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.
When I think of Jai, I think “good food but will we find a place to eat?” Well, this time the thought of eating their food again outweighed the fact of the seating issue. Don’t get me wrong, Jai is small in a cozy sort of way. I like that they have a common table next to their open kitchen, and a cute seating arrangement on the pavement outside; they give the place its charm. Although, if it is cold outside or it is raining, unfortunately not many seats remain—I witnessed the hassle of the folding and packing of a table firsthand. It would be nice if they could relocate to a bigger area, maybe not too big so that Jai retains its charm, but just enough for more people to enjoy the melange of flavors they have to offer. Luckily, we found a place at the common table indoors. I love peanut sauce, and they have one of the best in the country, so of course we had to order both the Chicken Satay and the Beef Satay as appetizers. The tender chicken and meat were smothered with the delicious peanut sauce, and we couldn’t help but eat every bit of it. As mains, we ordered the Butter Chicken and the Dhal Makhani. They are both comforting platters that come with a side of rice. The Dhal Makhani was rich and felt kind of smoky to me in a way, but the closer one to my heart was that very tasty Butter Chicken. We had the Poppadoms as a side too, and they truly are addictive; they are light and crispy in a delicate way. When we were done, we were kindly offered Ginger Beignets on the house; it seems to be their way of appreciating their customers. The dessert was good, but it has an eccentric taste that you have to like to enjoy. Then, it was time to pay. When you order the bill, you get a handwritten one, which you can also say is part of Jai’s charm. Yet, liking the personal touch to our receipt was followed by a cash only request. It so happened that we were out of cash, so my husband had to walk under the rain to an ATM machine at a nearby hospital. To be honest, it is not a far walk, but it still was a bit impractical I think. However, this is all forgotten when you consider the friendly service and welcoming people at this “hidden gem”. To sum up my lunch experiences at Jai: whenever I feel like satisfying my craving for peanut sauce, this eatery is definitely one that comes to mind.
For another eatery to whisk my sister away from work on her lunch break, we headed to DIVVY in Hazmieh to try out items from their new menu and not so new menu. We started off with the Crispy Strips and an appetizer we always order: the Brie and Blueberry. I love how the purple color of their signature blueberry dip is so vibrant, and needless to say, its delicious taste went perfectly well with the melted cheese cubes. Another way to visit this lovely coupling is in their tasty DIVVY Brie and Blueberry Burgers. In fact, that specialty burger was the reason that I decided to try out the new burger on their menu; the Grand Burger. The meat was juicy and if you like your patty on the thicker side, this would do. However, the component I couldn’t get enough of was that bun! It could not possibly get any softer. Also, the sauce was good, but all in all, I do still prefer their Brie and blueberry burgers. We also ordered the Beef Teriyaki platter, which has great comforting flavors, and the Caesar Sandwich. For dessert, I was very excited to try their new Salted Caramel Pain Perdu and I was not disappointed. It was decadent. The moistness of the pain perdu chunks topped with the salted caramel’s just right sweetness was a delightful end to our meal. On the whole, it was a satisfying lunch, and one shouldn’t forget to commend the presentation of their dishes, as well as their friendly yet professional service. Additionally, although I did not order it this time, I would like to recommend their Countryside Steak Sandwich, which never ceases to awaken my taste buds with its bursts of goodness.
(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.
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.
We were looking for a restaurant with Thai cuisine, and since I wanted to try a new place (although the last time I came to Dubai I had really good Thai food), we chose to go to Pai Thai for dinner. The location is romantic, as it is next to the water, and apparently you can get there by boat. We decided to walk instead; the winding path leading there is dimly lit and there are trees on either side. The service started out really well as a man showed us to our table, and explained that there was a special menu and a more lit ambiance due to the celebration of the Festival of Lights. We were handed our menus, and being a fan of organization (especially when the names of the dishes are in a foreign language), I opted to list the items we wanted to order on my phone. After the effort of writing down the names in Thai and trying to pronounce them to our waitress, she found it amusing and told us that she does not know them in Thai either. I would expect the waitress to know the menu by heart, including all the names of the dishes. Also, the attitude of a waitress affects the servicing, even if she is efficient in placing the dishes on our table (although a bit less efficient in removing them). Anyway, let’s get to the food. We ordered the (I will not bother to name them in Thai) Green Papaya Salad, the Crispy Marinated Chicken Wrapped in Pandan Leaf, and the Grilled Marinated Chicken Sate as appetizers. The Green Papaya Salad was flavorful and the Chicken Sate was tender and literally melted in your mouth, and I loved the peanut sauce. However, I disliked the Crispy Marinated Chicken in the Pandan Leaf; it was more soggy than crispy. For our main courses, we then had the Braised Massaman Beef Curry, a Pad Thai with Prawns, and a bowl of Thai Coconut Rice. The Beef Curry’s sauce was really tasty, but I did not like the beef’s texture within it. As for the Pad Thai, I have had much better elsewhere. We ended the meal with one of the desserts listed under the Traditional section, as opposed to the Modern one. We had the Sweet Sticky Rice with Ripe Mango; it was fine. In general, the food was average, and I was not blown away. Dining in an intimate setting with water surrounding you is basically what Pai Thai has going for it. Although, another Thai restaurant that comes to mind has that but with better food.
