I was excited to find a recently opened pastry shop next to my house, and so I went to taste a sample of their products. The lady that helped me there was very friendly and the items were nicely displayed in the shop. I chose some treats for my breakfast and headed home to devour them. I started with the croissants. They were pleasantly crispy and flaky, yet very heavy on the butter, which was a shame. Then I tried the flutes with thyme, which were crunchy and surprisingly not oily, but I would opt for the ones with the cheese next time. As for the sweet confections, the chocolate sable was good. However, the soft and fluffy madeleines were my favorite, and it was difficult to stop myself from eating them all in one go. I think that I would return to try other delicacies they have to offer, as well as their bread.
Far Eats – Naccache
For a change of cuisine, we opted for that of the Far Eats. Lunch started with crunchy prawn chips with sweet chili dip. They were addictive but the ones at the bottom of the bowl were a tad too oily. As for our order, first and foremost, I would like to commend our waitress who was not only friendly but went out of her way to make sure every platter was safe for me to eat, with my current lack of immunity. The beef yakitori starter had a great blend of flavors and the melted cheese center complemented it well. I also liked the teriyaki sauce with the robata shrimp, as well as the freshness of the sweet and sour chicken. The battered chicken pieces were tasty, yet my personal preference would be the simplicity of plain rice accompanying this dish on the menu (instead of the veggie rice). However, the best was indeed kept for last. Those chocolate bonbons were delicious! The outer crispy shell encasing chocolate that oozes out when you bite into it…I could have kept on nibbling on those all day.
Paul – Ghazir
Paul makes me feel comfortable. I like the ambiance and the friendly service. I love that their fresh bread and pastries are part of their decoration. If you are a breakfast person, like me, Paul is a great place to head to. They have a selection of items on display, as well as an additional menu featuring breakfast “formules”. First, our drinks arrived. I ordered the hot chocolate which reminded me of homemade mixes which was nice, although I do prefer mine a tad more dense and chocolatey. I had one of the pieces of bread in the basket (with their creamy butter and right-amount-of-sweet jam), and I found it a bit tough to bite into. However, the olive bread in my sandwich was very soft and delicious, along with the cheese within it. As for the croissants, I like how crispy and flaky they are. Breakfast at Paul is something that I really enjoy and I will surely keep coming back for more!
Blu – Mtayleb
Chocolate cravings? In the mood for chocolate, cakes, and the like, we happened to spot Blu as we were going up the winding road home. We decided that this time we would pass by. The lady assisting us was friendly and tried to be helpful. However, the lack of training was apparent because she was not knowledgeable about the ingredients within the cake pieces and had to keep asking for information from another lady on the phone. We ended up choosing a variety of items to try and headed to the car. For me, the humble mini cupcakes were my favorite to nibble on. They were fluffy and moist, and it was difficult to stop myself from devouring all the bag’s constituents. As for the cookies, the thicker ones were better than the regular chocolate chip cookie encasing an Oreo cookie; I felt that the latter was a bit dry. Yet, the double chocolate chip cookie was the best one in that box because it was extremely chocolatey, for hiding inside was more melted chocolate. Considering the second box with the cake pieces, my first comment would be about the chocolate tart crust; it was tasty but did not crumble delicately beneath your teeth. In addition, the chocolate eclair was pleasant and not too heavy although the pastry cream inside was also chocolate. In general, the chocolate used in their cake pieces was creamy and rich. I did end up feeling overly saturated with sugar when I had tasted everything; although I am partly to blame for that because of wanting to steal a bite out of all the goodies we had bought.
Fadel – Bikfaya
Fadel is a patisserie that I first encountered during my childhood. We went up for the occasional ice cream fix, to get a black forest cake to celebrate a birthday, or to get some freshly baked bread. Since then, a large number of pastry shops have opened their doors, but we still do visit Fadel once in a while. Their classic black forest cake was the cake we resorted to recently for my mother’s birthday, certain we wouldn’t disappoint. It surely did the trick; the cake was fluffy and light. The last time I tasted products from Fadel, I had a cheese croissant, a chocolate chip muffin, a piece of success cake (“succès“), and their thyme pain au lait. I know croissants are the epitome of buttery concoctions, but the cheese croissant was too buttery and heavy, in my opinion. As for the muffin, it was fine, and I appreciated their generosity with the chocolate chips. Their succes was okay, but not as successful as another patisserie makes them; I go to that pastry shop exclusively for their succes, yet that is a story for another day. However, the very successful item at Fadel is their thyme pain au lait. I have tasted the regular one with no filling, as well as the one filled with cheese, but it is the zaatar one that I love. The bread is very soft and there is thyme sprinkled in the dough and used as a filling simultaneously, which highlights the taste. That is one item I am sure I will return for.
