We got stuck in so much traffic on our way to have breakfast at L’Atelier du Miel but it was worth it. The staff was very friendly and we were welcomed with a taste of just-made chocolate confections. What I liked about L’Atelier du Miel was the pride and passion that seemed to exude from their products. This was shown in the knowledge of how their honey is made, as well as in the various types of honey featured in the items on their food menu. I appreciated that the paper placemat had the map of Lebanon on it, with a colored legend telling us which honey was made where. I also loved that my hot chocolate was infused with honey and that their strawberry jam was deliciously sweetened with the golden syrup. While my other half indulged in poached eggs with smoked salmon (one of the things on my list to eat as soon as I give birth), I had the scrambled eggs. They were so fluffy and creamy sitting on a slice of bread, and I really enjoyed them. I added some of the olive tapenade that came with the bread basket to them as well. The olive paste was great and nothing beats freshly baked bread. As for the croissants…yummy! They were so crispy and flaky. The stack of pancakes was my least favorite item; I did not feel that they were as fluffy as they should be. They were generously engulfed with honey, which rendered them a tad too sweet. However, to be fair, I was the one that had to order them without the accompanying berries, which I am sure would have added the necessary tartness that would balance the flavors. At the end of the breakfast, I was surprised with a lovely gesture: a box of Nougats as a gift for the constantly hungry baby kicking in my womb. We also could not leave the premises before taking some of their honey home with us. The comfortable ambiance at L’Atelier du Miel made me feel good on the inside, and I will be returning to taste their salads, sandwiches, and hot platters—of course, adorned with honey.
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.
CafeSho – Achrafieh
The first thing that comes to mind when I want to describe CafeSho is: home away from home. If you are looking for a hearty meal that feels like it is home-cooked, this restaurant is a good option as a destination. The interior is very basic and humble; it makes the eye long for more details to look at. Although, if you sit next to the glass border, the transparency allows you to feel like you are on a street abroad. The whole mood of the restaurant reminds me of those small European eateries that locals would visit to escape their mundane work routine, during their lunch break. The menu is scribbled on the wall. I like the authenticity of that; it makes me feel that words can be erased and added depending on the availability of fresh produce or just the chef’s state of mind (this was reinforced by some chalk smudges I noticed on the black ‘canvas’). The waitress was very friendly and I appreciated her honesty when she told us we were ordering too much food for just the two of us. We ended up choosing the Brochettes Beef Sate with the rice and peanuts side, the Brochettes Salmon Yokitori with the Indian curry noodles side, and the Brochettes of Caramelized Shrimps. After hearing the ongoing whirring of the juicer, I was enticed to order a fresh orange juice (unfortunately, it was a bit sour). My husband enjoyed a Japanese beer. Our food arrived; each platter had three skewers of their respective constituents, which can be considered generous. My favorite was the beef sate dish—I am a fan of peanuts or peanut sauce to complement my meat. The meat was tender and flavorful, and it went well with the accompanying rice. My second favorite was the shrimp dish, which also had pronounced flavor and was tasty. As for the salmon, the doneness was great (I detest overcooked salmon), but I felt that it was the least flavorful of the three. Sometimes one craves something homey to eat, and CafeSho ticks the box for that.
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.
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.
The Lebanese Bakery – Achrafieh
The Lebanese Bakery is a bakery you would definitely want in your neighborhood. I wish it was closer to my house, although honestly I wish I was the one closer to the bakery because its location on the lovely streets of Achrafieh is perfect. Obviously, speaking about changing the location of my dwelling means that this bakery is exceptional. The place is humble, yet cozy and charming. We grabbed a menu and went to our seats to decide what we wanted; here I have to commend them for having a menu that is in both Arabic and English! From the manakish section, we ordered the zaatar on zaatar, lahem bi ajeen, and eggs and cheese, in addition to a few ftayer cousa. The presentation is simple, yet beautiful, and everything was delicious and fresh. The zaatar on zaatar is a dream for a zaatar fan because of its intense flavor. The runny yolk on the eggs and cheese manoushe enhanced the taste; nothing beats that golden liquid goodness oozing from an egg’s heart. However, the lahem bi ajeen…wow! I loved it. The dough was crispy and light, and it is something that I would definitely order again. Actually, this is the doughy concoction that is making me crave returning to The Lebanese Bakery once again. That and many more items that I didn’t get to try this time because there is only so much one can eat. I would like to try their labne and their kaak as well, and maybe take some dough home with me. Maybe I should consider moving…
Sapori E Vini – Byblos
I will pause on the “Bits and Pieces” for now, and finally begin with my most recent visits of restaurants in Lebanon in my upcoming posts. My archive of photos of food from when I did not know I would decide to post them in a blog have more or less come to an end (unless I happen to stumble upon some misplaced photos from that era anytime soon). As you have probably noticed, I personally prefer not to crop photos I have taken because I took them this way at that time, and I feel like I would be taking away from the authenticity of the memory they elicit in my mind if I remove parts of them. However, I promise that I will try to take better photographs now, since I am aware that I will be sharing them with whoever wants to see them. Anyway, enough about the hows and the whys. Salted Caramel loves to talk about food, so here goes.
First up is Sapori E Vini in Byblos, as the title has so cleverly foreshadowed.
Ok, the decor really needs to be recognized; hence the separate gallery. I love the interior. I love the planted trees bringing the garden indoors. I love the touch of gravel that is placed on a section of the floor in front of the wine bottles; when feet step on it, a pleasant sounding crunch tickles your ears. The hanging pots and pans, the fresh fruits and vegetables on display, the warm red bricks, and the wooden tables and chairs; they all complement each other and the attention to detail is amazing. Another lovely area to sit in is actually the real outdoors where a pergola stands on the green grass overlooking the terrace. If it had not been so hot, I would have opted to sit there. I should mention that there is an additional element for the children outside; a small form of playground that they can enjoy. All in all, one really needs to appreciate the effort that has been put to create a beautiful environment to sit and have a meal in.
Now let’s get to the food prepared by Italian chef Ignazio from Tuscany. First, they placed a dainty compilation of breads on the table. They looked really rustic and pretty, being meticulously arranged in brown paper. After scrutinizing the menu, we ordered the marinated tuna carpaccio which was good. For salads, we had the chicken quinoa salad and the shrimp salad. I really liked the chicken quinoa salad, but the item I liked the most was the pizza. Baked in a wood-fired oven, the pizza crust was delicious. I usually prefer to eat the tasty insides of a pizza, as opposed to the crust; but with this one, I had to have the crust too. The tomato sauce was a flavorful base for the toppings to be scattered on. I would definitely order the pizza again. The tagliata had delicious flavors too, but the meat had a sort of tough exterior that takes away from the taste of the juicy inside. As for the shrimp pasta dish, the sauce was too fishy for my liking, but that is a matter of preference. They then offered us ice cream on the house; it was homemade gelato which deserves respect. Another homemade item on the dessert menu was the chocolate fondant infused with raspberry. The cake holding the chocolate sauce tasted amazing. However, the savor of the raspberry was muted and did not seep through with the overpowering flow of chocolate. On an ending note, I have to add that the service was great, and I would visit this restaurant again.