We finally made it to Onno. Firstly, I would like to commend them on their professional service. The mezze item I started with was the hummus, which was not as creamy as I would like. My favorite item was the one I tried next, the lahem bi aajine. It was flavorful and the dough was thin and deliciously crispy. The lahme ras asfour karaz sauce was tasty, but the meat was a tad chewy. However, I still preferred them to the fishna kebab. The tiny-sized mouajanet were good, especially the kibbe and sambousik. I also enjoyed nibbling on the manti dumplings with their crunchy exterior. As for the mixed grilled skewers, the chich taouk outdid the kafta and the meat chunks. Although, it is nice of them to offer dessert on the house, I would honestly rather pay for my dessert if I could have more variety and more complex confections. All in all, it was an average and forgettable experience which could be easily replicated elsewhere.
Kababji Grill – Mtayleb
Kababji is usually considered as a restaurant to grab a fast bite at, or to order sandwiches from maybe. I personally think that it is underrated. Their grilled meat, chicken, and kebabs are really good, and their sandwiches are one of the best. I went to the recently opened eatery located in Mtayleb for lunch. It is visible that they have tried enhancing the decoration of their interior to seem more appealing to the customer who would like to dine in. As for the mezze, their hummus and fried cheese sticks were tasty, and my toddler clearly enjoyed eating their arayess. Also, the service was quick and the waiters were friendly. If you are looking for good quality meat, Kababji is certainly a sensible place to head to. However, unfortunately, one important issue to note is that apparently smoking is allowed inside because a man on the table next to us was selfishly exhaling cancer into the clean air surrounding us.
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.
Loris – Gemmayze
Finally, a Lebanese restaurant that awakened my taste buds! Since I began writing about my experiences at established and also more recently opened restaurants, I have been craving really good Lebanese cuisine—I left Loris satisfied. The service and the ambiance were pleasant, but a more important topic to be discussed is the food. I loved the fresh out of the oven hot bread that was served at the beginning. Their Fattouch is zesty and their Hommos is creamy. The Rkakat bi jibne had tasty melted cheese enclosed in the crispy shell, and their mini Kebbe are delicious bites filled with flavor. Their Kebab Bil Karaz is a great dish with a twist, yet it was their Lahmeh Ras Asfour Debs Rimmein that was to die for! It is the best Ras Asfour platter I have had to date; the sauce was perfectly balanced, and the meat was so tender akin to biting into a succulent piece of steak. As for the Mixed Grill Platter, the chicken was seasoned with a nice blend of spices, and the chicken, meat, and kafta were juicy and moist. For dessert, I wanted to taste the Em Ali but unfortunately it was unavailable. However, I forgot all about that when I tasted the Maamoul Bil Jibne and felt the delicate crumble fall apart underneath my teeth to reveal the softness of the cheese inside. We left Loris on a sweet note, knowing we would be returning to try more of their creations.
Enab – Byblos
I have wanted to try Enab for a while now, so I opted to visit the newly opened outlet in Byblos. The interior is bright and colorful, which creates a comforting atmosphere to dine in. We found a table to sit at, and we were handed the menus. On a side note, I like the newspaper-like feel of the pages within the menu. After a thorough reading, we selected the Hummos, Shanklish, Fattoush, grilled Cheese rolls, Lahmeh ras asfour, Sawdat Djeij, Kebbe akras, Kafta Arayes, and the Mixed Grill platter. The hummos outdid the shanklish and the fattoush in the cold mezze section. The kebbe akras was tasty within the hot items, and so was the kafta arayes (although the bread was a tad burnt). The mixed grill platter was not consistent in taste. The chunks of meat were the most tender and the chich taouk cubes were a bit less succulent but still fine, yet the kafta was very dry. On the whole, the food was average and although I did not try their desserts this time, I am not intrigued enough to come again to try them. I do have to mention two additional things though. The service was great; our waiter was the right amount of friendly and professional. However, I was very disappointed that the argileh was allowed inside, especially that children are sitting in close proximity.
Ummi – Downtown Beirut
Ummi is the newest addition to the Chef Hussein Hadid street of restaurants. This time the focus is on Lebanese cuisine. Ummi has a lovely interior with a copper color dominating the ceiling and walls. However, the ambiance is a tad too noisy, and we had the scorching sun rays in our eyes for the duration of the meal where we were seated. The eatery has an open kitchen, which I love. I visited the hard-working chefs for a couple of minutes, and they seemed happy and passionate; this added to my enjoyment of the live cooking experience. What was refreshing at Ummi was that all the staff was friendly and welcoming. We ordered several mezze dishes, the mixed grills platter, and half a roasted chicken. I was disappointed that a couple of items on the menu were unavailable, namely the kibbe neye and the akkawi & kashkaval oven baked toasties. It was a while before our food started arriving to our table, but when it did, it was presented well and tasted good for the most part. Although the fattoush and batenjen salads were fresh and tasty, my personal preference would be to have bigger chunks of the ingredients in both. The hummus with lahmeh was nice and creamy. Two plates that were very flavorful were the arnabeet with tarator and mousakhan oven baked toasties. The mousakhan had that extra tang from the sumac and drizzled syrup on top, which was great. As for the balila, the chickpeas were cooked to perfection. Also, I loved the coriander that was generously mixed with the cubes of potato in the batata bi kizbara. The kafta fatteh was good as well, and the roasted chicken was tender. Then, the mixed grills platter arrived; the kafta, chicken, and meat were all succulent. I really have to mention that the accompanying garlic paste was amazing. When it was time for dessert, I asked the waiter to provide me with the menu because I had my eye on the atayef and umm ali (yes, I check the dessert section at the beginning of my meal). Yet, he told me that the only three currently available desserts were karabij, bohsaliyye, and knefe. No atayef and umm ali for me, and there was a discrepancy between the menu dessert offerings and the ones we were told verbally. Anyway, we had the knefe and bohsaliyye. Honestly, they were mediocre in taste and my sweet tooth had to be satisfied elsewhere.
