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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Al Ferdaws – Ehden
During the lazy Summer days of my childhood, Ehden was a place we visited to avoid the heat radiating from the scorching sun. One of the popular restaurants we could escape to there was Al Ferdaws. However, it wasn’t just us that sought this restaurant as a refuge; in those days a person would have to struggle to find an empty table. Well, when we went this time, there was no need to search for a space to be seated in. We decided to try it anyway, although if you’re a parent, you should be aware that high chairs are not provided. A noteworthy issue is that the service was really great; the waiters were very attentive and friendly. The cool breeze was refreshing, and the vast greenery that the restaurant overlooked was luscious. It was time to try the food. For those of you who do not know this, Ehden is well-known for its voluminous spherical “kibbe”, especially the one filled with “shahem” (fat). Actually, the kibbe with fat was the best thing I tasted at Al Ferdaws, other than the fattoush which was fresh and well-seasoned. The mezze/appetizers were fine; the only one from the platters we ordered that I did not like was the sambousik. As for the grilled meat and chicken dish, the most flavorful and succulent was the kafta. Some meat pieces were more tender than others, but the chicken was borderline chewy. When all the Salted was taken off the table, the restaurant offered us an assortment of fruits on the house. Then, like in most Lebanese restaurants, a person wearing a traditional attire dedicates himself to passing around the tables to pour coffee for those who want some bitterness to accompany the sweetness of the fruits and the biscuits with lokum cubes. I left Al Ferdaws feeling content to have returned to a place that I used to go to in my younger years.
Below, you can find a collage of photographs depicting the procedure of slicing through your ball of kibbe to render it edible in an easier way, while preserving the fat inside a sort of meaty dipping bowl. The process was demonstrated by the kind head waiter.