We went to P.F. Chang’s in Hazmieh to make my sister forget she is going through the routine of a regular work day. The interior is predominantly wood; the ceiling is embellished with lights. I preferred choosing a table located next to the windows because it was brighter. As soon as we sat down, they provided us with a high chair and a booklet made especially for children (along with some crayons). I could actually take my time choosing what I wanted to eat because my little one was preoccupied. As appetizers, we ordered the Shrimp Dumplings, the Crab Wontons, the Shrimp Tempura, and the Dynamite Shrimp. They were all delicious and flavorful; the seasoning and the combination of ingredients were great. Then, we had the Sweet & Sour Chicken, the Mongolian Beef, and the Crispy Honey Shrimp. My favorite among the three was the Crispy Honey Shrimp, the sauce was tasty and I loved the crunch of the rice sticks. The components of the Sweet & Sour Chicken seemed fresh and the chicken was tender. Unfortunately, the Mongolian Beef had good flavor, but the meat was a tad tough and chewy (usually the caramelized beef in this platter is crispy on the outside and more succulent on the inside). We opted not to have dessert because we had tasted them before and we were not in the mood for something heavy this time. I have to note that the service was very good; our waiter was friendly and everything was done efficiently.
Usually, I am not a fan of dining at a restaurant in a mall (especially on the weekends) because I feel that the location can ruin the whole ambiance. Yet, sometimes you find yourself in this circumstance. Casper & Gambini’s tries and succeeds, to an extent, to preserve its own identity and mood within the bustling shopping scene. We found a table and got our usual high chair, and then had a look at the menu items. A weekly special caught my attention as my eyes wandered off the page and onto a flyer standing on the table; it was Chich Barak. That was definitely a good wholesome meal for my toddler. The rest of us opted for the Fresh Crab & Shrimp Soft Buns appetizer, followed by the Tenderloin, the Veal Escalope, the Provolone Steak Sandwich, and finally one order from the Salad Bar. Their salad bar is healthy, fulfilling, and rich with different flavored constituents. We started with the appetizer, which was delicious. I always welcome fresh crab instead of the less than mediocre imitation. A well-seasoned sauce was drizzled on the fresh crab and shrimp, and taking a bite of that within the soft bun was very tasty. Since they first placed this item on the menu, every time I go to Casper & Gambini’s I have to order it as a starter. As for the mains, the Chich Barak was served with rice, and the sauce was amazing. I hoped that they would add this platter to the permanent offerings of their menu. Unfortunately, the meat in my steak sandwich was cooked to a medium (how I like it), but weirdly the result was not tender. I have had this sandwich many times before, and it had become a kind of craving I satisfy at Casper & Gambini’s. However, this time it took forever to cut and chew, so I gave up and informed the waiter. The manager visited the table, and the consensus was that I order a new item on the menu. I chose the Chich Barak, which as previously mentioned is really good. For dessert, I decided to order their Pain Perdu, which has been one of my all-time favorites. I wasn’t disappointed; the texture of the moist bread is how I like it, and their ice cream and caramel sauce combination satisfied my sweet tooth. Now, it was time to leave. Here, I have to mention that the provolone steak sandwich ended up being removed from the bill. Due to my past positive experiences of eating at Casper & Gambini’s, I would revisit in hopes that it was just a one time affair that was bound to happen on a rare occasion.
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.