Mounir – Broumana
Upon my mother’s request, we journeyed up to Broumana to have lunch at Mounir. I have definitely heard of Mounir, but honestly do not remember if I had visited it during my childhood. The reason we were heading there was that she had seen a photograph of the beautiful flowers they had. Indeed, the flowers are hard to miss; they are a lovely pop of color decorating the restaurant. Amidst the flowers, lies a small waterfall; water is always a welcomed addition to any environment. Another natural item of decoration is the view that Mounir offers to accompany your meal. When you arrive, a short path at the entrance leads you to the outdoor area of the restaurant. You are first greeted with local produce; tomatoes and watermelons. I loved how they consolidated the fact that you were at an authentic Lebanese restaurant. We were shown to our table, and after they provided us with a high chair with its own table (silent cheer) for our little one, we ordered a selection of mezze dishes (appetizers), as well as the barbecued skewered meat and chicken.
They started us off with the fattoush and hummus; both were delicious. In fact, little did I know that they would be the best things that I would taste at Mounir. Next, the hot mezze items followed. The sambousik and kibbe were good, and so were their homemade fries and potato cubes. As for the cheese rolls, personally I prefer the melted cheese to be more gooey; I like to bite into it knowing that the cheese will still hold the fried roll from one end to the other as I pull it away from my mouth. Unfortunately, I did not get that. Considering the arayess; the meat inside was fine, but the bread pieces that they were placed in were soggy and the whole thing fell apart easily. When the skewered meat, chicken, and kafta arrived, their presentation was unappetizing. I would love it if most Lebanese restaurants put a bit more effort into the presentation of many of their platters. The chicken was okay and the kafta needed more seasoning to enhance the taste, in my opinion. I did find the meat really good though; it was tender and easy to chew. When we were done with the savory dishes, we were asked if we wanted to order fruits or sweets; they were not on the house like in some of the Lebanese restaurants. Actually, as I am writing this now, I wanted to use the word “majority”, but instead opted for the term “some”, because it seems less restaurants are offering fruits and desserts free of charge nowadays. Anyway, we chose to have an array of fruits and a couple of their desserts. The fruits were fresh and the katayef stuffed with walnuts were delicious. The mhalabiyye was a bit too fragrant for my taste. All in all, the nature, water, and cool breeze create a peaceful ambiance that makes anyone feel comfortable dining in. (Here, I should add that there is a playground area that children can use as an energy outlet.) However, although some platters were very flavorful, others were not that tasty. I was expecting a bit more from the food at a renowned restaurant like Mounir.
Liza – Achrafieh
Rarely are both the interior and exterior of a restaurant charming. With Liza, it was the case; the outer entrance portrayed the elegance that was to come. You could tell that what was waiting for us inside was going to be decorated with refined taste. It did not disappoint. From the adorable courtyard, to the elevator leading upstairs, and the hallway adorned with lighting; they all maintained a coherent theme. At the end of the corridor, you are greeted with high ceilings and rooms embellished with wallpaper, flooring, lighting, and furniture that are extremely pleasing to the eye. Whichever way you look, it is all well thought of to the tiniest detail. It made me hold my breath in anticipation, awaiting the beautiful presentation of the food we were going to order.
We ordered several mezze items, of which my favorite was the kibbe; it fell apart easily inside your mouth revealing its goodness. The hummus and the kafta arayess were really good as well. The shanklish was tasty, but it was a tad spicy. The fries were homemade, which is always appreciated. The fattoush and cheese rolls were fine, but not great. However, I did love the neatness in presentation, which consolidated the fact that Lebanese food can be presented in an appealing way. The mix of metal and pottery vessels used to display the food was creative and lovely. I do not remember a Lebanese restaurant that showcased the grilled meat, kafta, and chicken in a better manner to date. The coffee and desserts further retained the elegant presentation. The rice pudding was good, and the chocolate cake was simultaneously rich, dense, and brittle. As for the service, the hostess and the waiters were welcoming and friendly. All in all, I enjoyed my meal at Liza. Although the concoctions on their own are not outstanding, the presentation, decoration, and the whole ambiance all complement the food and each other wonderfully making it more of an experience than just about eating.