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.
Angelina – Beirut
Going to Angelina for brunch made me feel like an excited child about to open a gift on Christmas day. I thought about what I would order, and of course about the pictures I could take there. After we parked the car, we enjoyed the stroll on our way to the famous French restaurant and patisserie. When we arrived and went in, we were greeted by friendly waiters, lovely painted sections of white walls, and mostly brown furniture to balance the brightness. After we were seated and readily provided with a high chair, it was time to order. Being a brunch kind of person, I wanted to taste a variety of their breakfast offerings. Angelina provides different breakfast set menus, an egg menu that starts at 9 am and an additional a la carte menu that goes on until noon, after which there is a brunch menu and lunch platters that begin to be served. We were still in time for the breakfast menus, and opted to feast on Angelina breakfasts and Eggs Benedict platters with smoked salmon. The waiter took note of all the order mentally, including our choices from the options provided for the Angelina breakfasts. Yes, no jotting down anything on a piece of paper, and no inputting the information on a tablet, and our order turned out perfectly fine; no mistakes here. As the food arrived, I had to take photographs of the constituents while they were still in their pristine condition; although, I have to admit that sometimes I slightly annoy the company I am with, who comply despite their hunger. We started with the bread and butter, as well as the selection of croissants and jams; I liked their zaatar croissant. I especially enjoyed the Angelina hot chocolate that I had chosen. It was thick, creamy, and satisfying, and weirdly, it tasted as good (maybe even better) when it turned colder. Let’s just say, if you feel like drinking a chocolate bar, this comes very close to gratifying that need. Then the eggs made their debut. Zooming in on the Eggs Benedict; it was wonderfully appetizing when the hollandaise sauce merged with the bright orange goodness that cascaded from the poached eggs when they were cut open. The eggs seated on hidden smoked salmon and the whole combination of the platter is indeed delicious (all hail the creator of this dish). Another easier, yet delicate way to have your eggs done is the soft-boiled method, and for the eggs to be great, they have to be boiled just the right amount. As I was breaking the shell of the egg, I awaited the oozing of the runny yolk down the sides, creating a tasty mess. I was not disappointed, the anticipation had not gone to waste. I dipped the toasted sticks of bread into the core and reveled in the momentary happiness of the simpler things in life.
Another source of joy for me is pastry. Angelina has a patisserie section filled with appealing confections on display. We ordered the staple “Le Mont-Blanc” signature piece, as well as the “Duchesse” and “Bianca” to take home with us. Honestly, I preferred Angelina’s Salted to their Caramel; their pastry is a tad on the sweet side for my taste. However, I would like to note that the great service also extended to their patisserie; the lady that was there was polite and friendly. Moreover, the waiter was knowledgeable about pieces that Angelina had previously had and the components of each dessert, when I inquired about them. I left Angelina knowing that I would be returning to enjoy their breakfast once again.
Nicolas Audi at La Maison d’IXSIR – Batroun
We were looking for a serene place to relax in, away from the mundane daily routine, so we decided to go have lunch at Nicolas Audi at La Maison d’IXSIR. Located in the Ixsir winery and Nicolas Audi being a prominent chef in Lebanon, we thought that it was a restaurant that should be visited. When we arrived, we scouted the area, and then we were lucky enough to join the tour of the winery, where we were led underground down a spiral staircase. The tour guide seemed well-trained and after being fed with information about the whole wine-making process, from grapes to barrel to bottle, we savored the end product in glasses on our table. Sitting under the shade of the tree, we enjoyed our Grande Reserve red and white wines, awaiting the opening of the buffet.
