to come back again to try more dishes, and maybe also brunch.

BRGR.CO – Downtown Beirut

I appreciate how the star of the burger at BRGR.CO is the meat itself; condiments on the side, please. I like my beef medium, but at the moment well done it is, to make sure the tiny human growing inside me is safe. However, ordering the beef cooked well did not render the meat neither chewy nor dry. I was pleased with the result; well, as pleased as one could be given the circumstances. I added a slice of melted cheese because I am a cheeseburger type of person. I also tasted the chicken burger, which I found a bit dry. As for the fries, they come in a cute paper bag and are crispy and tasty. For my toddler, I ordered the Fish & Chips. The fish tasted great and the batter was golden and crunchy. I missed out on the lobster roll (which I love) this time, but will make sure to have it next time (as well as try their hot dogs).

Leila Min Lebnen – Dbayeh

Food Aversions. The fortunate culprit: Pregnancy. They are still present, but at least now I can actually look at my photos long enough to enable their description to formulate in my head. The most notable aspect of my experience at Leila Min Lebnen was the service. The waiter was extremely understanding of my current diet restrictions and accommodated the platters’ constituents accordingly, and all this was done with a smile. I felt comfortable eating at the restaurant. I liked the Hummus with the hot soft bread served on the side. I also enjoyed the small bites of Stuffed Kibbeh with yogurt. However, the Lebanese Diced Veal stood out with its pleasant tartness. The meat was tender and with the appropriate sourness of the pomegranate molasses sauce, it was very tasty. In the mood for fish, we ordered Grilled Fish instead of the usual mixed grilled platter. Honestly, I felt that it was a tad too oily. For me, I like the simplicity of the flavor profile of a moist yet pristine piece of fresh grilled white fish, with maybe only the addition of salt and a squeeze of lemon to preference. We finished the meal off with Maamoul Bel Jebneh and a bowl of Meghle. I am not a fan of meghle, but do like stuffing maamoul with cheese. Maybe another option could also be maamoul with melted chocolate insides….Just a thought.

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.

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.

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.