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.
I will get straight to the point…I loved DON! The whole concept and execution is coherent and well thought of, respectively. An eatery, newly opened within a cluster of restaurants called Restos St. Nicolas, DON is fresh and inviting. It all starts with a colorful toy. You pick up your drink from an array of displayed bottles; I love that there are imported Japanese drinks too. We chose a Japanese strawberry-flavored soft drink and sake, and headed to the cashier. We ordered the Chicken Bao, the Chashu Shoyu Ramen, the Salmon Teriyaki Donburi with fried rice, and the Pad Thai noodles. After we paid, we got the bright pink Dragon Fruit as a form of marker to enable us to receive our platters correctly. While we have a seat, the open kitchen is bustling with movement and the sounds of sizzling ingredients. Indeed all our dishes arrived properly. The chicken bao were delicious; the steamed bun was as soft as could be and the flavors were great. As for the bowls, their constituents were hearty and soothing. My favorite was the salmon teriyaki. The sauce was really good, and the salmon was crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. For dessert, we had one of each of the available mochi flavors; I liked the one with caramel the most. In general, I enjoyed the experience from beginning to end, the food in the middle, and the way I felt as I was leaving. To sum it up, DON is the definition of comfort food. I couldn’t help but grab a couple of bags of strawberry-flavored Pocky on my way out. I have tasted them before and loved that I had found them in the basket of Japanese goodies they had—this for me was a detail that was like the icing on the cake.
Chili’s – Achrafieh: I would go to this place just to have this amazing chocolate dessert. When you cut the cake, delicious chocolate oozes out, and combine that with the taste of the ice cream and caramel; you get something close to perfection. Granted it is not French pastry, but if you take it for what it is (an American restaurant chain dessert), it surely stands out.
Oliver’s Kitchen & Coffee Shop – Gemmayze: I actually enjoyed my time at this eatery, despite some flaws with the food. We first ordered a mini beef burger, 8″ pizza, and Oliver’s famous fish and chips. The beef patty in the mini beef burger was ridiculously small, and the whole burger was mediocre. The fish and chips platter was acceptable, but it did not live up to its fame. As for the pizza, I actually liked the crust and if I ever go again, I would just order that for my meal. Coming to the dessert, I ordered the milk chocolate crepe. The menu states that it is Premium Belgian chocolate awaiting inside the dough; honestly they made me doubt that claim. I do not know if it is the preparation method or the chocolate itself, but the chocolate spread was grainy instead of being smooth and creamy (like it should be). On the plus side, the service was great, and the atmosphere was relaxing. I also liked the section they have that sells books in the shop; you feel as if your level of intellect has increased just by being there.
Meat the Fish – Jal el Dib: We went to Meat the Fish located in the Aishti Mall; the mall actually looks really nice on the inside. As for Meat the Fish, the platters were good, but honestly I do not see what the hype is about. The taste of the meat, the fish, and the lobster were nothing unique to this restaurant; you can get it elsewhere. An interesting thing, on the other hand, was the Japanese beer seen in the picture above. However, my taste buds were more than satisfied with the sweet pudding I had as dessert; apparently it is made by Rouba Khalil.
Thea – Jal el Dib: Back when there was no fuss about tea and its varieties in Lebanon, there was Thea. As a person that prefers tea to coffee, I loved spending afternoons at this tearoom, and being introduced to different blends of tea. Also, drinking the tea in lovely teaware makes it all the more appealing.
Crepico – Zalka: Now, this is fine Belgian chocolate. Callebaut. The chocolate is incredible. Needless to say, this is what decorates their crepes and waffles. The salty and sweet crepes are fine, but their sweet waffles are the reason one has to go to Crepico.
Des Choux et Des Idees – Achrafieh: Do you like French patisserie to be subtle, light, and delicate? Well, this is the opposite. The individual pieces look really dainty and pretty, but where there is fruit, the flavor is overwhelming to the degree of tasting like perfume. In addition, the creme patissiere is so heavy that it makes you forget you are eating French pastry. It was a one time visit, and that is all it is going to be.
Popcorn – Grand Cinemas ABC Dbayeh vs. VOX City Centre Beirut: I did not want to include non-eatery posts, and especially ones with comparisons; but I could not help it. Food is food. These two photos are begging me to be in a battle together, so I will concede. VOX wins hands down, for both the popcorn crunch and flavor, as well as the slush taste and consistency. The slushy in ABC seemed to only have sugar as an ingredient, while the one in VOX was truly refreshing with every sip.
Sursock Museum Resto – Achrafieh: Sursock Museum should be visited; it makes Lebanese proud to have a museum space that is of international standards. As for the restaurant, it is what you expect a restaurant at a museum to be like; with a creative menu and placemat. The homemade potato chips provided as a side in our dishes were really good, actually they were much better than the beef in the sandwich. Let’s just say that I am more a fan of the museum itself than its resto.
La Table du Gand Chalet – Zaarour: We spent a night at a hotel called Le Gand Chalet at the Zaarour Club, and we had dinner at the restaurant located there. The decor was minimalist, which I liked. Also, the service was really good. However, the food needs to be majorly improved, in my opinion. The spices in my pasta dish seemed to be more of oriental than Italian based, which was really off-putting. I would expect more from a “luxury boutique hotel”.
Vanilla Bean – Beirut: To end this Bits and Pieces blog post on a sweet note, I can choose nothing better than the talented Vanilla Bean. The custom-made cakes turn out to be exactly how you envisioned them in your head, and even better. The pastel colors, the attention to detail, and the perfect finishing is attributed to the craftsmanship of Ms. Layla Jamal. I would just like to add that the cakes do not just look like pretty works of art on the outside; they taste just as good as they look.
Bits and Pieces IV.
Le Nemrod – Paris: More on the traditional side, this French bistro provides platters that satisfy the customer. The food we had was not outstanding though; it did not really trigger a need-to-go-back-there thought in my mind. It does, however, introduce an affair with the fondant, which is habitually wed to vanilla ice cream.
Breizh Cafe – Paris: A Breton creperie on the Michelin Guide, it rightfully states that it makes crepes differently: “La crepe autrement”. They use organic buckwheat and stone-milled wheat flour in their recipes to create their signature taste. The ham and cheese crepe was great, and the Japanese influence could be seen in the matcha ice cream. However, the best crepe was undoubtedly the sweet crepe I had; what could be better than vanilla ice cream and Salted Caramel syrup? That is definitely a rhetorical question.
Coquelicot – Paris: Do you want fresh bread, French pastry, or maybe breakfast? Well, you can do all three at Coquelicot. At the risk of sounding like an advertisement, I did want to showcase the selection they have. Located in a lovely area in Paris called Montmartre, this patisserie/boulangerie/restaurant, dating back to 1978, was our destination for a wholesome breakfast. I enjoyed the food and sitting outside on the pavement. When we were done with the tea, eggs, salmon, ham, and cheese, I needed to satisfy my sweet tooth with a huge meringue from inside. So, after all the Salted, my Caramel was placed into a paper bag and I nibbled on it as we walked around in the beautiful city of Paris.
Le Pain Quotidien – Paris: I have already talked about how I like to go to Le Pain Quotidien anywhere I travel if I am in the mood for a casual setting; Paris was no different. We had a hearty breakfast that enabled us to begin our day energetically.