Diwan Beirut – Antelias

Seeking a high chair and a non-smoking area, I called Diwan Beirut in Antelias. I was pleasantly surprised when I was told that there was a smoking floor and a non-smoking floor. It had been a while since I had craved Lebanese cuisine throughout my pregnancy, but since I felt like having that, I dragged my family along with me. Wanting to try a new place, and relying on the fact that it comes from the same people who brought us Al-Sultan Brahim, we reserved a table for lunch. The man on the other end of the phone was very welcoming and professional, and when we arrived this great service continued until we were seated and ordered our food. However, after that, it was a miracle if we could find a waiter to help us out and when we did, it took us 3 times of ordering a diet soda to eventually receive it. Also, I had requested that no fresh vegetable garnish our food due to my current non-existent immunity, and it went well until the breaded shrimp platter arrived. We asked for another platter instead but we received the same shrimp constituents with the lettuce removed from underneath them. Let’s just say that we had to keep the “tarnished” shrimp on our table as hostage to make sure we received newly fried ones! As for the actual taste of the food, mostly everything I tasted was very good. The hummus was creamy, the fried kibbe was delicate, the fries were crispy, and the breaded shrimps were tasty and seemed fresh. I made it a point to try their mixed grilled skewers, and all three of the variations were delicious. The kafta was extremely tender, the meat was juicy, and the chich taouk was also succulent. In addition, the spices and marination were well balanced. When we were done, it took a really long time for the waiters to clear our table so that we could order dessert. However, when they did remove all the plates, we received an array of complimentary fruits and oriental sweets. The fruits looked very appealing, but when I spotted the lazy cake that I am familiar with from Al-Sultan Brahim, I had to have two slices, along with a piece of nammoura. They were a satisfying sweet end to the whole meal. All in all, although the service deteriorated towards the end of our lunch, the food rescued the whole experience at Diwan Beirut…this time.

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.

Em Sherif Restaurant – Achrafieh

Yes, it was all the hype about Em Sherif and their high review scores that eventually aroused my curiosity. We were in the mood for Lebanese cuisine, so we decided to finally give it a try. When you go in, you notice that the restaurant is fancy, with its mirrored tables and silver cutlery (although I liked some aspects of the interior decoration more than others). A noteworthy issue to mention here is that the service was great from when we entered Em Sherif till when we left. The waiters were very welcoming and friendly, and swiftly brought the food to our table. Things work differently at Em Sherif; when you sit down you do not get a menu to choose from but instead the food directly starts coming your way. For a first-timer, the set menu descending at a fast pace in front of you as well as the waiters passing by with trays of food can be exciting, yet a bit overwhelming as you are trying to keep track of what is being offered and trying to taste everything. However, we did request for room to breathe when we were asked if we would like the hot constituents to be served. I am glad we did that because it was then that I enjoyed all the delicious flavors. Em Sherif does have great food. Their hummus is creamy and their humble labne is really really really good. From the items on the “hovering mezza” tray, the la7em bi3ajeen and sambousik were very tasty, and honestly I would rather that the tray land on the table permanently. The chickpeas in the balila were cooked perfectly and it was well seasoned, though a tad oily. I was surprised at how good the harak osbao was; it had the right amount of tanginess. Additionally, the marination of the skewered shrimps was great and I enjoyed the tender meat chunks (I preferred them to the chich taouk). I could go and on about the immense number of platters we tasted, but if I wanted to describe Em Sherif’s food concisely, it would be well-balanced; their seasoning and the combination of flavors were spot on. I also have to commend them on the kibbe nayye, which had the mint and onions within the mixture, meaning all you had to do was add the olive oil. After this feast of salted dishes, it was time for the sweet ones. Their um ali sauce is to die for! I loved their take on the foret noire presentation; it was placed in a bowl and the chocolate cake was in itself a moist hollow vessel in which the fruits and cream were placed. It seems the maamoul bi jibne is popping up everywhere nowadays, and I am a fan of it in general, and a fan of it at Em Sherif. The waiter places it on your plate and professionally slits it open so that the drizzle of syrup reaches the melted cheese beneath the crumbly crust. All in all, Em Sherif provides a rich set menu with a bit of everything and it left us feeling stuffed for the rest of the day.

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.

Maryool – Mar Mikhael

The humble donkey would be happy to be associated with Maryool. A cozy and charming place located on the narrow streets of Mar Mikhael, this restaurant is what can actually be called a hidden gem. The staff is young and friendly, while simultaneously being professional and efficient. I really think that they are key to the whole experience at this eatery. I loved how comfortable I felt there. The food is authentic with a unique twist, and this is mirrored in the presentation as well. Their menu consists of a daily meal section, in addition to their platters served in lovely small bowls. This enables you to taste a wide variety of flavors as you take bites from one dish to the next. We ordered the Hendbeh & Kale, Hummus with Chorizo, Zaalook, Scotch Egg, Maryool Musakhan Taco, and Kebbet Mosul. We also wanted the Fatayer, but unfortunately it was unavailable. Add a squeeze of lemon to the Hendbeh & Kale, and it is like placing the cherry on top; it tastes great. I really liked the Hummus, and the Scotch Egg was so tasty with the soft boiled egg’s runny yolk oozing down over the outer crispy kebbe shell. The Musakhan Taco was flavorful, yet it was a bit salty. However, the Kebbet Mosul was delicious; the herb filling complemented the thin flattened kebbe perfectly. For dessert, we had all of the three present on the menu, namely the Maamoul Bi Jebne, the Kneffe, and the Tamriyye. For me, they were all equally good. The Maamoul Bi Jebne was an interesting take on the regular maamoul, and I enjoyed nibbling on it. Although the salty dishes mostly overshadowed the sweet ones in taste and flavor, I felt that I had eaten a hearty and wholesome dinner. I left with a warm feeling inside and I was happy that I had tried Maryool. I will definitely be back.