I rushed to take photographs of the untouched food, in order to capture their presentation before they were destroyed by the hungry people. Success, for the most part. There were a variety of salads and appetizers, of which the hummus was really good. I also really liked the salad with peppers in it because their flavor stood out. Moreover, the mashed potato tasted great with embedded onion bits within it. The fattoush, vine leaves dish, and beans salads were fine, but not exceptional.
Moving to the mains, I think I am adamant on melting my phone by taking pictures next to fire, but the skewers of meat being licked by the flames made me feel like a moth (if you know what I mean). The doneness of the grilled meat and chicken was great; they were juicy and tender. Another great item was the rice and creamy sauce, it was a tad spicy but delicious. The pizza squares and chicken nouille lacked flavor, and the kibbe and fish were okay. Let’s just say if I had not been leaving some space for dessert, I would have filled up on the grilled meat and chicken, as well as the rice and creamy sauce. There is something that I should note though; when you change your plate, you keep the same knife and fork. That is not great, but maybe acceptable when you have a placemat to put them on. However, we had no placemat so you had to put your dirty cutlery right on the table which is not hygienic for you nor the table.
So, here comes the dessert which was mostly a mixture of oriental sweets and French pastry. The ice cream was good, but not memorable. The baba au rhum was delectable; it was my favorite dessert hands down. I can’t get over their heavenly whipped cream (if you have read my Nicolas Audi patisserie post, then you know I am a fan). Another intense dessert was the chocolate cake which was as chocolatey as it could get, and my advice is to eat it slowly to be able to appreciate each bite. That was the taste I left Ixsir with.
Nicolas Audi – Rabieh
The best piece at Nicolas Audi’s patisserie is the oversized bright pink macaron, hands down. This pretty macaron is filled with juicy yet firm raspberries enclosing heavenly cream. Seriously, there is nothing else you would rather have than this fresh sweetness inside your mouth during the Summer. Another favorite of mine is the double chocolate tart; it is smooth with the right amount of intensity. As for the eclair, the pate a choux is light, as it is meant to be, and the cream does not heavily weight it down. Describing their pastry makes me wish their service was up to par. They desperately need better equipped staff to handle the patisserie on location. On the whole, the pastry at Audi is delicious and looks the part. The tarts, eclairs, cakes, and macarons all look appetizing on display behind the glass counter, and by just taking one glance at them, you know you have to take them home.
Emotions – Achrafieh
I travel from one province to another, within Lebanon, to get to EMOTIONS Artisan Patissier & Glacier. When I arrive, I know that Mr. Gaby Bustros will be there in the kitchen perfecting his creations. When I first saw the triangular tart, I was intrigued to try the constituents of this rebel among its mostly circular species. I was not disappointed. The tart with the mixture of berries is sublime; the freshness of the berries with their bed of creme patissiere complement each other perfectly. The crumble of the tart border is the ideal vessel to hold them in, while being delicate in itself. If you wish to satisfy your darker desires, you would need to venture into the underworld of the chocolate tart. It is quite the opposite of its berry friend; within the triangular crunch of a border, there is more chocolate awaiting inside. The different textures of chocolate come together in intense decadence; the biscuit meets the ganache and oozing goodness seeps through the top subtly cracked chocolate layer. Ok, it is time to leave the world of tarts, and showcase the Tahitian vanilla eclair. It is fragile and light, yet rich and creamy, and the hardened caramel threads wonderfully break underneath your teeth. I think this eclair might be my favorite piece, but then again why put pressure on myself to choose a favorite. One of the times I went to Emotions, I was lucky enough to taste a sample of a chocolate macaron in the making; the crust parted to reveal delicious chocolate filling inside. Now, let us proceed to the other section of delicacies at Emotions; their ice cream. I love how the flavors contained in the 1L transparent tubs are described with handwritten labels. The cubes are filled with ice cream made from the finest ingredients. The sorbet of berries has fruit tidbits in it, which make the flavor more pronounced and lets the freshness shine through. As for the coconut ice cream, it is also made from fresh coconut with a subtle hint of Malibu rum and a touch of toasted coconut shavings. Whether it is pastry or ice cream, Emotions really satisfies my sweet cravings. I can not wait to meet more of their flawless confections.